Archive for the ‘Nature Activity’ Category

News from Camp: September 1, 2016

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Hammocks are some of the best places for quiet moments!

It is much too quiet around camp The fields, hills, and lodges are filled with great memories from the summer of 2016, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to spend this time with so many outstanding campers and staff.

One of our tasks during the weeks following camp is to collect and distribute all the lost and found items. We have now mailed every major article which has a name to the owner. We still have some jackets, boots, and other items of clothing which do not have names. Please let us know if your camper is missing something and we will do everything we can to track it down and send it to you.

Our outdoor education program staff has arrived and we will begin welcoming sixth graders to High Trails Outdoor Education Center on September 6. Among the summer staff who have returned to teach during this program are Mike Adler, Val Peterson, Anne Shingler, Mark Rutberg, Martie Adams, Nick Jordan, Blake Carr and Jalen Bazile. Sarah Robinson has returned as a nurse and Patrick Perry, Carlotta Avery, Sarah Ulizio, and Sarah Krumholz will provide leadership for the program.

An outstanding hay crew consisting of Jim Larsen, Joe Lopez, Matthew Huffman, Kevin Fernandez, Jordan Unger, Ben Cox, Evan Zitt and Joe Sisk has been working hard to bring in our hay crop this year. The cattle and horses are very grateful for their work because the hay will provide their nourishment through the winter months.

Our maintenance staff has been busy since camp ended. They have put a new roof on the HT Lodge, winterized all the buildings at Big Spring, and stained the tent platforms at Big Spring.

We are already looking forward to the new friends and new adventures that Summer 2017 has in store for us!

High Trails Directors, Ariella Rogge and Elizabeth Rundle, Big Spring Director, Mike MacDonald, Office Manager, Jessie Spehar, and our new Office Assistant, Megan Blackburn, are hard at work making plans for the summer of 2017.

We have several exciting events this Fall in addition to our traditional schedule. On September 2 we will be providing leadership training for students from School District 20 high schools. We have developed this outstanding program over the past few years and are always excited to work with these motivated teens. On September 24, we will again join with the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument to celebrate “No Child Left Inside Day” by hosting an open house. We will be offering a program of nature-based activities and hikes for families who would like to get their children outdoors for the day. There is no cost for the event.

We are also looking forward to celebrating the wedding of High Trails co-director, Elizabeth Rundle, to Levi Marable on September 17. The couple will be married at camp.

We are already thinking about next summer and have established our dates. The first term at Big Spring and High Trails will be Sunday, June 11 – Tuesday, July 11, 2016. The second term will be Friday, July 14 – Sunday, August 13. The four terms of Sanborn Junior will be June 11 – June 25, June 27 – July 11, July 14 – July 28, and July 30 – August 13. We have sent this information to current camp families and will send additional information in October to camp families, former camp families, and prospective camp families. If you would like to receive our catalog or know of someone who would, we will be happy to mail them at any time.

Each month we will post news from camp on the blog and keep an eye out on Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat for photos and moments from the summer of 2016! Right now, a few gold leaves are showing on the Aspen, and the sky is incredibly blue. A large herd of elk is hanging out at Potts Spring and the horses are wondering why no one comes each day to ride them. We wish all of our camp friends a great beginning to the school year and hope that everyone will keep in touch.

A Sense of Wonder

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Enjoying the sunset at Top of the World

Many of us can remember “a moment of wonder” at camp when time stopped as we watched a Red Tail fly through the sky, or when we witnessed a sunset so beautiful it took our breath away. Perhaps we were amazed by the stars glittering in the night sky, or by the colors of the wild iris in the field below Witcher Rocks. “To inspire a sense of wonder” has always been part of the mission of the camps, and we hope that everyone who comes to camp experiences many such moments at Big Spring and High Trails.

The importance of a sense of wonder for all of us, and especially for young people, cannot be over emphasized. Scott Barry Kaufman, author of “Wired to Create” recently spoke at an American Camp Association conference we all attended.  He provided research to show that a “sense of awe” as he termed it, greatly enhances curiosity and creativity, skills that are sadly diminishing among today’s youth. Other speakers at the conference demonstrated how the simple act of “noticing” in the natural world can lead to awareness, joy, and a deep connection with nature.

Use your imagination to build a fort like the Trappers would have done over a hundred years ago!

The term “sense of wonder” was coined by Rachel Carson in a 1956 essay. Though she planned to write a book on the subject, she died in 1963 before completing the project. However, her notes were used to create a book called “Sense of Wonder”, that was published posthumously in 1965.  When Carson wrote her essay, she was already seeing signs that many children no longer had access to the wild places that were abundant for our agricultural forbears.

Carson could not have predicted, however, the changes in society which have occurred in the past 60 years. In 2006, Richard Louv picked up Carson’s theme with his bestseller, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder”. The research is now significant and it all shows that children need time spent in the natural world in the same way they need food and sleep.  And, while we now understand the power of this need, studies also show that the amount of time children are spending in the natural world is decreasing each year.

Where will these seeds go?

Two significant, and simple, realizations have become clear through the research. One: it is through a personal connection to the natural world that a child experiences the most powerful benefits of a nature experience. This is the same emotional feeling described in the phrase “Sense of Wonder”. Two: young people are 90% more likely to experience this personal connection with nature if they explore the natural world with an adult mentor who also has a personal connection.

Rachel Carson was prescient in this; in her 1956 article she said “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

“To inspire a sense of wonder” is still an important part of our mission and we are becoming ever more intentional about ensuring that each person who comes to camp leaves with a personal connection to the natural world. A sense of wonder can also be enhanced in a garden, a park, an alley, or just by looking at the stars. So go outside today, notice what is around you—and take a child with you.

The Importance of Climbing

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Life is a gift, but some days it feels like a chore.  On those days, we can feel overloaded with the weight of responsibility, disappointment, and anxiety.  It’s important to push through those feelings because in the end, life is an adventure.  That’s one of the reasons it’s important to get outdoors.  More specifically, it’s important to climb mountains.

Climbing a mountain somehow resets your brain.  Ascending any peak, no matter its size, is an exhausting journey, a crazy trek.  It changes you as it challenges you.  Maybe it’s the lack of oxygen, but every time I climb a mountain I see the world in a new light.

I climbed my first mountain at camp many years ago.  School had ended, summer rolled around, I assumed I had three months of dullness to look forward to.  But then, my parents sent me to Sanborn.  Boredom went out the door.  I loved it.

It was that summer that I climbed my first 14er.   I’ll never forget that trip.  I remember getting dropped at the trailhead, our packs full.

At the trailhead, ready to climb

Counselors checked the maps, and we set out into the wilderness.  After many hours of hiking, we reached our basecamp.  Rising to the north was the cloud-covered mountain that we were driven to climb.  That night, we ate well, sang songs around the fire, and drifted to sleep in our little village of tents.

We woke long before dawn to find the counselors up and ready.  We crunched down some cold cereal and set out to climb the mountain.  The adrenaline was flowing, the spirit of adventure pushing us.  Hours passed, our line of headlamps bobbing up the steep trail, gaining altitude. I was exhausted and I wanted to give up.  But with encouragement from my counselors, I pushed on.

As early daylight broke on the mountain, we were able to see our progress.  I was encouraged by how high we had climbed.  In the valley below, our tents were so small they were hard to see.  And then we saw an eagle fly.  Not above us, but below us.  Looking down on that powerful bird as it soared across the sky was a shift for my brain.

We pressed on.  After a while, we could see the summit — it was only a few hundred yards away.  I was so excited I joined other campers and we ran… only to discover… it was a false peak.  We learned an important life lesson: don’t burn out racing up false peaks.  I was exhausted, but because of my counselors, because of how much they believed in me, I never gave up.  We pressed on.  It seemed like we were hiking across a lunar landscape.

Climbing a 14er

We were above tree line, no vegetation, the squeak of pikas all around us.  Hours moved like minutes.  We fought the wind and cheered each other on.  Finally, we scrambled over rocks that were billions of years old and reached the summit.  We did it.  There was a mystic silence as we stood on the peak and watched the sun rise over the Rockies.  I laughed with delight, bonding with my Big Spring brothers.  I couldn’t wait to climb again.

Standing on top is amazing, but the summit is not the goal.   The reason we climb a mountain is just that:  to climb.   One of my favorite climbs was years ago, when I was a counselor myself and our camp trip didn’t even reach the top.  A storm rolled in over Mount Harvard and pushed us down long before the summit.  We returned to base camp and took shelter from the cloudburst.  We still had a great climb.  It was an epic trip, long remembered, even though we didn’t make it to the top.  The goal is not only the summit, the goal is the journey, the strength you gain from the climb, and the memories.

Standing on top of the world

When we climb mountains, it clarifies our thinking.  The disorder of our lives — the argument with a friend, the bad grade in algebra — all of it is forgotten.  The mountain is all that matters.  It gives us perspective.  When we climb, the mountain speaks to us in geologic time, a slow-motion language, and it reminds us that that problems are fleeting and life is truly a gift.

~M.Huffman~

Illuminations of the Winter Solstice

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Without the night, how can we appreciate the day?

4:41 p.m. until 7:15 a.m..  Fourteen hours and thirty-four minutes from sunset to sunrise…and that doesn’t even factor in the long, early morning shadow of Pikes Peak or the afternoon dusk as the sun drops below the ridgeline behind Big Spring around 3:30. On this longest night of the year, it’s dark and cold at camp, with snowflakes spinning down as the storm settles into the mountains to the west, but it’s beautiful…and good.

As Clark Strand wrote over the weekend in his New York Times Op-Ed piece, “Bring On The Dark: Why We Need the Winter Solstice,” we need this long night to remind us that night is “the natural corrective to that most persistent of all illusions: that human progress is the reason for the world.” Granted, without all of this manufactured illumination and technological progress, I would not be tapping out this post on a computer, but—instead—be huddled under the same blankets scribbling by candlelight.

Yet Strand’s cautionary tone also provides validation to those of us who have had the opportunity to eschew “progress” for the natural rhythm of the seasons. Who among us does not remember hustling around an alpine base camp at dusk (possibly because the batteries in our flashlight or headlamp died days before) preparing for an “early” bedtime simply because the sun had set? Or, even more magically, watching the campfire die down to embers and find ourselves speaking more and more quietly as the darkness enveloped our senses and revealed the stars.

Though the Winter Solstice is often called the first day of winter, for me, it represents the first step of the sun’s long journey back to the north. Right now, she is so far to the south, the shadows I cast as I walk trail far behind me, or sometimes stretch across the road completely. Over these next few months, the shadows will become shorter and shorter, bringing me back to the center, bringing me back to summer, bringing me back to myself. Yet my gratitude for the solstice is deep and solid, for without the dark, how can I celebrate the light?

Strand said these long nights were once for connecting with others and with yourself. Before electricity, people “told stories and, with so much night to work with, woke in the middle of it to a darkness so luxurious it teased visions from the mind and divine visitations that helped to guide their course through life.”

We know what he means, we have experienced it time and time again in the woods. Remember it now: you wake from a restless sleep caused by an errant pinecone in your left hip, you listen to the breathing of your tentmates, the rustling of nylon sleeping bags, the soft whump of a moment’s breeze on your tent fly, and you exhale. You push your mind beyond the tent, back to the laughter around the campfire, the faint taste of hot chocolate still in your mouth, and to the millions of stars above you. Around the campfire, someone said, “Isn’t it crazy that any one of those stars could have planets just like ours around them?”

As you look up, your mind begins to expand, trying to make sense of it, wondering if it is possible, if it is true. And someone else whispers,  “Some of those stars might not even be there anymore…what if we are just seeing the star’s light that is still traveling toward us over millions and millions of light years?” Your mind continues to stretch and your heart expands because this is an amazing moment with amazing people and you are so comfortable with yourself, with your friends, with this place that you can actually wonder, out loud, “what if?”

And then, you find a comfortable, simple silence together………until, “OOOOOOHHHHHH!” and everyone wishes quietly on the same shooting star, wishes quietly that this night will never end.

-Ariella Rogge-

The Lemon-Lime Time

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

"Aspen" Wondering When Fall Would Arrive!

Fall is a (but not THE) favorite season for all of us at camp.

We love the crisp evenings, the cool mornings, the warm days, and the gold Aspen against the bluebird blue sky. This summer’s bluebirds can still be seen flying in the fields around Big Spring, the coyotes are even more talkative than usual, and the elk bugles and whines can be heard as we walk the quiet paths on the weekends…the trails are still pretty noisy during the week with High Trails Outdoor Education Center students and The Nature Place guests enjoying the granite bluffs and beautiful vistas, as well.

Fall is both sweet and sour; sweet because we get to look ahead to next summer, and sour because we didn’t want Summer 2014 to end. It is a transition time around the office, too. The pace from the summer slows, and we take time to read evaluations, write letters, and begin to look forward to the possibilities of 2015.

We hear from campers, staff, and alums who miss camp and long for the simplicity of summer days. Days when breakfast is hot and ready for you, when accomplishments are measured in thousands of feet and shared connections with beautiful horses, when friendships are deepened by real experiences and real challenges, and when we each can begin to see and understand our unique place in the world.

One of the most valuable parts of the camp experience is the time and space that is created for reflection. This doesn’t only happen when you are watching for meteors in the star-filled night sky, or when you can take a cat-nap in the alpine tundra after a successful climb on a beautiful day. This space and time for reflection can be internalized, and—once it is in you—you are more able to take a deep breath and simply be.

Our wish for you, as the grassheads begin to dry and lose their seeds, growing more yellow and brittle as they lighten the landscape, is that you take time to go crunch among the fall leaves—or stop and share a beautiful view with a friends—or simply find that special spot in your favorite outdoor place where you can pause, listen to the wind, the birds, and just breathe.

Dr. Seuss said, “Do not cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Celebrate these transitions, as brief and meaningful as they are, because they remind us to remember, reflect, and anticipate the wonder ahead.

Did You Enjoy Your Story?

Monday, January 20th, 2014

I find myself looking out the office window as Jake and Gulliver look back at me through their fish-tank’s glass. I am dreaming, thinking of the adventures that I want to go on and where my life has taken me thus far. The sunset in a Thai rice field, the sight of the Eiffel Tower as it sparkles with a thousand lights, standing, watching the waves of 3 different oceans wash sand over my feet. Snapshots that capture a moment that can’t be replaced or relived.

I close my eyes and they are the shutter, and the longer and tighter I close them, the more engrained I will have that exact image in my head. It’s easy to immerse yourself in a trip, a journey, an expedition, call it what you will. We let moments slip through our fingers and our memories drift the longer we are away from that moment.

I often post things about “enjoying the journey,” but when my pictures can’t get the job done, I have my memories, my stories, those times when I know I was at my finest. It’s important to keep your mind and heart open and ready for the next adventure that is just around the corner.

Where will you go? What will you do? Are you ready?

Check out this beautiful short video of a couple’s journey through Patagonia and Chile: a story for tomorrow.

~Ian Stafford

Nature Activity: Nature Scavenger Hunt

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

This looks SCARY!!!

At High Trails Outdoor Education Center, students experience the natural world through role play and hands-on activities. One of our students’ favorite activities comes during their first Discovery Group: Setting the Mood.

The Nature Scavenger Hunt is facilitated by the high school counselors, many of whom have attended our HTOEC Leadership Day. The goal is to help the students begin to see interrelationships in the natural world, as well as to help them slow down and help them truly “see” (and understand) the natural world all around them.

Here is what the students will be looking for:

HTOEC Nature Scavenger Hunt
Something red in nature
Something scary
The oldest thing you can find
The youngest thing you can find
Something you can feel but cannot see
Something with a smooth texture
Something with a rough texture
Something beautiful
Something amazing
Two seeds
A piece of litter
Evidence of an animal
Three different kinds of grass
Something that makes a noise
Something humans could not live without
Something natural that has no purpose

Once the group has found all the items, the high school counselors will facilitate a short wrap-up discussion to allow the students to share their discoveries. Some of the questions the counselors may ask are: What do all the objects have in common? How are they interrelated? Would a dog be able to find something red? Would a bat be able to hear the same things we found which made a noise? What else could a bat hear? What things would animals be able to find better than we can?

These questions help the student begin to recognize that our senses help us experience the natural world in rare and unique ways—and that our sixth sense, our sense of wonder, allows us to understand, appreciate and celebrate our connection to nature.

What do YOU look for when you are out in the natural world?

A Tale of Two Peaks

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Harvard/Yale BS 2012

As we sit here in the Rocky Mountains it makes my mind wander. Where do trees come from? Why are milkshakes so delicious? What makes White Mike’s hair grow in such cute yet funny looking curls?

The answer to these questions and more, is you!

After driving the treacherous hour and forty minutes to pick you up from your pick up point it makes me recognize that this world is comprised of all creatures both man made and natural. If you squint at a sunset it looks similar to shining a flashlight in your eyes, if you attempt to eat a pinecone in less than six bites it’s going to make your insides hurt (I know this from personal experience), this is the world. It is your world. And today you are stepping into it not only as men, not only as boys, not only as Big Spring Warriors, but mythical creatures much like a combination of a pegasus, with an ogre’s arms, Jerry McLain’s hair, tarantula fangs, and the heart of a zephyr.

At Big Spring we do many things that literally make the world go round. Sumpings, chants, growing facial hair, and being bold brave warriors. These attributes have culminated here, in this very park, eating this very pizza! We have conquered fears, hunger, thirst, the desire to flirt with that girl at the swings over there, but, alas, we are still here. We are legendary, we are the ones that return with glory!

These mountains were once flat, this grass was once dirt, that sky was once a fish, and we are much like all of those things. We grow, evolve, develop, regress, develop again, scratch our arm pit, and then recognize that we must shape shift. Not in a creepy way like how Will-O turns into a horse, but like Mystique from x-men. This is who we are and it’s to be carried as a true testament of our character, courage, fashion statements, and hygienic values!

I came to this spot to greet you and bring you home, but now I stand here and understand that this is more than just a pick-up, it is a ceremony of life, and I think Ghandi put it best when he said “if I eat anymore rice I’m gonna throw-up on myself” and that is the thought I want to leave you with…I’m proud…humbled…and ready to eat more pizza!

The Good Earth

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Our First Session Big Spring Outbackers refitted this old horse coral right above the BS Barn (used to be called the Elephant Pit, according to Mr. Jerry) into our very own garden plot!

The combination of horse poop, hay and shade made for great soil conditions. The Outbackers were stoked to be able to create something that will be turned into a Sanborn summer gardening program as well as curriculum on high altitude farming for our new Sanborn Semester. We created a low-flow irrigation system for such hot days, as well as rows to separate such vegetables as beets, carrots, radishes (mainly rooty items, due to our altitude). It’s a fun project for the kids to see progress in just a few weeks (with help from our friendly skies of late) and they can go home knowing there is something growing here that they planted.

Fresh cilantro, arugula and beets (with help from worms churning soil and creating better organic material underneath) growing in an ol’ water tank.

Our compost bin (full of 2 lbs. of red wiggler worms) is filled with vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and other brown, carbon-rich material (eaten by the worms–crazy) to make this lovely, four-week-old compost! This will be spread as a top layer over our garden plot to add sufficient nutrients to our crops.

Atlas Obscura

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

“There is something new under the sun, every day, all over the world …

Atlas Obscura is for people who still believe in discovery.”

This is the mantra of Atlas Obscura, a neat collection of the world’s weirdest, most wonderful places, and what you’ll find there.

No matter where on Earth you are (literally, they have every continent, every state, even the littlest of towns), there are places to discover such oddities as “miniature cities, glass flowers, books bound in human skin, gigantic flaming holes in the ground, bone churches, balancing pagodas, or homes built entirely out of paper.”

Pretty neat, huh? And wait, look-y here!

Our very own Florissant Fossil Beds made the grade:

“Fossilized stumps of a redwood forest litter the site, which is the most prolific source of fossilized insects anywhere in the world.”

I mean, I’d go check it out.