July 8-12: Robin Hood’s Secrects

“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 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!

 

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

Wilderness Skills and Villanueva Overnight – June 4-8

This week our campers spent an equal amount of time cooling off by splashing around in rivers, and learning valuable backcountry skills. We learned how to prepare for a backcountry trip, the basics of scene assessment in a first responder scenario, and how to treat certain medical conditions. We practiced how to find a compass bearing and how to use an analogue watch to find North! We learnnd how to make a salve out of pinon sap which is great for cuts, scrapes and bites. We also learned that on ninety degree days everything is better when you’re sitting in a river!

Our week culminated with a make-believe scenario where one of our counselors pretended to have heat stroke and our campers had to assess the scene, assess his condition, and find ways to cool down his core temperature. They did a superb job, although they may have had a little too much fun dumping him in the river! It was such a fabulous time and we look forward to seeing these kids again.

Survival Hunting Tools! June 22-25, 2015—Eagles (9-12 year olds)

With their spears, bows, rabbit sticks, and deadfall traps, the Eagles have the tools to survive in the wild! On Monday and Tuesday we constructed our hunting tools. Lead by Matt Brummett, the eagles carved their tools and learned how to properly handle them. Using bagged hay targets, the Eagles practiced using their tools and even tried out Matt’s personal atlatl and bow and arrows. On Wednesday, the Eagles had the tools they needed to survive an overnight in the woods, and, in the evening, we learned how to make deadfall traps, enjoyed a game of capture the flag, sang songs while roasting marshmallows, and listened to stories about magnificent animals. On Thursday, after a hot oatmeal breakfast, we hiked to nearby caves and explored the dark caves with our headlamps. After this week of Mountain Kids, the Eagles have the tools to hunt for a scrumptious rabbit dinner!