Archive for November, 2015

GivingTuesday Gives to CAMP!

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Because Camp Matters!

Great news! This year, you can celebrate GivingTuesday on December 1, 2015 by donating to our long-term partner, the John Austin Cheley Foundation. Former and current Sanborn Western Camps campers are participating in a crowdfunding campaign to support their positive camp experiences through Sanborn and the JACF. Check out what Luis Acosta, DJ Shattock, and Luis Ochoa had to say about the impact of their SWC experience (and help them win some cool prizes through JACF!)

Please consider donating to the John Austin Cheley Foundation between now and #GivingTuesday on December 1, 2015–there are matching funds available if you donate between now and December 1. JACF is a non-profit organization that matters to us greatly as we are one of only six Associates Camp for the Foundation.  JACF advances underserved youth towards a successful future by providing camperships to attend Sanborn Western Camps.

Like Sanborn, the JACF believes residential, nature-based summer camp programs help youth grow and develop in ways that prime them for future success.  A growing body of reseach indicates that summer camps foster the outcomes of teamwork, independence, affinity for nature, perceived competence, problem-solving, responsibility and interest in exploration.  These evidence-based outcomes mirror many of the necessary skills that have been identified as critical for today’s youth to thrive in a world in which change is constant and learning never stops.  It’s why the John Austin Cheley’s tagline reads, “Because Camp Matters.”

JACF invests in its campers by funding the cost for tuition, travel and equipment, which averages close to $5,000 a summer.  It is also committed to funding a camper for the full lifespan of the camper’s year’s at camp to ensure impact.  By donating between now and December 1, you can also maximize the impact of our contributions through matching funds available for every new dollar (new or increased donations) raised.

You can learn more and contribute to JACF’s #ExpandingOurImpact-GivingTuesday crowdfunding campaigns developed through  Simply, search for the John Austin Cheley Foundation and they will pop up. We encourage our campers, staff and alums to support our former campers “campaigns.” These donations will help the JACF foundation, JACF campers, and Sanborn Western Camps create a rich, unique and varied camp experience for our campers.

Thanks so much for considering becoming a part of #GivingTuesday, a global day of philanthropy on December 1, 2015, and for supporting our relationship with the John Austin Cheley Foundation.

Join us in sharing our campaign with your friends, family and connections and by donating now through December 1, 2015 to remove the barriers for underserved youth to this life-changing opportunity. For more information, go to our website at

The Joy of Campfires

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

"The brilliance, the warmth, the crackle of the logs…it brought new life to our cold campsite."

There are so many magnificent things about summer camp, and for me one of the greatest of them is the opportunity to sit around a campfire.  Not a gas flame flickering, not a warming lamp on a restaurant patio… but a campfire.

The first campfire I experienced was at Sanborn, and it was love at first sight.  I was a camper on my first unit overnight, far from home.  I was tired from a long hike in wet weather, my feet and shoulders were aching, and a cold front was rolling in behind the rain. But then the counselors built a campfire.  And all of those tiresome things melted away. I couldn’t believe how incredible it was to just stare at the rolling flames.

The mood lifted as campers and staff gathered around.  We gazed at the fire, transfixed by the vines of light tangling in the air.  The brilliance, the warmth, the crackle of the logs…it brought new life to our cold campsite.  There was something mystic about those flames.  It felt like a message from the earth, from nature itself, an encouraging note of warmth and energy.

Throughout that evening, campers and counselors stayed near the fire, working together to prepare dinner.  We chopped and grilled, cooking right over the blaze.  There wasn’t a stove in sight, we literally cooked over the fire.  It felt timeless, as if we were engaged in an ancient task.  I still remember that meal, it’s one of the best dinners of my life.  And not because it was well made, which it was, but because the entire meal was cooked on an open fire.  It lit up my mood and filled up my belly.

"We chopped and grilled, cooking right over the blaze."

That campfire was a first for me, and summer camp is all about firsts.  Spending a night or two out in the wilderness can be scary, but a campfire can chase away those fears.  It’s a process that humans have been doing for eons.

The human race has a special relationship with campfires.  It’s a ritual of light, a safe zone of warmth and community.  Gazing into a the flames, we connect to our past.  For thousands of years our ancestors sat around fires, not for fun, but for necessity.  Human history began by the firelight.  When we build campfires, it brings a taste of the timeless into our cluttered modern world.

It’s essential to be safe when building a fire.  At Sanborn, we don’t have fires all the time, we only build when conditions permit.  Sometimes there are fire bans, other times we’re in National Forest or high country and we simply don’t want to impact the surroundings.  But when we do build campfires, it’s truly wonderful.  A campfire can warm a day and bond a group.  Gazing into the flames inspires you in ways that are hard to describe.  The flames roll and your thoughts roll with them.

Years ago, that night around the fire, the meal finished but we kept the flames going.  We roasted marshmallows and sang along with an untuned guitar.  The flames twisted up into the night with our laughter in tow.  I looked across the fire, into the eyes of my new friends.  The campfire underscored the mood, it was a shared love of the moment.  With each pop from the fire, sparks floated up into the sky, mixing with the stars.  I felt so… connected.

As the night ended, the flames fell into coals and the embers pulsed like a heartbeat.   One by one, everyone headed off to bed, zipping into their tents and bags.  I sat alone with a few others, poking at the embers. Finally, the counselors put the fire out with a crash of cold water.  Steam hissed up into the night, the light fading away.  It was time for bed.

I always sleep like a rock after sitting around a campfire.  It’s almost like the flames were a lullaby for my busy mind.  And then there’s the fun of the next day… because one of the great things about a campfire is that it stays with you.  The next morning you can smell the campfire in your clothes, an aroma of smoke, an echo of nighttime fun.  More than once, I’ve been caught standing stock-still, sniffing my clothes and smiling, remembering the flawless joy of a campfire.

News from Camp: November 1, 2015

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

We've had a couple beautiful snows already!

We have had a long and beautiful Indian Summer, with golden and red aspen trees lasting into late October.  The temperatures are dropping a bit now and the mornings are chilly, but the sun is creating a lot of warmth during the day.  We had one snowstorm in late October—it left about 3 inches which quickly melted.

Our maintenance crew has made excellent use of the good weather and is building a new tent frame and a foundation for a new yurt on ABC Ridge at Big Spring.  They have also finished new roofs on Red Cloud, Massive and the Crafts Building at BS. Their winter projects include renovations on the ABC Washhouses at Big Spring, and additional work on the interior of the High Trails Lodge.  They will also build a new “Welcome” gate at High Trails to match the new gate they finished in September for Big Spring.

Maren reports that the horses are very happy grazing in Fish Creek. They have appreciated taking it easy and munching sweet mountain grass to their heart’s content after their busy summer in the Big Spring and High Trails Riding programs.

We will be again be hosting the American Camp Association—Rocky Mountain Region Annual workshop in mid-November.  Attended by camp leaders from several states, this is a wonderful educational and networking opportunity and many of our year round staff will be attending and, in some cases, presenting programs. High Trails Director Elizabeth Rundle is a member of the Local Counsel of Leaders, and has been very involved in planning the conference..

We are all looking forward to the relative calm of the winter season and the opportunity it provides to improve our programs and our facilities. We met last week to select dates for some of our exceptional trips next summer.  These include four- and five-day backpacking trips on Mts. Elbert and Massive, Mts. Harvard and Yale, Pikes Peak, the Colorado Trail, Buffalo Peaks, the Tarryall Mountains and several more spectacular wilderness areas.  We will also plan mountain climbing trips to Mt. Huron, Mt. Ouray, Mt. Oxford and Belford, La Plata Peak, Mt. Quandary, Mt. Democrat, Mt. Princeton and ten more Colorado “Fourteeners”.  We are already anticipating the fun and challenge of these amazing adventures.

Mike is looking forward to visiting Austin this week with our first camp road show of the season. Elizabeth, Mike and Matthew are also planning their January trip to the Midwest. Details will be on our website as soon as they are available.

Many of you have received enrollment information in the past month, and we are always happy to send our brochure and DVD to new families.  We offer an early bird tuition discount for enrollments we receive before December 1. We have already received a significant number of enrollments for 2016 and are excited to watch the High Trails and Big Spring communities take shape.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!