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!

June 3-7 Forts & Forests

Our summer camp started beautifully with a green and lush forest to explore, finding special places within which to make finely engineered forts and shelters. The dandelion flowers have been abundant and we have all learned that they’re not only edible but delicious, too! (I suppose, that also depends on who you ask;) Each child made a homemade first-aid kit with the use of ‘Altoids’ tins to carry along with them for the week. The children used their first-aid kits at least once for some important concern; though, some children used theirs a whole lot more than others!

As we ventured through the week we learned how to stay S.A.F.E.R out in the woods – learning and remembering what each of the letters stands for, bringing awareness to how we might avoid getting lost in the first place and what to do if it happens. ‘S’ is for “STOP and Stay Put!” We also figured out how useful it is to have an assigned ‘buddy’ each day to help us, cheer us on, and relay messages to Counselors when needed. Kindness and attentiveness to each other, along with safety, was a theme this week for our group.

Several days in a row we passed Black Tail Deer in the same spot on Hyde Park Road as we drove up for our adventures. We now call that area “Deer Crossing.” There was an exciting sighting of a woodpecker during a quiet moment in our hike – all the children observed this loud bird with rapt attention and something akin to awe. Games were never too far from our minds with the desire to be the next eagle for Eagle Eye or the next sardine for, you guessed it, Sardines!

A splendid week spanning the cooler weather with increasing warmth. Thanks for a great week, campers – summer, here we come!

 

May 28-31 Backcountry Service Trip

Our first ever Backcountry Service trip was a great success! The best part, according to most, was the incredible food.  Thanks to the Backcountry Horsemen and Kevin Balciar, we ate like kings and queens. My son’s comment was: “We eat better here than we do at home, Mom!”  (Sadly, there is some truth to that, especially this time of year!;)

Other highlights included learning to build a Tyrolian Traverse to cross the raging Pecos River for our commute to work each day. Afterward, we discovered there was a log bridge which was quite handy, but it was nice to have learned this skill and fun to zip across the river to work in the morning.

We spent our first day out there getting settled, enjoying the beauty around us, building the traverse and playing games such as Eagle Eye and Ninja.  The boys worked together to build a fire, which was difficult at first, but they got better as the days progressed. They became skilled at building with damp wood, and finding dry wood when most of the wood was damp.

On Days 2 and 3 we got to work on the trails. Pete Prince from the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society, led us in the trail work, which involved finding and rolling large boulders into place to create high spots on the trail to prevent erosion.  We built water bars and trimmed trees and shrubs to accommodate the wide and tall load of equestrian traffic. It was hard work, but we were blessed with some nice cool days and clouds, ample food and water, and a spirited hard-working group.  

We hiked to Cave Creek after work on the third day. It was a beautiful walk with so many wildflowers in bloom and the Pecos River raging. On the way back the rain started to fall and we were blessed with a wonderful thunderstorm shortly after we arrived back to our tents. A perfect moment to relax in our tents and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Our evenings were spent around the fire where we made up stories during a story circle, played games, ate s’mores, and shared appreciations.   

We are so grateful to Pete, Kevin and the Backcountry Horsemen for making this trip possible and so delicious.  Thank you to the kids who came and worked hard to improve our trails. They have learned some new skills, and no doubt, a newfound appreciation for our trails.

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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