Archive for December, 2014

The (packing) Peanut Project

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014
The mail room of the office has been a little reminiscent of summer lately, with our UPS driver looking as harried as he does on Closing Day (remember the mountain of trunks to be

Your imagination + packing peanuts = endless hours of fun

shipped?), which can only mean that it’s close to holiday time!

Once a day the big brown UPS truck arrives and Carl unloads big boxes, little boxes (so many Amazon Prime boxes!) all full of fun surprises. With each delivery, the office staff looks more and more like campers perusing the package list…any for me? any for you? Regardless, with each new delivery, we all wonder: what’s inside? And, in most cases, we don’t have to wonder long…we just say, “Hey, Elizabeth—your Prana order just arrived” and she is happy to let us have a peek.
Since our moms are not right there to sequester the packages away before we can ponder what they might have purchased for us from the NFL catalog, we typically tear into any and all boxes that have our names on them. For me, sometimes they are surprises, sometimes I know what I am getting, and sometimes I should have known (like when the SWC holiday cards arrived, but I had forgotten I had ordered them…buzzkill!)
This open-box-mayhem office practice does not always work well at home, however. Once the kids are on holiday break, the arrival of the UPS man often signals the chanted carol of “What is it? What is it? Is it for me? Is it for me?”
In a recent package “reveal,” I opened the flaps and was confronted by a sea of Styrofoam packing peanuts. As I wondered how best to extricate the treasures that were drowning in there somewhere, I suddenly remembered an awesome activity that a High Trails Outdoor Education staff member did with a group of 6th graders this fall. This activity just might buy you enough time to high-tail it to your favorite present hiding shelf; but first, you must know your peanuts.
Packing peanuts can be divided into 2 main groups: the biodegradable ones that dissolve into weird mush when wet and ones that don’t. If you have the mush ones, awesome! (The biodegradable ones work best for this project).

Elephants made of peanuts make for great holiday table centerpieces!

Here’s what to do:

First, hide the items that came in the box, so no surprises are ruined, but keep the packing peanuts handy.
Next, get a little dish of water or wet wash cloth. If you have the non-biodegradable ones, grab some Elmers or craft glue.
Now comes the fun part, use the packing peanuts as building blocks. Wet the ends of the mush peanuts, or add a bit of glue to the regular ones, and they immediately stick together (pretty nifty, really). You can build animals, buildings, replicas of fine art sculptures, the possibilities are endless!
With this fun activity going on, you will be able to stuff the Elsa doll, Olaf pillow, and Star Wars Lego into your shirt and hightail it to the top shelf of your closet without fear of discovery.
Happy Holidays from all of us in the packing peanut covered Sanborn office!

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-

News from Camp: December 1, 2014

Friday, December 5th, 2014

There are still patches of snow on the ground from our 1st storm, and we are anxiously awaiting enough snow to have a snowball fight!

Winter cold has crept into the Ranch even though we still have lots of sunny days. The animals are pretty quiet now although we often see deer in the middle of Big Spring and High Trails. The elk have been hanging out at Potts Spring and there are still a few porcupines waddling around in the dusk. Our wild Turkey flock seems to have moved on for a while but we hope to see them again in the next month or so.

The office is a fun place to be these days as the elves are all busy getting ready for Christmas, preparing gifts, cards and other holiday mailings. We are keeping UPS and the local post office busy!
Elizabeth and Matthew will be heading to Texas soon with the camp road show and plans are well underway for Mike’s and Elizabeth’s trip through the Midwest in January. They look forward to meeting camp families, alums, and those who would like to explore the opportunities at camp. We will be sending a mailing in early January with dates and times for the Midwest trip. This information will also be posted on our website. These fun gatherings are a great way to reconnect with camp friends and also provide an opportunity for families interested in camp to learn more about our programs.
We have big plans for the winter! This is always a time when we can focus on projects designed to improve our programs and facilities. We’ve already planned and submitted our proposed high mountain and horse trips to the Forest Service for the summer of 2014 and can’t wait to share these amazing adventures with our campers next summer. We will be working on all aspects of our program from crafts to horseback riding to rock climbing to improve and refresh all of our activities.
Our maintenance crew is busy working on projects to improve our facility.  They have finished a new roof on the Big Spring Lodge and have built four new tent frames on ABC Ridge at Big Spring. They are now working to renovate the bathrooms in some of the cabins at High Trails and are also remodeling the Real Estate Office at Big Spring.
We are also expanding and improving our staff training, using research that is current in youth development. And, of course, hiring the best counselors and program leaders is one of our major winter projects. Some great staff members have already promised to return!
Enrollment for next summer has been flowing in and we are very excited about the communities that are shaping up at Big Spring, High Trails and Sanborn Junior for 2015. Everyone at camp wishes all of our friends the happiest of holiday seasons!