July 22: Wonders of Water

The Mountain Kids had an exciting introduction to the many wonders of water on Monday, a day spent venturing through the nearby Beaver Ponds, where the team learned about the adaptations of beavers, discovered many fascinating (and wildly unexpected) fossils, and played in the refreshing water of the Santa Fe River.

Tuesday was a day filled with much more water (and mud, too!) at Abiquiu Lake. The children were able to imagine the scarcity of water in our waterways with the Water Scarcity Game, before heading out to Abiquiu. It certainly did not take the Mountain Kids! long before they were jumping into waist-deep mud and making a real splash with a cannonball contests into the lake!

The Hummingbirds caught a glimpse of the unyielding strength of water during our hike, on Wednesday to the waterfall at Rio en Medio. Some children recognized how the trail had completely changed in some areas due to recent heavy rains, and that several of the river crossings were much wider and more difficult to maneuver. We were super impressed with the hearty group, making it all the way to the waterfall! A big hike for little legs.

With a challenging hike under our belts, Thursday came as a breath of fresh air. We discussed where our water comes from in Santa Fe, and learned about our local watershed before enjoying a much shorter hike through the refreshing water on our way up to the Nambe Falls. Here, the children splashed and played, made mud pies, practiced stacking rocks, and enjoyed the cool refreshing water in the falls.

It surely was an exciting week filled with lots of wonderful water! Friday was a lovely day for the team to come together, once more, and enjoy several games after a hike down the Little Tesuque trail.  Thanks for a great week, all!

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 1-5: Mud, Clay, & Camouflage

Monday was a great start to a week full of mud, clay, and camouflage for the Eagles and Hummingbirds! Our first adventure location for the week was Deer Creek, where the Mountain Kids found giant pools of mud in which they rolled, jumped, and played for hours! The Eagles got into full camouflage mode and quickly were ready for stalking and hunting in the jungles of New Mexico!

On the Hummingbirds hike, several of the campers witnessed their first rattlesnake in the wild, enjoying the shade covered rocks. We gave the snake its space and moved along, full of excitement for what we had experienced.

Tuesday was all about clay! Each child had the opportunity to get their hands dirty in clay during our morning craft, making little pinch-pots and tiny clay structures. A trip to Galisteo allowed the team to romp about hunting and gathering buckets of their own clay – which was used Wednesday morning to create miniature ‘adobe’ bricks for clay houses. More messy mud fun followed, with a day spent playing camouflage games on the Little Tesuque trail.

The Mountain Kids! had a wonderful day, Thursday, discovering the Galisteo River, finding clay, making pigments, and whipping up some ‘algae pancakes’. We gathered cattail pollen as a last little treat and wandered along the dragonfly river path.

A refreshing end to the week was had at Nambe Falls on Friday. The Hummingbirds and Eagles hiked up stream together and cooled off with a splash in the lovely pool, created by the beautiful, roaring waterfall. It was certainly a clean and cool finish to a fun and messy week!

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 24-28: Photo Safari!

Our Photo Safari was full fun and of course, photography! We learned about the rule of thirds, and talked about composition among other things, but were mainly encouraged to shoot, experiment and have fun.  We went on a photo scavenger hunt, played games, hiked to a waterfall and a mountaintop, took lots of photos and explored our caterpillar tolerance when we encountered the “mother-load” of caterpillars at Carl’s Meadow. It was quite extraordinary just how many caterpillars there were if one stopped to look, or eat, as the case may be!

Our wearable Pinhole Camera Robot was a hit with all ages, and a cool experiment in learning how our eyes, and cameras work.

We tried our hand at sun prints, making compositions with natural objects. For the end of the week each camper selected 1-4 favorite photographs to frame and hang for art show.

It was a wonderful week of creativity, adventures and fun! Enjoy a selection of camper photos below as well as images showing our week-in-action.

 

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!