Surprise and Possibility: A Confession

April 17th, 2014

Winter...ahem...SPRING is beautiful!

Frog knocked at Toad’s door.

“Toad, wake up,” he cried. “Come out and see how wonderful the winter is!”

“I will not,” said Toad. “I am in my warm bed.”

“Winter is beautiful,” said Frog. “Come out and have fun.” –Arnold Lobel

(Don’t tell anyone…but I really like these spring snow storms.)

The reason I like them is twofold: 1) I like surprises and 2) I think spring snow creates awesome possibilities.

First, just like any meteorologist, there are often flaws in our weather reports. A forecast of 1-3 inches occasionally gives us less than half an inch—or we will get over a foot. So, for me, it is better to not tut and worry over the impending Snowpocalypse, and just hop out of bed in the morning, open the blinds and say, “WOW!” And the morning after a big snow in Colorado is almost ALWAYS worthy of a wow…and sometimes a big sigh…especially if you left your boots on deck.

Second, spring snow creates possibilities. It is the weather equivalent to long-term economics. When we get snow, it takes longer for the snow to slowly melt and seep into the semi-frozen ground—which means better moisture retention for our trees, plants, and wildflowers. Since we often have about 6-8 weeks of very dry, warm weather in June and July—I see these late snows as significant deposits into our drought fund. (Did I just pay taxes this week? Indeed.)

It also creates really rare moments and experiences if you are a kid (or a kid at heart). This morning, while walking to work, I found myself “Running the Gauntlet” Ninja-Big-Spring-Warrior style, a game invented out of the need to attempt to avoid the giant snow cascades unloading from the top, sun-warmed branches. Final Score: Ponderosas—3, Ariella—4.

My kids, and most of the boys at Big Spring, love nothing more than to spend hours slopping through the muddy spring roads draining puddles, building and diverting stick and foot dug streams, and otherwise enjoying the extended hours of daylight following the school day. When it snows a foot one day, then the temperature reaches the 50′s by noon the next, we have A LOT of mud options.

Snowy Easter surprise!

And, finally, with Easter weekend upon us—our spring snowstorms sometimes even catch the Easter bunny by surprise—leaving both bunny, and boys, wondering for days if they had found all of the eggs. (They did not.)

The experiences the snow creates are often priceless, and—unlike the snows of December—you know the warmer weather is just around the corner. There is no need to hunker down and wait out these storms, they are as ephemeral as childhood—and full of as much possibility and fun as the summer. Perhaps that is the most exciting part of a spring snowstorm: it simply means summer is almost here.

“When I was small, not much bigger than a pollywog,” said Frog, “my father said to me, ‘Son, this is a cold, gray day but spring is just around the corner,’ I wanted spring to come. I went out to find that corner. I walked down a path in the woods until I came to a corner. I went around the corner to see if spring was on the other side.”

“And was it?” asked Toad.

“No,” said Frog. “There was only a pine tree, three pebbles and some dry grass. I walked in the meadow. ; Soon I came to another corner. I went around the corner to see if spring was there.”

“Did you find it?” asked Toad.

“No,” said Frog. “There was only an old worm asleep on a tree stump.” “I walked along the river until I came to another corner. I went around the corner to look for spring.” “Was it there?” asked Toad.

“No,” said Frog. “There was only some wet mud and a lizard who was chasing his tail.

“You must have been tired,” said Toad.

“I was tired,” said Frog, “and it started to rain.”

“I went back home. When I got there,” said Frog, “I found another corner. It was the corner of my house,”

“Did you go around it?” asked Toad.

“I went around that corner, too,” said Frog.

“What did you see?” asked Toad.

“I saw the sun coming out,” said Frog. “I saw birds sitting and singing in a tree. I saw my mother and father working in their garden. I saw flowers in the garden.”

“You found it!” cried Toad. “Yes,” said Frog. “I was very happy. I had found the corner that spring was just around,”

“Look, Frog,” said Toad. “You were right. The rain has stopped,”

Frog and Toad hurried outside. They ran around the corner of Frog’s house to make sure that spring had come again.  -Arnold Lobel

Zen Masters, Unite and Write!

April 16th, 2014

As community building and preparation for the summer, each camp creates a staff-only Facebook group so staff can discuss the upcoming summer, make introductions, and ask for advice from directors and returning staff members on all things camp.

Yesterday, the topic of conversation was laundry—how is it done, who does it, how often, and more.  As the ideas for underwear management were traded back and forth the line, “unless there is a name on it” was repeated over and over.  Though some of the comments were written in jest…there was a slightly desperate undercurrent and tone from many of our returning staff members.

The Klean Karma Laundry has been such a foundational part of camp for so long, that—in our quest to keep its reputation unsullied—we decided we must clean up our acts and seek order and crisp clarity in setting a goal to keep our laundry Karma pure.

This made us think:  how could we create Laundry Nirvana at camp?  Much like the Eightfold Path, we need to have the Right Effort to achieve the Right Mindfulness which is found through Right Concentration.  Laundry truly can be a meditative effort and when we put our minds to making the whole laundry process one of zen-like calm and clarity.  If we can make it so, then we are all able to concentrate on other things….like playing outside.

Though some may say the sword is mightier than the pen, we disagree.  We believe there is nothing more powerful than a Sharpie Rub-A-Dub laundry marker.  And imagine the impact you could have on the lives of countless children, young adults, and weary laundresses if you practice this meditation every laundry day between now and camp:

You stand at the folding table, a content smile on your face, your head is clear of any negative thoughts.  You mindfully lift and fold clothing item after clothing item, noticing your breathing and sending positive energy toward the wearer of the Fruit of the Looms you hold in your hand.  As you inhale, you lift the Sharpie purposefully, intently, and then slowly inscribe the name of the wearer on the smooth elastic band, deeply exhaling as you lift the pen from the cotton.*  Repeat.  If your mind wanders, use the image of a sad counselor lost in a chaotic mountain of unlabeled clothes to help you refocus on your breathing.

Laundry nirvana is achievable if we label mindfully and follow the orderly path to sorting the fresh and folded linens….at least, everyone in the cabin and the unit will be much happier that way.

In closing, we offer you this mantra to chant:  May your karma be forever clean, and may the names on your socks (and your skivvies) be your own.

*Or, if you are more of the contemplative ironing type, may we recommend Mabels Labels or Stuck On You as a great option for helping clothes—and everything else—find their way back to the right owners.

News from Camp: April 1, 2014

April 1st, 2014
We will be heading into the high mountains soon!

A few of our summer birds, including bluebirds and robins, have returned to the Ranch so we know spring is on the way.  We still have quite a few snow drifts scattered around, mostly on north-facing slopes, but the first Pasque flower of the season has been spotted. Temperatures have warmed up and the nice weather really inspires us to work hard on our many pre-summer projects.  The summer staff will begin arriving in less than two months.

Speaking of staff, we have some great people returning for 2014!  At Big Spring, returning wranglers include Austin Coffey, Charles Nunziato, and Bryan Belsey.  Ridge Leaders will be Matthew Goodrid, McLane Grow, Jeremy Mabe, and Evan Simpson.  Other returning staff include Peter Hoeller, Evan Niebur, Josh Ohaus, Matt Sieminski, Tre Sisneros, William Stupp, Jonah Sublette, Jake Gulliver and Ethan Wallgren.  Jackson Blackburn, Mike Piel, Ian Stafford and Chris “BC” Miller-McLemore will once again be part of the Big Spring Leadership Team and Mike Mac will lead the staff as usual.

At High Trails, Sara Everhart, Hannah Flink, Valerie Peterson, and Erica Wilkins will be returning as Ridge Leaders.  Mary Talbot will be the Outcamp Coordinator; and Jamie Olivette, Jenny Hartman, Maggie Kittner and AnnaMaria Viazzo will be wranglers.  Tully Sandbom, Sami Burrell, Jane Canter, Barrett Donovan, Makenzie Goldstein, Kaiti Kinshella, Iska Nardie-Warner, Melody Reeves, Evy Royther, Haley Schreier, Emily Thompson, Nora Philbin, and Lucy Stockdale will return as counselors.  Kelly Muedeking will again be Program Director, Carlotta Avery will take care of trip organization, Maren MacDonald will direct the riding program, Jessie Spehar will take photographs and Ariella and Elizabeth will keep everyone organized.  We also have a great group of former campers returning as staff members, and some wonderful new staff who will join us for the first time.

We have begun our Spring outdoor education program and are excited to provide experiential, nature-based classes for 4th– 6th graders from 15 schools over the next six weeks.

Our April will be filled with putting the finishing touches on improved programs and trips for this summer, renovation projects to improve our facilities, hiring the last few summer staff and counting the days until camp begins.  We’ll be painting, cleaning, flying tents, and planting flowers in no time.

Our 2014 community is really coming together.  The First Term at High Trails is filled and there only a few openings left in the Second Term of High Trails.  Many grades in the First Term of Big Spring are filled, and Big Spring still has openings in most grades in the Second Term.  Some Sanborn Junior terms in both camps are filled but we have a few openings in other terms.  Families interested for the summer of 2014 should call to check availability.  As always, we are happy to send our brochure, DVD and references to any interested families. 

We can’t wait to begin creating the fun, adventure, and friendship of the Summer of 2014!

It’s that time of year…

March 26th, 2014

Today we experienced beautiful blue skies and melting icicles, chilly grey and white skies, and mid-afternoon were treated to a delightful sun snow shower. Florissant is preparing itself for Spring in its usual confused way, and soon yellow buses will be driving up our dirt roads. And where will we be? Anxiously sitting in the High Trails Office, muscles tense, for the first shout of “Buses!” It is the moment we at the High Trails Outdoor Education will be training for and thinking about for the next two weeks. The off(ice) season is over! And Sanborn Western Camps is thawing.

Our final staff member for Outdoor Ed. arrives today, and tonight marks our welcome dinner for new and old staff alike!

So here’s WM thanking you from the bottom of his heart for reading his sometimes confusing blog posts over the last few months…

And Ian Stafford, his trusty photography and co-contributor/ adviser/ clothing consultant, wishing you a fond farewell! If you need us, we’ll be dressed as prospectors/ woodsmen/ cowboys/ artists/ American Indians/ and a lot of other craziness, running around with students and doing accents. And what about after the Spring Outdoor Ed. season? Great question, faithful reader (you have always asked such great questions)! What happens after Spring Outdoor Ed?

Well, you know…

Office March Madness Brackets

March 19th, 2014

Every March there are a lot of basketball games. Sometimes friends and family are happy, and other times they’re mad and somebody says to me, “Just give them a second, man.” Once when all the lights were off in the downstairs of my house I thought I knew where the open door was and I walked into the side of the door frame. I was really mad that time, because I should have just turned the lights on.

I asked around the office about different methods for filling out my bracket. You can pick the teams with the coolest looking uniforms. You can pick at random, or by whose names sound the most like cheese. Heck, some people apparently even have insider knowledge of which teams are good, and they make educated guesses on which teams will do well. It was all overwhelming.

I found out Obama’s bracket was made public, so I went with that, because no way did he fill that bracket out himself if he doesn’t pick his suit out in the morning (not to mention he went 2 for 22 that one time). So I trust the smart person they picked to fill out his bracket for him. Go Michigan Street!

Breaking Sanborn Blog News!

March 12th, 2014

Drop what you are doing. Unless you are holding a glass of water, a gerbil cage you are cleaning, an ant farm, or an infant child. Because tomorrow we are sending out our Spring Issue 2014 of the Alum News Newspaper.

Today was a very busy day at the Sanborn Blog’s Headquarters! With our fearless leader Jessie Spehar at the helm, 3,300 Alum News Newspapers were stickered and loaded into mailing bins. Maybe you are thinking to yourself “3,300? That is not so much. I once sent that many Christmas Cards while also baking toffee.” But let me ask you this: Was your Christmas Card 12 pages long, filled with humor, news, and a wonderful picture of The Infamous JCs of 1972? Oh… it was? Um, well… It’s still a good read, so get excited.

Kind reader I know what you are thinking. Weren’t papercuts a major source of alarm? But do not be alarmed about papercuts. At least three members of our staff are Wilderness First Aid certified, and Jackson may or may not still be a Wilderness First Responder.

Building Interview #2: Quick’s Homestead

March 5th, 2014

The gate is open and the wire and wooden post is covered in snow. Where are the juniors running around the campfire waiting for their chili mac to finish? I’ve seen a lot of light saber duals around this house, not to mention the amount of shady deals gone down in the feed-store-turned-saloon in front of the homestead. Soon school groups will be here. They will move from the tool shed to the caved-in potato cellar, across the wooden boards to the barn, and out to see the old carriages and plows rusted out and wood bleached from the sun in the field.

I interviewed the stove.

WM: What’s cooking?

S: Heh, not much.

WM: It was only a question, don’t get overheated!

S: Wow, that’s great.

WM: Thanks. You ever get to read the books in here?

S: Sometimes, but I’m not a big reader.

WM: What do you want to be when you’re older?

S: A Stove.

WM: Ha, good one. Uh… [WM shuffles through his pad of paper.] Ever heard of television?

S: Nope.

WM: A Jet Boil?

S: No.

WM: You hear how many retweets Ellen DeGeneres got at the Oscars?

S: Nope.

WM: Like over 2 million.

It’s hard to imagine, this winter flying back and forth home to Massachusetts, driving down to Colorado Springs to see a movie in 3D, driving to Crested Butte to ski for the weekend, that Quick’s is always here. That it always smells like this. That at 2pm the sun looks like this. The tools are lying just so, waiting for us to find them in the Spring and hand to wide-eyed children. I sometimes think the ground squirrels always hide in the rafters of the tool shed until I walk up, exploding across the wooden boards and vanishing with a flip of their tail out of sight.

WM: A microwave?

S: [She shakes her head.]

WM: It’s really neat, it’s got these buttons and you can make a hotdog in 45 seconds. 1 minute if you want it to split—

S: Look, can we wrap this up soon?

WM: Wait! Sorry I’m so nervous, it’s just… you’re my favorite stove.

S: [Stove brightens up.] OK. Let’s try again, then.

WM: Sorry about before. I didn’t mean to grill you.

News from Camp: March 1, 2014

March 1st, 2014

Lookin' forward to more rainbows over the Sand Dunes this summer!

We had some great snows during the first weeks of February and are very happy to look ahead to the green grass and wildflowers which this moisture will make possible during the summer. The longer days and increased activities of our wild animal friends remind us that Spring is just around the corner, and this makes us even more excited about the coming camp season.

We have many projects underway in preparation for camp next summer.  Mike, Ariella, and Elizabeth have been hiring outstanding staff members for next summer.  We have some great returning staff as well as some wonderful new staff signed up for the summer of 2014.
We are working on many areas of the program, too, which will provide some exciting new activities and trips this summer.  Kelly and Jackson have been busy putting together plans and resources for each activity so by the time June arrives, we will have everything ready!
Maren and Jaime have been making plans for our super horseback riding program, designing activities and trips that will be lots of fun and also allow everyone from beginner to advanced riders to improve their riding skills.
Our maintenance crew is working on a variety of projects to improve and update our facilities in both camps.  These include renovations of the ABC washhouses at Big Spring and some new floors in the bathrooms of some of the cabins at High Trails.  We also plan to have a brand new central campfire area at High Trails before camp starts.
Ian, Jessie, Kelly, Ariella and others are keeping our Facebook site fresh and active with new posts several times a week.  You can also check out our blog which has fun stories about what is going on at camp during the winter.
We are mailing our Getting Ready information to enrolled camp families this week.  All of the needed forms are online this year, and we hope this will make the preparation for camp much easier for our families. As always, please email or call the office with questions.
Camp is only three months away and we can’t wait.  Already we have campers and staff from 41 states and 10 countries—and we’re adding more every day.  The fun and friendship which occur when all of these great people get together is what makes camp so special!  We are happy to send our brochure and DVD to anyone interested in learning more about the exciting programs at Big Spring, High Trails, and Sanborn Junior.

(Nearly) Spring Cleaning!

February 27th, 2014

Jerry came out of his office the other day and didn’t see his shadow, so we decided to do a little Spring cleaning! Over the past two days we shoveled the snow from around High Trails lodge in preparation for school weeks and organized and cleaned in the Big Spring office.

We learned a lot of valuable lessons this morning while cleaning the office. There are at least five different locations (four being various shelving units throughout the upstairs office) where collections of Jane Sanborn’s “Bag of Tricks II,” a wonderful book of games and activities for children of all ages, can be found.

There are at least four different locations where one can find empty 3-ring binders of varying color, size, and  sticker residue. Some hard decisions were made in going through the notebooks, and we have decided that perhaps we won’t order more 3-ring binders for a while. At least for this coming summer.

But don’t worry, our very own Jerry McLain brought donuts this morning, so moral stayed high in the face of dust, Johnny Domenico’s old program director binders, and unidentifiable electronic cords that we really hope we won’t need anytime in the near future. As much as we love shoveling and cleaning, though, we can’t wait to get some kids up here!

Big Spring Journeys to the Center of the Earth

February 20th, 2014

The day began at the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum, where, although it was their off season, they had graciously offered to give us a tour of the surface mine in Victor. We waited in the museum around a portable propane heater (they will have year-round heat and a bathroom by next year) until our van/tour bus arrived.

For whatever reason we weren't given orange vests.

Our knowledgeable driver, Dick, apologized the first few minutes the few times he drew a blank—he hasn’t driven a tour since fall. We began by driving through the historic downtown of Victor, and then moved on to the surface mine overlooking the town. We drove 1,000 feet down to the base of a dig, were shown where the raw materials are brought, and finally allowed to climb on one of their retired trucks, which, years ago when full of its rock load, weighed over 1 million pounds.

We ate a pleasant lunch at one of the many trailheads winding and looping around the old Victor mines, where in the summer we hope to bring the campers.

Our afternoon began at the Pikes Peak Heritage Museum in Cripple Creek, built in 2007. It is a beautiful facility, and we were given the scavenger hunt that school groups are given when in the center. Mike Piel was the only one who seemed to care enough about completing the scavenger hunt, and completed all but 2 questions, due to time. We also watched a very informative 30-minute film on the origins of the mines in Cripple Creek and Victor.

Last was the jail museum, where we were allowed to wander in and out of the old cells, graffiti from inmates still covering the walls. Some of us were even locked inside the cells—temporarily, of course.

With all this great new information we can’t wait to rework our summer Cripple Creek trip, and to create our new all-day trip to Victor!