Archive for April, 2016

This Sanborn Life: Hello, It’s Earth Day!

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Goshawk in a Ponderosa

We felt like we needed to celebrate Earth Day in a new and different way this year. While people all over the country are picking up trash, volunteering at their local parks, and raising awareness about the importance of conservation, preservation and stewardship, we wanted to simply share some day-to-day moments of wonder that can happen for everyone all over the world if one can slow down, be present and become a keen observer of the world around you. We would love to hear about YOUR Earth Day events, experiences and lessons, too!
Note: All of these events describe (mostly) real events that have happened to camp staff, on camp property or in and around Teller County within the last 24-72 hours. (We also really like Ira Glass and This American Life)
Act I–Of Mice and Spring

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak…Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.
(Mouse Translation: Happy Spring! It has been sunny and warm, then it got cold and snowy.)
Squeakie, squeak-squeak-squeak.
(Mouse Translation: So we all decided to go into our friends’ houses at Sanborn. They are warm and dry.)
Squeak, squeak. Squeak squeak squeak.

Abert (ninja) squirrels are a year round friend

(Mouse Translation: Besides, it’s Earth Day, and we think it is important that they don’t forget about us…so we are going to head indoors to remind them to get outside.)

Act II–Goshawk Haiku

Slate grey black-brown-dark
Sits low in Ponderosas
Wants to eat the squirrel.

Act III–Vulture Queens

Voice on the Radio: We have just had a report of an accident off of Highway 24, just west of Florissant. The driver said she drove off of the road after seeing a large vulture perched on top of a fence post with full outspread wings, apparently drying itself after eating in/on/through one of the very large snowdrifts remaining from last weekend’s snowstorm. The driver said the vulture appeared to be “frozen in a commanding position–as though it was about to direct an orchestra or is channeling Isis (the goddess).”

Evening Grosbeak

Act IV–Bird Nerds Unite!

In everyday conversations around the globe, when questions arise people raise their phones horizontally to their lips and say, “Hey, Siri…”

Around here, we just call Jerry. Jerry is sort of like the old KU Info line you could call to find out the name of the author of that book about the rabbits that form a society, but there are bad rabbits, and it has water in the title or something…but Jerry is better than KU info because he knows what you are talking about when you burst into the office and excitedly say, “Jerry! There was this cool bird at the feeder yesterday and it was a big, medium-sized, yellowish orange with black and white and…” “Oh! You saw an evening grosbeak! They are spectacular!”

After a while, you just find yourself talking about the birds you’ve seen not only to Jerry, but to everyone else:
“Hey! Did you see the kingfishers down in Florissant this morning on the powerline–so cool!”
“I saw a Golden eagle outside of Divide yesterday–those things are so big!”
“The bluebirds are back! The bluebirds are back!”
“I saw a whole flock of red-winged blackbirds yesterday, and heard them calling by the pond this morning!”
“Look at the junco building its nest above our office window!”

And, of course, Jane yelling from her desk, “Hey you turkeys!” (the entire office goes immediately silent)
“What’s wrong, Jane?” says a timid voice.
“No! I’m talking to the REAL turkeys outside of my window, come look!”

Act V–Can We Go With You?

Of all the megafauna on the ranch, the most ubiquitous are the mule deer and elk. Elk are generally a little harder to spot, though there were eight hanging out by Strawberry Fields this morning. But the mule deer? They are kind of like our local street corner thugs…except they have huge doe eyes, enormous ears, and tend to spring off into the woods with the slightest provocation.

Mule Deer (and cats) are Unafraid

But this morning was different.

Jane Sanborn, mind fully churning at 5:30am, opened the door to her apartment and was both startled and amused to find twenty eyes looking back at her from a distance of about 10-15 feet.

The deer looked at her, Jane looked at the deer.

Jane spoke to the deer, “Good morning, deer. How are you, deer? Beautiful day, deer!” But still, the deer did not move. Finally, with 34 unwritten emails spinning in her mind, Jane walked out of the door, walked past the deer, to her car, got in, slammed the door, and drove away.

The deer looked on.

Act VI–Bob, Cat, Bobcat

The nicest thing about spring mornings at camp is the sun. In the dark months of December, when the sun had barely started to rise by 7, it is hard to remember that April soon arrives with its ever brighter 6:15-6:30am arrival. It is mostly hard to remember because the cat doesn’t yowl in December. The cat just sleeps.

But with the arrival of April, the energy and early morning prowly enthusiasm of our cat intensifies with ever-earlier cries, howls, and meows of “Out! Out! Out” (these caterwaulings are only interrupted by the sudden arrival of spring mice in the kitchen which causes a different sort of sleep disturbing mayhem). So, at promptly 6:07am this morning, I fed my cat to a bobcat.

It was not a deliberate act, and one–fortunately–I was able to remedy by sprinting outside and speaking firmly to the shockingly large bobcat walking through our (his) front yard. I think I said something really terrifying like, “Okay, big bobcat, keep on walking…that’s right, get a move on, buddy” all while trying to see where my also largish (for different reasons) cat had gone. The Australian shepherd sized bobcat was fairly nonplussed by my approach and simply kept sauntering. Our largish, often loudish, cat had chosen two, tried and true animal defense mechanisms: 1. Fluff himself out to racoon-like proportions; 2. freeze and practice invisibility.

It was only after the raccoon cat was safely stored underneath a bed did the whole family look around and say, “That was AWESOME!”

Happy Earth Day from ALL of your friends
(furred, feathered, slimy, scaly or human)
at Sanborn Western Camps

The Thrill of Horseback Riding

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

When riding a horse, I feel connected.

Trees blurring past, the thunder of hooves.  I held tight to the reins, remembering to keep my heels down.  Fourteen hundred pounds of power galloping through the forest.  Horseback riding is a mystical, powerful adventure.

When riding a horse, I feel connected.  It’s a mixture of love, fear, and respect.  Humans and horses have a long history together, a productive relationship that has lasted centuries.  Before machines, horses were the machine, they were a power that helped pull our civilization together.  Before cars, horses carried us across the land.  When we ride horses in this modern world, it’s a timeless event.  And Sanborn Western Camps is one of the best places to ride.

At Sanborn, one of our many goals is to foster a sense of wonder in every camper.  We work to inspire a connection with nature.  And one of the many ways to achieve that connection is to swing up into a saddle and ride a horse.

I gazed into the huge marble eyes.

There is something therapeutic about horseback riding.  Studies have shown that we truly connect with the animal.  Brain waves slow.  We even change our breathing to match up with the horse.  The slightest movement, a turn, the twitch of a muscle, it’s all communication.  The horse understands without words.  If a camper is stressed, the horse can sense that.  If a camper is relaxed, the horse relaxes as well.  It’s a feedback loop, animal to animal, a real time relationship.

Many years ago when I was a camper at Sanborn, I was afraid of horses.  I pretended I didn’t care, but the truth is I was scared.  The staff was ready for this.  The counselors and wranglers gently encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and give horseback riding a try.  So I did.

I thought we would jump right on a horse and ride, but the process was much more intricate.  The wranglers first taught me how to care for the animal, to understand it, to lead the horse gently, to speak to it.  They showed me how to brush the horse, tracing the contours of its power.  I began to relax and forget my fear.  I began to feel a sense of wonder.

I gazed into the huge marble eyes.  I ran my hands along the sway of the horse’s back and wondered if a Ute boy or a young trapper did the same with his horse two hundred years ago, right where I was standing.

We learned to saddle and bridle, tightening buckles, bringing all tack to the perfect length.

We learned to saddle and bridle, tightening buckles, bringing all tack to the perfect length.  Then, with mud on my rented boots, I swung up into the saddle.  We rode slowly, ambling away from the Big Spring barn.  That sunny afternoon, I went on my first ride.  And I’ve never looked back.

When we ride, we develop all kinds of skills.  Horseback riding is a two-way process.  You can’t just sit back and do nothing, you must interact with the animal with physical and verbal cues.  As a result, riding develops subtle communication skills.  Riding also develops balance and coordination.  Your core gets a workout, and you must stay focused on where your body is in space.  After a long ride, the next day you can truly feel it, aches in muscles you didn’t know you had.

At camp we do all kinds of rides, from half-day trail rides to five day pack trips deep into the Rockies.  It’s a range of fun that fits perfectly with the range of campers.  My favorites are the long trips, adventures that are unmatched.  We ride deep into rugged country, places where only horses can take us.  We sleep under the stars and rise before dawn to care for the herd.  It’s a unique experience that you can only find at a place like Sanborn.

In our modern chaotic world, it’s important to find ways to relax.  Horseback riding can do that.  Horses are a direct bond with nature that we can all share.  When you ride a horse, you find both companionship and solitude at the same time.

Any chance I can get, I’ll take a horseback ride.  The rasp of an old saddle, the musk of the animal, the joy of a slow walk through an aspen grove.  The world looks better from the back of a horse.  The Ute Indians of the Rockies once said, “The way to heaven is on horseback.”  I think they might be right.

- M. Huffman -

News from Camp: April 1, 2016

Friday, April 1st, 2016

The fuzzy Pasque Flowers are so fun to see in the springtime!

Significant snowfall during the last couple of weeks has provided wonderful moisture and a promise of spectacular wildflowers and full ponds in the coming months. Despite the snow, a few of our summer birds, including bluebirds and robins, have returned to the Ranch so we know spring is on the way. Our first wildflowers, the hardy Mountain Candytuft and the Pasque flower have also been spotted on south-facing slopes. We know that summer will be here before we know it and are inspired to work harder than ever 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 2016! At Big Spring, returning staff include Jared Allen, Walker Crowley, Tijler deJong, Kevin Fernandez, Oliver Fisher, Kevin Gassaway, Kyle Gilbert, Will Gundlach, Matt Larimer, Slayter Marwitz, Dylan Morris, Evan Niebur, Connor Overman, Emerson Underwood, Jordan Unger, Stephen VanAsdale, Rilyn VandeMerwe, Ben Vockley, Ethan Wallgren, Bret Wolter and nurse Margot Cromack. Jeremy Mabe will be the Program Director assisted by Logistics Coordinator Martie Adams while Jalen Bazile will be a Ridge Leader. Mike Mac will lead the staff, with the help of Assistant Director Matthew Huffman.

The Mountain Candy Tufts tend to grow in the loose gravel alongside the roads.

At High Trails, returning staff include Val Peterson, Allie Almanzar, Cade Beck, Megan Blackburn, Ellen Cromack, Claire Foster, Hailey Gelzer, Carly Holthaus, Carlie Howard, Abby Johnson, Avery Katz, Sophie Leiter, Cara Mackesey, Annie McDevitt, Rachel McNamara, Maddie Ohaus, Gwen Schmidt-Arenales, Kendra Shehy, Truman Sherwood, Anne Shingler, Erica Wilkins and nurse Katie Metz. Janie Cole will again be Program Director, Carlotta Avery will take care of the camp kitchens and trip organization, Maren MacDonald will direct the riding program, Sarah Ulizio will head up rock climbing, Jessie Spehar will take plenty of canoe and river trips 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.

The Mountain Ball Cacti are very prevalent on the South facing slopes right now.

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.

Seeing the Dwarf Cinquefoil now, reminds us that soon Olin Gulch will be covered with its larger counterpart!

Our 2016 community is really coming together. We only have a few openings left in select grades at High Trails, Big Spring, and Sanborn Junior. Families interested for the summer of 2016 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 2016!