Three Day Backpacking to Wheeler Peak!

We climbed Wheeled Peak on our three-backpacking trip to find out what we were made of. It turns out we are made of tears and laughter, dancing and determination, strength and acts of kindness.

It was a long, tough climb to 13,170 feet (5 miles one way) to the highest point in New Mexico. When the going got tough for one camper in our party, we called a group meeting to talk about how we could support one another to get there. One friend stepped forward to carry their shared backpack. We gave another permission to play his music so he could dance us up the mountain, which was cheering for all. The friendship and camaraderie of a third helped both of them to feel supported and able to carry on.

I stayed in the back with the slower campers. We took lots of breaks, enjoyed the scenery, the rainbow of wildflowers, and saw a whole family of big horned sheep. The going was hard but steady. After multiple (disappointing) ‘false summits’, we finally made it to Wheeler Peak, the top of New Mexico!

This kind of experience can’t be measured in feet and miles however, but sweat, tears, and gumption.

The memories made, the friendships gained, and the confidence that comes with overcoming hardship to achieve the seemingly impossible is what will stick with these kids as they move back into their daily lives.

I am so proud of all the Mountain (climbing) Kids! for working hard and supporting each other to reach this incredible goal.  – Katie

What an impressive week! Our courageous campers hiked, ran, skipped, and occasionally danced their way to the top of Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, after a serious amount of preparation. Their physical capabilities and positive mental attitudes were truly impressive. We rounded the week off with some kayaking at Santa Cruz Lake. Nothing beats gliding around on cool, calm water after spending the week aiming to summit the next grand peak! – Max

Forts & Forests!

What a fantastic way to kick off the beginning of an adventure filled summer! Week one of camp was all about exploration and creativity within our natural world in the National Forest. We had so much fun teepee building using the natural resources we discovered under the grand aspens. We loved playing relationship-building games in the chilly streams and vast meadows. Eagle Eye and Sardines were BIG hits amongst these eager to play at Mountain Kids! Thanks so much for joining us during our Forts and Forest themed week!

Three-Day Backpacking Trip: May 30-June 2, 2017

This week was one of impressive maturity from our campers. A particular before/after moment encapsulated this for me: a quarter of a mile up the Rio en Medio parking area, the trail crosses the river for the first time. On our first day, I was walking in the back with Sofia, our only ten year old, who had never seen a tent before this trip. I told her we needed to cross the river, and she stopped dead. “I can’t!” she exclaimed.

She found out she could, and this trepidation was in stark contrast to our return trip. On Friday, I was walking behind Sofia, who was leading us out to the vehicles. She was one of our Leaders of the Day on Friday (which I will explain momentarily), and had just taken us down the last two miles of trail, setting a steady pace and stopping at appropriate times to make sure everyone was hydrated. We approached the first river crossing, and I delightedly watched her scamper across: without hesitation, declaration of inability, or even really noticing that it could be considered a challenge.

Some stats about this trip: There were two leaders, and six campers (although our roles were occasionally reversed!). Most campers had been backpacking before, although none had done a trip this long. We went 14 miles in three days, climbing and and descending 2000 feet. Each day we had two campers each on tent crew and cook crew: those responsible for housing and feeding the rest of us. We also had two LODs. These were our Leader of the Day: responsible for our maps, telling us when we were leaving, setting the pace, checking in with the rest of us to see if anyone was in need, deciding where we would camp, and myriad other things. It takes a while to get into systems of duties and responsibilities such as this, but our campers did so admirably. After Lucio turned his ankle, it was awesome to see Oliver, as LOD, continually check in with him and make sure that he could keep up with the rest of the group. Or to listen to Max, who was brave enough to be a LOD on our first day, encourage everyone up our steepest sections of trail.

When Ezra and I awoke on Friday, Lucio was warming his hands over a crackling fire, which he had woken up early to prepare for the group. As I was eating breakfast, I told Owen and Felix to pack their bags and take down the tents: they half-exasperatedly told me that they had already done both of those things, and returned to their oatmeal.

The trip was not only laden with responsibility: there were games, songs, and the occasional backcountry-themed rap. However, what stuck out to me about this week was the way in which our group rose to the occasion of taking the trip into their own hands. From helping us choose our route to practicing stove safety, it was a week of proto-adulthood: in two or three years, I hope they are taking themselves on similar trips.

Cheers!

-Max

Week 10 – August 4-7, 2014: Wilderness Skills!

Monday, August 4: Lower Windsor Trail along Big Tesuque Creek

Rain and shine – we had it all this week! We started with a new venue for the summer.   With rain eminent we decided on the lower end of the Windsor Trail along Big Tesuque Creek. The rain held off and we had a wonderfully cool hike up to a grove of enormous Ponderosa pines where we played in the creek. The Eagles developed a deep pool with a rock dam complete with hollow reed spigots! The rain finally found us about ten minutes from the vans.

Tuesday, August 5: Deer Creek/Grasshopper Canyon

Tuesday we listened to Ziggy read Stop and Stay Put, a book about how to prepare for a hike and what to do if you get lost. Then both the Owls and Eagles hiked up Deer Creek for a well deserved dip in the deep (yea monsoons) granite pools. The pools were cool but not freezing cold and we could have played in them for quite a while longer were it not for a good hike back needing some time.

Wednesday, August 6: Aspen Vista to top of the  quad-chair lift via Carl’s Meadow.

Wednesday Dave read The Giving Tree before collecting dead yucca fronds for making cordage. It was a blue sky day for a trip up to high country. Owls frolicked in the headwaters of Rio en Medio up at the ski basin while the Eagles climbed up to the top of the Quad chair from Aspen Vista. Strawberries were abundant in the big meadow that is the top of the chair lift knoll. We worked on map and compass skills, plotted our route up through Carl’s meadow and counted contour lines to discover we had gained over a thousand feet in elevation!

Thursday, August 7: Ski Basin to Norski Trails via the Windsor Trail.

Thursday Rebecca led us in a discussion of what to pack for a day out using her own well stocked pack for an example. We then played a quick game of Mountain Lion, Lightning, and Bears, Oh my! Up the hill to the Windsor trail we went for our last day of 2014. Owls enjoyed the Rio en Medio meadow and the Eagles built shelters in the Norski environs. Popsicles brought by Shelly, Sam’s mom, awaited our return to celebrate another great summer of Mountain Kids!  Thanks for a great season all!

 

Week 9 – July 28-31, 2014: Dirt, Rocks and Clay!

On Monday’s hike in the Galisteo Basin we had a lot of fun following drainage meanders.  We picked up cool rocks after reading Everyone Needs A Rock, and messed around with found clay. Monsoons kept us in low terrain all week.

On Tuesday we were at Tsankawi where we waited out a drizzle in cavates in the welded tuff, then donned rain gear and continued exploring. We spotted a horny toad along the trail.

Wednesday we all quite easily made it up to the first pool in Deer Creek – got to love the cooler weather! We had a lesson at the sandstone outcrop with the nice tilted bedding planes of rock and looked at the fossils of decayers – crinoid stems in the limestone.  We worked on learning the sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic rock song.

Thursday Ziggy led us up the wash behind St. John’s College where we played in the damp sand and made pictures with a red sand from the decaying granite bank on the white sand of the wash. We also gained a high point on the shoulder of Sun Mountain and drew maps of our route from the van.

Owls and Eagles stayed together all week.  Eagles cooled their jets a little and the Owls stepped up. Super pleasant weather all week and a great group of campers!

Week 8 – July 21-24, 2014: Wilderness Skills!

Berries! Raspberries, strawberries, and lemony squawbush berries. We started the week up at the Norski trails where the Eagles hiked the Windsor trail to a pretty meadow on upper Rio en Medio. We played in the water and made toy rafts from sticks tied with strips of skunk cabbage.

Tuesday we again visited Rio en Medio but from the bottom up. The raspberries about half way to the waterfall were sooo good – especially after the pucker power of the squawbush berries. Wednesday found us foraging for strawberries above Carl’s meadow in the clearing near the top of the Quad ski lift. We also worked on orienting maps using compasses and plotted our route up from Aspen Vista trail head. Thursday we took a break from berries and built an awesome shelter from downed aspen logs. We learned that while campers have been elsewhere, chipmunks have moved into some of the shelters from July’s camp-out.

Week 7 – July 14-17: Amazing Animals!

The Beaver Ponds is a magical place to make forts, discover special creatures, find ancient fossils and make new friends!

Eagles were paired with Owls to study animal skulls. They had to decide, are they predator or prey? What do they eat? How’s their sense of smell or hearing? Then they would share their discoveries with the rest of the group.

Animal pelts are interesting to examine and touch too!

The Espanola Wildlife Center is a great place to see birds that you might not normally see.

Friday was a fun day of exploring the Santa Fe Ski Basin without any snow. The creek that flows down Easy Street is a great place to cool off.

July 7-10, 2014: Tremendous Trees and Biomimicry!

We had a teeny, tiny group this week with some big energy!  We played games, did intros and talked about Biomimicry (big word!) at Fort Marcy before we headed off to the Big T for our adventure.  We hiked, ate, played capture the flag and enjoyed the Tremendous Trees all around us.  We played a lot of Frog Detective and got a little wet  – lovely!

Tuesday took us to Tsankawi where we stayed dry, despite the downpour in Santa Fe!  We found pottery shards, arrow heads and obsidian.  We read a Native American story about how humans came to be on earth.  We hiked, imagined life here, and explored caves –  enjoying a little escape from the heat!

Wednesday: Rio en Medio.  We talked about more examples of Biomimicry at circle.  On trail we played Meet-a-Tree and A-Mia, made leaf boats and fairy homes (Owls).

The Eagles did a big hike to the waterfall and even had time for games along the way.  It was a splendid day to put your head under ice cold water, if you dared!

Thursday: The Beaver Ponds brought us a new and unexpected friend – we found “Muffin” a sweet, sweet dog wandering on the road.  We called the owner to no avail, and called Animal Control.  The Owls played at the trailhead while waiting for Muffin to be rescued.  The owner finally came after lunch!  Meanwhile, the Eagles hiked around the pond and played Camouflage and Capture the Flag.  Afterward, we scooped up the (recently freed!) Owls and headed to a new waterfall across the road.  FUN!