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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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! 🙂