Secret Language of Birds and Bugs! – July 2018

Our campers LOVED “The Secret Language of Birds and Bugs” week! What a natural theme to enjoy at our favorite Mountain Kids! locations.

5 to 7-year-olds

On Monday we adventured to the Beaver Ponds, where we had Wade Harrell from The Harrell House Bug Museum identify all the bugs we found during our hours of bug hunting! We split downed tree trunks, looked under dead bark, meandered through tall grass, and still never ceased to see new, exciting creatures!

On Tuesday we hiked up Deer Creek, where our campers would sum up our day with one word: MUD! A beautiful hike through mud, a nice picnic in mud, games in mud – nothing but mud! Tuesday called for some great photos and tons of dirty fun.

Wednesday and Thursday were also great! We paired a lot of active games with education and opportunities to see some extraordinary creatures. We began Wednesday with some rejuvenating swimming and courageous rock jumping for the daring at Abiquiu Lake and ended with a trip to the Santa Fe Raptor Center. Here we saw such beautiful birds all up close! Some of our favorites were the Bald and Golden Eagles, and Barn Owls – so pretty.

Thursday, we played hours of Capture the Flag down the Little Tesuque trail! Such fantastic teamwork and equally impressive strategies were on display from both groups. By the time we were all covered in sweat and fishing twigs our of our hair, it was time to head over to the Harrell House Bug Museum to see their widely impressive 4000+ bugs on display! Our bravest campers even held a furry tarantula, a colossal millipede and more!

8 to 12-year-olds

This was a week and a half at Mountain Kids! Our week was filled with (unsurprisingly) bugs and birds, as well as an insane amount of water play! On Monday, a local entomologist helped us hunt unusual insects at the beaver ponds, and we managed to get our kids home with a thousand-year storm at our heels. Fueled by that rain, we went to our favorite swimming holes at Deer Creek on Tuesday. We got wet and muddy exploring the recently flooded wash and the waterfalls that had come to life with the excess of rainwater.

On Wednesday, we did even MORE swimming in Abiquiu Lake and went to the Santa Fe Raptor Center. This was a new location for Mountain Kids!, and it rocked! None of us (as far as I know) had ever been so close to owls and eagles before. On Friday, we had a leisurely day of capture the flag and dam building at Little Tesuque and rounded out the week at the Harrell House Bug Museum.

Whew! What a week. See you next time!

Thanks to everyone that participated in our Secret Language of Birds and Bugs week. The counselors had just as much fun as we hope all of our campers did. Until next week Mountain Kids!

Amazing Animals – July 2018

What a fun-filled week these campers had! This week’s “Amazing Animals” theme invited quite exciting animal-themed games along with many opportunities for impressively completed team building activities each day for both our 5-7-year-olds and our 8-12-year-olds!

5 to 7-year-olds

Our 5-7-year-olds began our week at Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve, summited the Dale Ball trail, explored open aspen meadows at Big Tesuque, and finished with a gorgeous flowing waterfall at Rio en Medio! We spent our days’ birding, catching flying critters, fishing for local tuna and sardines (ask your campers – ha!), and wildly transforming into animals with their amazing pelts provided by New Mexico Game and Fish

These Mountain Kids! were really put to the test being challenged as individuals and a collective with mind-bending team building exercises. We had two favorites! One, we imagined crossing a bridge made up of different colored bandanas placed flat on the ground. These campers had to successfully walk across to get to the other side – the trick was, only one person could go at a time to find the SINGLE correct route! And did I mention that no one could speak? Another favorite, “Minefield”, is played with a small box drawn on the ground with items messily placed inside. Each of our campers was blindfolded and verbally helped across the minefield without touching anything. Quite the challenge for some, but a ton of fun for all!

When not hiking to gorgeous waterfalls, building extravagant forts/nests, or appreciating the grand views we climbed trails to reach, our campers were playing Eagle Eye and Bear, Salmon, Mosquito – the best of running, tag, and hiding games. Freeze tag, although skinny from this week’s theme, was hands down our whole camp’s favorite game every day! It was just the perfect way to get our blood pumping so early in the morning. And to wake us up in the heat of each afternoon, a good water fight sure reenergized us! Thanks all for such an amazing week – until next time Mountain Kids!

8 to 12-year-olds

This week was a serious one for 8-12-year-olds at Mountain Kids! At least, it was a little bit serious. Under the auspices of our amazing Carmen, we studied the pelts, skulls, and claws of many of our furry friends, exclaiming at how soft they were and wondering what it’s like to be an otter or a bear. We also learned about bird calls and how to use binoculars, which helped us get a look at some very cool avians! Among all this was the usual contingent of games (some very unique forms of tag evolved this week!) hiking, and splashing. Another great week of Mountain Kids!

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Bikes & Boats! June 18-22

This week our campers proved their abilities both on wheels and on water. On Monday and Tuesday, we honed our mountain biking skills on the La Tierra Trails learning the basics of terrain navigation. They were very impressive, piloting their bikes through the flow trail, the wee-whoops, and the terrain park with confidence.

On Wednesday we loaded up our kayaks and headed to Abiquiu Lake for our overnight camping trip, where we were very grateful to spend the day swimming, splashing, and paddling. Our kayaking instructor, Steve, taught us how to efficiently paddle and toured us along the shoreline. We ended the day soaked and satisfied, and returned to our camp for dinner, songs, and sleep. On Thursday we packed up camp and returned to the water spending most of the day relaxing on the beach, casually kayaking around, and jumping into Abiquiu’s cool water. It was a fun and full week of camp, just how we like it! Thank you, Mountain Kids!  – Max

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

Mountain Biking Skills and Thrills! June 4-8

What a great way to kick off summer for the Eagles – our 9-12 year old campers! On Day one we rode at La Tierra where we tackled the Flow Trail, climbs to and from the trail, and then the pump track at Alto Park.  We talked about specific skills for climbing, descending, braking and turning.

On our second day we rode Dale Ball, which was short and sweet!  Day three took us up to the Rift Valley Trail south of Taos. It was a long drive, but we had fun playing games along the way, and the views and riding were worth it!  We also had time for a dip in the Rio Grande, which was a treat!

On Day four we checked out the Oak Flats campground in the Tijeras District on the east side of the Sandias.  It was perfect riding. At 7000ish feet, we rode through a ponderosa forest, which was a bit cooler than previous rides, and the trails were a combination of beautiful smoothness with a few technical spots to challenge our skills.

We are so proud of these campers for all the hard work they put into riding, and the fun they had!  Apparently, hard work and fun go hand-in-hand and provide great learning and growth for kids exploring their limits.

 

July 3, 2017: Digging into the Past, Week 1, Galisteo Basin

Today was an adventurous, hot and muddy day, and boy did we have fun! The morning was mellow with all the new campers shuffling in. Some decided to make the art project which was nature journals and some decided to play Park Ranger.

We circled up afterwards and had a great time playing a name game, and learning how to stay safe and have fun at camp. Next up was eating our snack while hearing an incredible story about archeology. We talked about how to be archeologists, and our plans for the week ahead. We then got ready to load into Steve, our adventure van. After water bottle re-fills, bathroom breaks and buckling, we were ready to hit the road!

The day began with some good clean fun, and ended with the joyful abandon of bug catching, mud slides and mud balls!

We arrived at the Galisteo Basin excited to see what we could find. Specifically we were looking for colorful rocks to make paint with, clay, and other clues to the past.

First off on the trail we found an old still working windmill! It was so neat to see it pump water up from the ground with wind power right before our very eyes. Back on the trail, we soon found an entire old ruin, a perfect find to practice being archeologists! We looked for clues about what this old ruin might have been and made some educated guesses. We also found what we thought were bells from a distance, and turned out to be a complete mystery when examined up close. (See photo, ideas about what this is are welcome!)

Afterwards, we happily trotted down the trail until we began to descend into a tiny canyon that had really unique and interesting rock formations. The colors kept changing from pure white to dark burgundy, to yellow ochre and varying shades of browns, greens and blacks. After finding many specimens of different colors, we ate our lunches and chatted about fun things.

Then off to the river, which was a short drive down the road to Galisteo, a tiny cute town with a beautiful river running through it. In this spot we found an excellent area of deep clay for making things and playing. The kids mostly enjoyed playing in the river, collecting bugs and tadpoles, making mudslides and mud balls and other imaginative and joyful activities!

After such wet, muddy fun there were lots of clothes to change! After putting on dry clothes, we drove home, laughing and smiling the whole way. What a fun day and an awesome group of kids.  We are looking forward to more historical and playful adventures in the week ahead!

Enjoy some photos of the day below.  More to come! 🙂

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

Forts and Forests! & Plein Air Art and Adventure! June 13-16, 2016

Forts and Forests!

Hummingbird Aventure:

This week the Hummingbirds explored Forts and Forests. We began our week at the Beaver Ponds and discovered clues that these master fort builders lived in the area. Tuesday we headed out to Norski where we constructed several lean-to forts using fallen branches, grass, and little yellow flowers to add a bit of pop to the look. Wednesday we were off to Big Tesuque where the kids had ample time to splash around in the creek, and use its water for water colors! We ended our week at Little Tesuque, where children caught a glimpse of a sneaky snake hiding in the bushes. They also made there way up the little creek as branches draped above them like a tunnel and they began to feel like they were in a whole new world. We had a lot of fun building dams, deconstructing dams, building forts, and tearing down our forts in order to leave no trace, and generally getting lost in the wonder of nature.

Owl Adventure:

This week the Owls enjoyed exploring the forests of Santa Fe! On Monday, the Owls cooled off in the water at the Beaver ponds. Tuesday, they played in the trees on the Norski trails. At Big Tesuque, on Wednesday, the Owls built a huge tepee fort and enjoyed splashing around in a waterfall. the Owls also created a clever hiking game as they pretended the forest floor was lava and so they walked on fallen aspen trunks in order to survive the heat of the lava. By the end of the hike the Owls had gain a lot of trust in their balance. The Owls concluded their week at Little Tesuque. There, the Owls built a dam and later they tore it down, creating a huge wave that filled the whole stream. Overall, this week was filled with trees, water, and imaginative play!

Plein Air Art!

The Eagles enjoyed a week of art and nature! Each day they worked on a different project while enjoying the outdoors as their model. The Eagles concluded their week with an overnight at Abiquiu Lake. There, they created masterpiece paintings, roasted apples, and splashed in the lake!