August 5: Mud, Clay, & Camouflage

It’s been another muddy good week with the Mountain Kids! It all began with an adventure to Deer Creek, where the Hummingbirds and the Eagles discovered several puddles of mud, camouflaged themselves from head to toe, and cooled down with an afternoon spent playing in the flowing water. While the Hummingbirds played in the stream much closer to the trailhead, the Eagles enjoyed a lengthier hike up to the ‘swimming pools’, where they practiced their [what felt to be] cold plunge and admired the beauty of the waterfall!

Tuesday, the two teams parted for different adventures. While the Eagles explored their way up the Santa Fe river, from Patrick Smith Park, the Hummingbirds took a sweet little adventure to Glorieta, where they gathered local clay, before heading back to the park due to incoming weather. While the adventures in Glorieta were short lived, the two teams enjoyed the opportunity to recombine at the park and spend an afternoon sculpting sweet pieces of art with our freshly harvested clay.

Wednesday morning started with a fun craft which showed the Mountain Kids how to create paintbrushes from yucca and painting pigments from different crushed up elements and stones. Before long, both teams were on their way to Abiquiu Lake, where the Mountain Kids found ample amounts of mud, dug through the dirt, sand, mud, and clay, and made a splash for several hours in the lake.

The Eagles and Hummingbirds headed up to the Big Tesuqe Trail for their Thursday adventures. While the two teams participated in separate hikes, both, the Eagles and Hummingbirds were able to practice their camouflage skills through games such as Eagle Eye” and “Pig”. Of course there was plenty of time, too, for the kids play in the water as they wished! Several of the Eagles competed in a dam building competition and used their wild imaginative creativity in order to build fairy houses along the river.

Friday found both teams exploring the Santa Fe River with an adventure up to the nearby tire swing. During our hike up the River, the Mountain Kids found several different berries and plants which we broke down into vibrant body paints. The afternoon was filled with much fun, playing at the Cerro Gordo Park, in the river, and on the tire swing! Our day was finished with a sweet little treat and a lovely lesson on bee keeping. One of our Hummingbird campers is a local bee keeper and brought a jar of his recently harvested honey to share with us, in addition to showing us his gear and talking us through the process of beekeeping. It wasn’t long after our lesson on bees that each Mountain Kid began running around and involving themselves in a massive water fight to end an exciting week!

 

Survival Hunting Tools: July 15-20

This was a week full of watery fun, skill building with knives and bows, and some good heart pumping hikes with views for miles and miles.

Monday we started with spear making at the Big Tesuque. Knife safety was the most important lesson of the day.  Campers made some pretty nice looking spears in preparation for our Atl Atls on Wednesday.  We played games to get to know one another and explored nature in all of it’s glory. (Caterpillars and all.)

Tuesday was a Rio en Medio adventure, a good wet hike to a waterfall where the campers enjoyed plunging into the icy water.  They quickly chose to wear rain jackets to protect them from the icy flow. It was a joyous day on the Rio en Medio trail.

Wednesday was our day of Archery and more tool making in Chupadero.  We worked on our spears and Atl Atls (an ancient hunting tool which provides speed and leverage fro throwing a spear).  We then tried our hand at archery.  Bark Bunnies was a fun game for all –  aiming for chunks of bark, laden with jerky. If you hit the bark, and knock the jerky down, you get to eat the jerky.  Yum!

Thursday we headed up the Winsor Trail for Raven’s Ridge.  It was a challenging climb, so Michael helped break it up by teaching the kids how to make animal traps in the wild.  Super simple and cool.  The view from Raven’s Ridge was worth the climb! Nice work, all.  We had a great week of tool making, hiking and playing with you all!

The Secret Language of Birds & Bugs: July 15-20

It was a bugging good week for the Mountain Kids! Monday’s adventure on the Aspen Vista trail, accompanied by the Hummingbird’s hand-crafted bug catchers, provided a lovely introduction to a variety of our local bugs and birds. Tent Caterpillars painted the dirt paths and climbed up the aspen trees which allowed for fun and easy hands-on access to the little critters! After spending the morning reviewing some of the characteristics of different birds and bugs common in our area, the Hummingbirds practiced their creativity in a few rounds of bug and bird charades!

Wade, our wonderful bug friend in town, met with the team on Tuesday and guided us on a hike to several different bugs. The Mountain Kids learned about local spiders, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, water insects, and many more during their time at the Beaver Ponds.

With lots of new information concerning different bugs, the Hummingbirds were ‘antsy’ for their visit to the Bug Museum on Wednesday. The team met with Wade, again, at the Harrell House Bug Museum, where they held different bugs, watched the spiders and tarantulas get fed, and explored several different caged critters.

On Thursday, the Hummingbirds buzzed on over to the Santa Fe Raptor Center where they met with a variety of different owls and falcons and learned about their characteristics, diets, and different habitats. Each child was able to spritz one of the falcons with water to help him cool off in the heat. Boy – it sure was a hot one! The Hummingbirds also had their chance to cool off by splashing around in the river in El Rito.

We finished our day with watermelon and ‘appreciations’.  It was sweet to hear the kids appreciating new friends they had made, the birds they saw, bugs they met and the counselors who lead them throughout the week.

Friday was a sweet end to the week spent playing in the mud and water at Nambe Falls!

July 8-12: Robin Hood’s Secrets

“The story of Robin Hood evokes clever and thoughtful adventures in the woods, stealthy river crossings, balancing on logs and fine homes in trees.” The Hummingbirds had an adventurous week discovering ways to heal wounds, practicing archery and fire making skills, and uncovering techniques for keeping invisible and camouflaged in the woods! A Monday spent at the Norski Trail was the perfect opportunity to learn about the Leave-No-Trace Principles, how to stay prepared with the 6W’s (who, what, where, when, why, and weather), and to gain some practice building shelters and hiding huts.

A day of hiking at Rio en Medio, on Tuesday, allowed for the Mountain Kids to romp throughout the woods and experience several beautiful and refreshing river crossings. A handful of the Hummingbirds chose to challenge themselves with an extra long hike all the way back to the waterfall – a glorious feat well worth each step!

Wednesday, the Hummingbirds began their morning learning how to create Pinon Pine Salve which can be used to help in healing small scrapes and wounds. After their fun craft, the Mountain Kids headed out to Chupadero where they worked with, Michael, a wonderful primitive skills educator, who taught them new archery safety and skills and how to create fire with sticks! After a day spent in the sunshine, Thursdays trip up the Santa Fe River, allowed the Hummingbirds to use their imagination while balancing on logs, crossing the river, and walking stealthily up the waterway!

The Hummingbirds and Eagles joined together, on Friday, for a day spent splashing in the mud and water at Abiquiu Lake. The low waters allowed for endless amounts of clay and mud which was just perfect for practicing camouflage skills!

June 24-28: Wilderness Skills

The Hummingbirds (Mountain Kids’ younger group) started their week exploring the trails and waterways of the Beaver Ponds, while learning what to do should we encounter a bear and mountain lion.

The fun continued with an introduction to building survival shelters and a lesson on their importance. As the week continued, the Hummingbirds discussed the essential 6W’s (who, what, when, where, why, & weather) and why they’re important even before entering the wilderness. The children also learned seven new hand gestures in order to help them better understand the seven Leave-No-Trace Principles (ways in which we can respect and take care of our wild lands and parks with low impact practices). We also explored ways of staying S.A.F.E.R. (a mnemonic for how to stay safe while spending time in the outdoors), with one of the key elements being to STOP AND STAY PUT if you get lost.

During our week of acquiring new wilderness skills, the Mountain Kids roamed through areas such as the Rio en Medio, Aspen Vista, and the Ski Basin, all of which are  beautifully wooded locations and provided us with a wonderful setting for each camper to use their imagination while becoming animals such as deer, mountain lions, bats, and moths.

Our week ended with the Eagles (older campers) and Hummingbirds gathering together for a day filled with fun and games at the meadow of the lower Big Tesuque trail. What a fun and adventure-filled week!

June 17-21: Backpacking Wheeler Peak

We had an impressive group of campers for our three-day backpacking trip. After a successful prep day on Monday, we headed up to the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. Our spectacular winter meant that there was still a substantial amount of snow on the ground, and our campers did a stellar job traversing the trail and, most importantly, being helpful and encouraging to each other even when the going got tough.

During our first evening, our campers proved that they were ready to learn the basic skills of backcountry travel: how to set up tents, how to cook safely, how to navigate, how to sleep warm, etc.

Each camper took on a different job every day (such as being in charge of cooking a meal, or being a Leader of the Day – in charge of pacing and group dynamics) and they rose to those jobs with aplomb. We all went to bed tired, happy, and excited for the following day.

On our second day, and after an early rise, we started the trek up Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, at 13,167 feet. It took us 7 hours, round trip, to get to the highest point in New Mexico, a stellar view that feels more like Colorado or the Alps!

Due to the snow levels, it was an even more exciting hike than usual: lots off off-trail rerouting, careful snow-stepping, and glissading down low-angle sections. Again, we were very impressed with the campers spirit and ability to help each other. They were wonderfully cheerful and resilient in the face of this challenging climb.

Overall, it was a great trip. In true backpacking style, we returned dirty, tired, and happy, having had an experience that we will never forget.

June 10 – 14: The Secret Language of Birds & Bugs

Our week began with a bug search on land and water in the Nature Conservancy with Wade, from the Harrell House Bug Museum. Thanks to Wade, we now know that the large black beetles we’ve been calling ‘stink bugs’ are really called ‘Darkling Beetles’! We had fun looking for and identifying bugs with Wade.

Tuesday found us at the New Mexico Wildlife center in Espanola, where we met an impressive variety of birds of prey in addition to two relaxed bobcats and a fox, each of which were enjoying their afternoon downtime. With a long day spent exploring the grounds of the Wildlife Center, the team cooled down in the Pojoaque Creek, where they splashed in the water and built mud castles. Fun!

Each camper made a bug catcher on Wednesday morning, just in time to carefully capture and release a number of cabbage white butterflies and crickets at the La Cieneguilla Petroglyph site, down airport road.

On Thursday our culminating bug trip was to The Harrell House Bug Museum, where we delighted in visiting with all sorts of scorpions, tarantulas, various beetles and a huge water monitor (rather like a Komodo dragon).

‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ will forever be ‘Head, thorax, abdomen’ to us, especially as we added antennae, mandibles and compound eyes to our action song! Becoming bugs together in bug charades infused us with fun and laughter and the necessary water frolicking was an essential part of our week together!

 

June 3-7: Wilderness Skills with Overnight Campout

What a busy and fun week we had!  On our first day we made mini-survival kits and headed out to the Beaver Ponds where we hiked, played Eagle Eye (a sneaking and hiding camouflage game), climbing the perfect climbing tree, learning how to use a compass and a topographic map, and found fossils on the walk back to the van. Phew!  

Day Two started with a discussion of Leave No Trace principles by Annie, our very own LNT Trainer!  After snack and games we headed up to the Norski Trails where we learned how to build survival shelters and then made our own in small groups. As we hiked, we had fun playing many types of games, shared by counselors and campers alike. (Thank you, Ella for bringing your repertoire:). We enjoyed singing The Bear Song and Bats Eat Bugs on the trail and in the van.

Day Three was our big camping day.  With storms on the horizon there was a question about whether we would be able to sleep in our shelters.  We prepared for the storm by setting up tents, a group tarp, and gathering firewood and putting it under a tarp.  Once we were ready for the evening and prepared for the storm, we worked on our shelters, made survival bracelets and enjoyed many rounds of Meet-A-Tree.  

Back at the camp, we learned about fire-making and made a warming fire for us to gather around. Then the rain came for a short time during dinner, when we retreated to the group tarp for Nacho-making, and a short stint in our tents. After the rain, we were able to emerge for a perfect evening around the fire of stories, songs and laughter.  

Our last full day together we made water filters and talked about a variety of ways to purify water in the wilderness, an important skill! We practiced filtering water with a gravity filter on our hike down the Winsor Trail to the Rio en Medio.  The campers were eager for more Meet-a-Tree so we partnered up for this fun sensory game again before we gathered to share our appreciations of the week. We then brainstormed the many uses for a bandana and each camper was gifted a bandana to take home.

What a wonderful week and a great group of campers!  Thank you all for making this such fun!