Archive for August, 2011

How Camp Staff Creates Awesomeness

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

A recent Fast Company article, Leadership Lessons from Burning Man, caught the eye of Big Spring Director, Mike MacDonald because, as he said, “We already DO these things.”

“It starts with culture”

The New Face of The HT Store

As the program director at High Trails, each summer I am energized by the creativity and motivation of the collected group of staff members who return or are brand new each and every summer. Their ideas for both in and out of camp programming are as varied and nuanced as each individual at camp.

During a program interview prior to camp, I will ask staff about their “secret nerd hobbies” and their “passion areas.” These are often jumping off points for many creative activities we share with campers. Maybe a staff member knows how to crochet, or he is a campfire culinary master, or she is just really into Harry Potter. By immediately trying to integrate our staffs’ interests into the summer program offerings, we are harnessing their creativity and creating buy-in for the creative, inspirational community culture of camp.

Additionally, once our staff are familiar with the day to day camp schedule, we regularly solicit new ideas for activities and trips to add variety and richness to our program offerings. This inspires others to “think big” and also creates an opportunity for positive reinforcement that benefits the entire organization.

“Add a dose of trust and positive reinforcement”

Look out! It's Mystique on the Move!

This summer at camp, overnights and trips like The Pirate Overnight, The Yoga/Horse Five Day, The Ghost Hunter Overnight, The Locavore All Day, and The Assault on Mt. Doom (formerly known as The Pikes Peak Bomber), made for memorable, creative, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for the campers and staff on the trips. Themed hikes featuring X-Men adventures, 80’s attire, fairies, and Ninja hijinks were both new on sign-up sheets—and full of the creative spirit of the staff whose idea inspired the activity. Nature activities like PoeTREE and Guerilla Art were both unique and enhanced the campers’ Sense of the Earth, while The Junkyard Art All Day will, undoubtedly, be the catalyst for the next generation of Burning Man artists. The newly created “Costume Class” competition during 2nd Session’s Gymkhana was a fantastic addition to a long-standing tradition, while our traditional ceramics program was a hit for many of the campers—with some of the pieces they created out on overnights being glazed and fired for an end of camp show that was enjoyed by the whole community.

We don’t always know how a new trip or activity will work out. And sometimes they DON’T work. Yet as an organization we trust the efficacy of the entire experience because that type of experiential, creative learning is enormously beneficial for both campers and staff. Campers provide real-time feedback to adults, often directly “challenging the process” and “inspiring a shared vision”, while staff members are able to analyze their triumphs and potential missteps in a supportive, creative community environment where feedback is often solicited as much as it is given…because personal success should be celebrated.

“Motivate with autonomy”

Yoga on Horses

What should one do on Xanni and Grace’s Rugby and Parkour Adventure Hike? Whatever Grace and Xanni decide to do. In this case, campers did a lot of running around, jumping off/over/around rocks/bushes/trees, and practicing the fine art of “scrumming”—all while hanging out with a couple of REALLY OUTSTANDING female role models.

Utilizing the talents, interest areas, and latent creativity of staff members allows for autonomous professional and personal growth. Even if staff members don’t necessarily know what the heck “Treehouse Madness, Fairy House Building, and Cloud Watching” might be, they have to craft an activity that is fun, campercentric, and fulfills the mission in some way. This also helps them create opportunities for camper excitement, ownership, and autonomy because the campers themselves often have great ideas about where to build the best fairy houses, what to do at the treehouse, and which valleys/high points have the best cloud watching potential.

Autonomy can be terrifying: “What if I mess up? What if this doesn’t work out? What if it does? What will people think? How will I feel?” Yet in the camp environment, campers and staff ask themselves versions of these questions every day. By making independent choices and dealing with the real time outcomes, our campers and staff develop stronger, authentic selves.

In our camp environment, like the larger Burning Man community, there simply isn’t room or time for micromanagement. The mission and community shape the camp culture; the people and the 6,000 acres of space create the unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience we share each and every summer.

“Reward people with appreciation rather than money”

Junkyard Art All Day Adventures

People don’t often get rich through creative expression alone…and we also know they don’t get rich working as summer camp counselors. Yet the value of the experience IS truly multi-faceted: an enhanced confidence in one’s own creative ability, the recognition found in self-expression in a community, and the freedom to learn, grow, and challenge oneself to create something unique that positively impacts the campers and their camp experience.

I truly appreciate the creative efforts and inspired thinking of our Sanborn staff members…and I challenge any and all of the participants of Burning Man to see if they can sustain and maintain their creativity for the duration of a summer camp contract…you do remarkably great things in the desert for seven days, but our staff do AMAZING things for 72 days.

Oh yes. The Sanborn Staff are en fuego.

-Ariella Rogge-

Remembering Camper Stories

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Camp has sadly come to an end for the summer of 2011. Things are very quiet at Big Spring and High Trails! While we are already looking forward to next summer, we want to share a few more stories from this summer…

Today we went horseback riding. We all put on our jeans and boots and walked to the barn. First we talked to our wrangler about how to saddle our horses before our ride. The sun was blazing hot, but luckily we all finished saddling quickly. My horse was named Popcorn. She is dark brown and pretty tall. We walked through all the pretty trees and mountains. At about noon we stopped for lunch. YUM! We tied our horses to trees and enjoyed a delicious meal. Turkey sandwiches and fruit. After we ate, we got back on our horses and started to head back to camp. On the way back we took a different trail and saw colorful flowers and lots of trees. After an all-day ride, we got back to the barn and untacked our horses. This was probably the best horseback riding trip ever all because of SANBORN!!
Abby G.

One day early in the morning we got up and dressed to go on our all-day horse ride. It was really fun! When we got to the barn I looked on the sheet and I got Rafter. Rafter was a tall horse. He was really sweet and listened to everything I told him to do, and he loved to trot fast. I loved him so much. When we got back, we put the horses in the pen. Rafter dropped on the ground and started to roll in the dirt. I said “Rafter I just brushed you” and he just looked up at me, stood up, and came up to the fence and licked my hands.
Alexandra D.

There are lots of fun things to do at Sanborn. The fun thing I just did was the Artsy Overnight. It is a hike to Tie Cabin and we make art. It took us about twenty minutes to get ready with our backpacks full of food and tents. And then we were ready to go. It took about two hours to get there and set up our tents. Then we started to draw, make key chains, rock necklaces, and so much more. The day went by so fast. It was time to go to bed. I was sad to leave the fun things that we were doing, but I knew that a bunch more fun things await me and my campmates!
Addie T.

We just got back from our very fun overnight, the Artsy Overnight. When we got back, we went to outcamp to wash dishes and put away the food. We had a delicious lunch of hamburgers, french fries, and root beer floats. We met at the lodge for our afternoon activities – I chose blogging. I know we are going to be very sad to leave our new friends we made at Sanborn. But most of us are coming back for another summer of fun!
Taylor L.

Yee-Haw Namaste, Part II

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Sugar, a usually grumpy horse, transformed throughout the week into a pleasant, happy mare!

By Jessie Tierney, Certified Yoga Instructor and Sanborn Wrangler.

After such a successful first Horse Yoga Long Trip, I could not imagine it getting even better.

With a new group of 9 campers, two staff and a total of 14 horses, we set out this time on a 5-day trek to unite with ourselves, our equine partners and each other . . . and this exceptional group of ladies made our 5-day trip an experience I’ll never forget.

One especially important element of this Horse Yoga trip was providing journals to campers at the start of the week. We sat on the front porch at the barn and talked about the power of Intention. With ideas of manifesting our dreams in mind, we made them concrete by writing them down in our small journals. The girls were asked to keep track of their intention throughout the trip, taking the time during Hawking (watching the horses graze for 6 hours each day) to answer some of the prompts I included in the pages, and also writing whatever came to mind on the blank sheets. This week was punctuated by torrential rain on each of the five nights, but this did not stop the girls from pulling their journals and pens from their cantle packs to huddle inside their ponchos and write. We made sure to “debrief” each evening, sharing some of the insights they came up with in the presence of their munching horses and the sound of rain. We woke up each morning with sloshy boots and soaked jeans, but thanks to the Colorado morning sun, we were dry before heading back out on the trail.

We talked about the girls’ answer to the prompt: “What is your Dream for the Future?” Answers were as varied as the ladies in the group, and we learned one girl’s dream to become a vet despite her allergies to animals. Another girl spoke of working with an organization to end child trafficking. A third hoped to overcome her anxiety and nervousness around competition, and said that she was looking forward to using the breathing exercises we had learned in one of the yoga practices. As we shared our dreams with one another to the backdrop of our horses grazing in a hay field, we became vulnerable–together–and provided support that felt tangible. It was like etching our dreams in stone, solidifying these intentions and banding together to make them manifest, our horses and one another as witnesses. It felt powerful.

One Happy Camper!

This trip’s destinations allowed for us to do more bareback yoga on the trail–3 of our 4 camping spots had arena setups which allowed the girls to ride without a saddle. Something profound happened here, too. One evening, we un-tacked the horses, hung their bridles on a tree branch and stacked their saddles below. After we’d allowed the horses to eat for three hours, we led them into a fenced-in section of pasture.

“Okay girls,” I said, “this is going to be an exercise in trust for your horse,” as I began tying a hobble knot on one of the horses’ lead ropes so it did not drag on the ground. “Tie your knots and I’ll give you a leg up.”

“How are we going to steer?” one of the girls asked. I smiled.

“You’re not. You are going to breathe deep and trust where your horse takes you.” There was a ripple of nervous excitement, and I breathed deep to release a bit of my own uncertainty about the exercise. “Who’s ready?”

Bridleless, bareback naptime Yoga!

As I walked around the herd of 11, hoisting each girl onto the back of her mount, I silently prayed that no one would get hurt. These horses could potentially cause a ruckus, but part of me had a good feeling about the Trust exercise, and I focused on the good potential rather than the bad. It will be okay, I thought, especially with this group of girls, who picked up on the power of their breath easily. I expected that the horses would take advantage of the opportunity to graze, and that they wouldn’t venture too far.

“Deep breaths, ladies. See if you can get your horse to lick his lips or sigh with you,” I coached. Some of the mounted girls had already turned their bodies around to lay their heads on their horses’ rumps. Once everyone was on, I led them in some collective breathing and a few horseback asanas (poses).

To my surprise, not one horse moved. None of the horses even lowered their heads to graze. They had complete freedom: every opportunity to find a good patch of grass to munch or even trot around the pen if they pleased, yet each horse stood stock-still, ears gently turned toward the rider on its back. In fact, the horses seemed to relax deeply, standing in a group with their riders lounging on their backs, eyes drooping with one leg relaxed. These horses were doing yoga, too.

I nearly cried. There was something happening that I had not anticipated. Even Sugar, a horse known for kicking any horse who got near to her, stood nearly drooling with what I would normally deem “uncomfortably close spacing” to the horse by her side. Even more than on the last trip, these horses were actively participating in the yoga practice. They transformed as soon as their riders shifted their awareness to the breath.

No yoga mat required! The ladies practiced in the grass beside their grazing horses.

I have personally experienced the power of breath awareness in horseback riding innumerable times since I was a kid–calming a nervous horse by slowing my breathing and feeling my seat sink deep into the saddle–but it was always something I took for granted that felt difficult to articulate to others. Now, so visibly in front of me, it was made obvious: horses respond to breathing. Bigtime. Suddenly applications of this teaching flooded into my mind: we can make riding infinitely more safe by teaching this simple technique. The horses trusted their mounts because their mounts became wholly present in the moment through watching, listening to, and lengthening their inhales and exhales. So simple! Yet so profound …

Taken seriously, these breathing exercises allowed for the campers to “get away with” doing poses even I would have deemed impossible before the start of this trip. Girls were sitting backward on their horse’s rump in Sukhasana in meditation. Some did partner poses on horseback, nearly hanging upside-down off their mounts. Ekha Pada Kapotasana–Pigeon Pose on horseback–impossible? Hardly! I stood by laughing nearly the entire trip. It was miraculous!

This camper made up a pose she dubbed "Fly-Asana," sitting like a fly on her horse's back.

There was one element whose absence I think made possible much of what these ladies and their horses accomplished: Fear. Likely because of their youth and my (at times feigned) confidence that they could accomplish whatever they set out to try, these girls were fearless. The absence of fear in the girls gave their horses confidence, and the equines embraced these new, foreign activities as though they’d been waiting to do yoga all their lives. Or, perhaps the horses had been doing yoga all their lives, and the girls finally got up to speed. After all, horses as prey animal depend on the awareness and presence of the other members of their herd for survival. This makes horses the ultimate yoga practitioners: wholly present every moment. Once the girls caught on to how to be wholly present through their breathing, the horses felt they could trust them completely (thank you Linda Kohanov!).

The trip was magical. The girls loved it; the horses loved it; I loved every second of it–okay, perhaps not the moments when I woke up at 6am to put on a pair of soaked jeans and puddle-filled boots. But the attitudes of the ladies and the transformations that took place are memories I will cherish forever and that will surely fuel me to continue doing this work.

I have a feeling this is the start of something very big. Thank you, Sanborn, for making it possible.

Yee-Haw! Namaste.

Click here for more Tails from the Barn.

Campers’ Summer Stories

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

CORE (Community OutReach Experience) Horse was a very educational, growth encouraging, and fun-filled experience for me. A lot of people think riding a horse is very simple. But it takes a lot more work than just sitting in a saddle and pushing the horse forward. My group learned things from how to scoop manure to how to do Key Hole in gymkhana. You learn how to face your fears of riding bareback on a horse and how to communicate with your horse through your body, not just your actions. We learned how everyday wranglers, like Jessie, Will O., and Maren, wake up at 5am to feed and pull horses for us campers throughout the day. And then they don’t get to sleep until 10pm. CORE is a great experience and I will never forget it. Thank you Sanborn!
Mimi C.

Sanborn is the BEST camp ever! You meet lots of great people here and they are very nice to you. My favorite part of camp is the good. The chefs are amazing! And nice. :) The one thing that is great about this camp is that you get to choose almost everything you do here! I can’t wait to climb a 14er! The view is beautiful everywhere you go. There are trees everywhere! We follow a practice that is “Leave No Trace.” That basically means don’t litter, leave stuff behind, or carve your name into trees. I most certainly can’t wait for my 2nd year in 2012!
Lauryn G.

There are so many things to do at High Trails, and fishing is one of them! We went fishing and it was so much fun! We learned how to fish in 3 simple steps. Cast, reel, and viola! You probably have a fish. We used marshmallows as bait. There were a lot leftover, so we ate them. We heard that the boys caught a 19in fish in the pond, so we were hopeful! In the end, everybody had caught something – reed, sticks, themselves. Overall everybody enjoyed themselves and were full of marshmallows!
Mia M.

I am a junior at HIgh Trails, but I wish I were here for a month because it is so much fun here. One of my favorite things is the horseback riding, which I absolutely love, but everything at Sanborn is fantastic so I’m not picking favorites! Today we came back from our last overnight at Tie Cabin, which was awesome. It’s amazing that eleven days have done by because it feels like two days. I am definitely coming back to Sanborn!!!
Katherine S.

Sanborn Western Camps News Update: August 7, 2011

Monday, August 8th, 2011

We have had another great week at camp. Rainy evenings have not dampened our spirits and the sunny days have been perfect for our many activities and trips. This morning’s gymkhana was a real highlight—riders from Big Spring and High Trails competed in horseback games in the arena and everyone from both camps cheered them on. Saturday night’s dance with a Western Hoedown theme was also a lot of fun.

Long trips at High Trails returned Thursday and Friday enthusiastic about their adventures and accomplishments. The four-day Elbert-Massive Backpack climbed Colorado’s two tallest mountains, 14,433’ Mt Elbert and 14,421’ Mt Massive. The five-day Colorado Trail Backpack hiked along the spectacular Continental Divide and summited 14,073’ Mt. Columbia on the fourth day. The five-day Harvard-Yale Backpack hiked in the beautiful Collegiate Peaks and climbed Mt. Harvard (14,420’) in the same day. The Kite Lake three-day climbed 14, 148’ Mt. Democrat on Wednesday and the Alpine Valley 3-day trip reached the top of 14,036’ Mt. Sherman. Backpack trips into the Tarryall Mountains, and Mt. Silverheels enjoyed spectacular scenery during their four days in the wilderness. The four- and five-day horse trips had great experiences exploring wilderness areas south and west of camp. All of the girls were excited about the beauty of their campsites and the fun they had together.

Big Spring campers enjoyed many exciting overnights and all-days last week including climbs of Mt. Huron, Mt. Princeton, La Plata Peak, and Mts. Oxford and Belford. The boys also had fun on horseback overnights, rock climbing overnights, river overnights, fishing trips, a canoe overnight, and several trips which camped out on the ranch.

The Sanborn Juniors have been enthusiastic and energetic about their activities this week. They have enjoyed horseback riding, swimming, crafts, hikes and nature programs at the Interbarn. Their group photos have been posted on the website with the tent and cabinside photos.

Next week, Big Spring will head out on three-, four-, and five-day backpacking trips, mountain climbs and horse-pack trips. High Trails has a variety of overnights and all-days planned including a trip to the resort town of Breckenridge on Thursday. Sanborn Junior campers are looking forward to another campout, more horseback riding, a hike to the Florissant Fossil Beds, and an all-day tubing trip on the South Platte River. The term is flying by and we plan to make the most of our last week together.

Camp History Scavenger Hunt

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Would YOU be able to locate Humpty Dumpty Rock? Do you know where to find the ORIGINAL swimming pool at camp?

These are some of the questions that were asked on a recent “Camp History Scavenger Hunt” that based out of High Trails and meandered all over camp–allowing campers and staff to learn more about both the area’s western history and the legacy of Laura and Sandy Sanborn.

After picking the brains of an Original High Trails Camper (Julie Richardson) and locating one half of a Sanborn marriage (Maren MacDonald), the girls hiked to Big Springs to find Jerry McLain–our resident historian, current Director of Alumni Relations, and general know-it-all (in the most positive sense of the phrase). He told a few excellent stories from the original “dining hall” (the main room of the current Big Spring office, and the former dining room in Laura and Sandy’s original house) and told the ladies about the evolution of camp.

How would you have done? Check out the questions and the great photos the girls took on their scavenger hunt.

1. Find Humpty Dumpty Rock
2. Locate the place where a sit-in occurred to keep a pipeline from being constructed
3. Locate the original lodge
4. Find the original swimming pool
5. Identify a square of Laura’s quilt
6. Find a person who was a camper the first year of the girls camp
7. Find the two halves of a Sanborn marriage
8. Find the newest cabin at High Trails
9. Find the oldest camp building
10. What is the actual name of the “treehouse trail”
11. Which were the original four cabins at High Trails
12. Locate the original dining hall
13. Find someone who can tell you a story about Quicks Homestead or the Witcher Ranch
14. Locate the first tennis courts
15. Find the original “Leo’s”–the 1st auto maintenance shop

Ready for some answers? Check out the photos below and see if they trigger any memories…and right answers!

Humpty Dumpty Rock on the way to Sandy and Laura's house

Standing above the water pipeline...and down the trail from Old Boys Sunday Rocks

The Pool that became The Depot that became The Rock House

Quilt Made By Campers and Staff for Laura's 80th birthday

Many generations of High Trails Ladies

Ashley McGowan=Half of Camp Marriage #58

Ryan McGowan=The Other Half (these hats were actually worn at the wedding)

The Big Spring Barn: One of the two original buildings on camp property

Jerry McLain Parkway

The Original Four HT Cabins=Juniper, Ponderosa, Gold Hut and Kinnikinnik

Jerry and the girls in front of the Big Spring office: aka, the Original Dining Hall

The Original Tennis Court...now the Ultimate Prison Ball Court

The Chalet of Auto Maintenance: The two bays for cars have become a) Outcamp and b) The Tent Room

Sanborn Western Camps News Update: July 31, 2011

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Working on our Adopted Peak: Mount Missouri

What a busy week we’ve had! Big Spring and High Trails had a wide variety of all-day and overnight trips both on and off the camp property. A number of campers chose overnight horse trips while others selected rock-climbing, canoeing, fishing or mountain climbing adventures. All-day trips included hikes to the Florissant Fossil Beds and to Pancake Rock, as well as tubing on the South Platte River and fishing. Some of our older campers signed up for the challenging SOLE (Sanborn Outdoor Learning Experience) and CORE (Community Outreach Experience) programs for the week. They were enthusiastic about their experiences and felt great about the service components of the trips.

Sanborn Junior campers also had a full week. High Trails Juniors were excited about their all-day hike to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. All the Juniors enjoyed a second camping trip and a wide variety of in-camp programming. We were sorry to see them leave on Friday.

We were happy to greet a new group of Sanborn Junior campers today and look forward to a campout, horseback riding, swimming, hiking, and many fun activities with them next week. The fourth term of Sanborn Junior living unit photos will be up on our website on Wednesday or Thursday this week.

Special events last week included the Sanborn Carnival for both camps on Saturday. This was followed by a theme dance. Big Spring spent Wednesday on a Unit All-Day where each living group selected an activity to do together—mountain biking, high ropes course, fishing, horseback riding, rock scrambling, etc. The boys also enjoyed a Kangaroo Court evening, and a “How Well Do You know Your Counselors” Game Show. A favorite evening program at both camps was the Counselor Hunt. High Trails also had fun with their “Minute to Win It” program on Friday.

CORE Horse Ambassadors clearing trees on SWC property

Next week the girls will leave camp for three-, four-, and five-day trips. Some will head out on horse pack trips; others have chosen 4 or 5-day high mountain backpacks into some of Colorado’s most pristine wilderness. Other trips will be based in spectacular alpine areas such as Leavick Valley at the base of Mt. Sherman and Kite Lake at the foot of Mt. Democrat. Many groups will have the opportunity to climb mountains.

Big Spring has planned an exciting program of overnights including mountain climbing trips to Mt. Princeton, Mt. Huron, La Plata Peak, and Mts. Oxford and Belford. The boys will also be tubing on the river, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, canoeing, and enjoying some overnights on the ranch. BS long trips will take place the week of August 8.

Until next week….