Our group of ten backpackers just arrived back at Educo camp after three wonderful days exploring the back country at American Lakes.

Before heading out on our trip, we completed lessons on camping stoves, Leave No Trace, lostproofing, animal awareness,  water procurement, water filtration and packing a backpack for the backcountry. On Wednesday, we made the two-hour journey to the American lakes trailhead and made the five-mile hike into our campsite. Everyone was in high spirits as we hiked through fields of wildflowers, walking uphill almost the entire way in. We stopped for lunch in a beautiful meadow filled with wildflowers that seemed to reflect, in color, the essence of summer. Along the trail, Kieran and Chelsea pointed out too many wild edible and medicinal plants to count. When we arrived, everyone expertly set up their own tarps about a five-minute hike from the lower lake. After pumping fresh mountain stream water to drink, some of us waded into the water for a very chilly swim. Kieran facilitated an lesson on responsible backcountry hygiene/ pooping, highlighting the importance of burying human waste properly and staying away from water and other campers.

For our first night’s last light, we enjoyed the kind of silence that can only be found by walking miles away from the road. Chelsea told the story of Pandora’s box, explaining that Pandora let out all kinds of dark stuff by accident. We asked the kids if they could take one negative thing they see in the world and put it back in the box, what would that thing be? In response, we heard “unnecessary violence,” “judgment”, “self-doubt” and “disrespect for nature.” Then we explained that Pandora left hope in the box, and that they could choose one hope they’d take from the box and put into the world. In response, we heard “curiosity,” “desire to learn,” and “compassion.” This prompt is a part of our work with No Barriers Youth, which asks that kids consider their ability to change the world in the ways they feel are most important.

As the vivid full moon rose over Mt. LuLu (which we had plans to summit the next day) one of the kids spotted the silhouettes of six bighorn sheep grazing on the saddle between two mountains. We all headed to bed early, as the kids were exhausted from the day’s hike and departing from the relative comfort and security we developed over several days at Educo camp.

On Tuesday, we set out to hike Mt. LuLu early in the morning. Mt. LuLu is one of several impressive peaks surrounding all sides of the alpine lakes in this region. It took us about two hours to summit this 12,201 ft mountain, with about 1000 feet of elevation gain from our campsite. When we reached the summit, the kids took in the awesome views spanning miles of State Forest/State Park and Rocky Mtn National Park. After a lunch break at the summit, we trekked down the mountain toward the lakes, this time climbing up another steep slope toward snow lake, the highest alpine lake in the area.

Tuesday night, Kieran harvested a small amount of Osha (aka Wild Bear Root), a rare medicinal plant which grows abundantly in State Forest/ State Park. We all huddled around to sip the sweet licorice flavor of osha tea, which is often over-harvested to treat cough, cold, flu and immune issues. Kieran highlighted the importance of responsibly harvesting edible and medicinal plants, thanking the source and carefully consuming the tea to truly experience all the flavors. One of the kids commented that it’s amazing how we could drink tea made from something that was in the ground twenty minutes ago.

For last light, we asked kids to share one thing they’re grateful for in their life and one thing they are grateful for on our backpacking trip. We heard “support from my family,” “education and access to information,” and “good friends.” As for gratitude on our trip, we heard “the full moon,” “the sunshine and ability to hike without any rain,” and “getting to know everyone and become friends in only a few days.” The group is showing, more and more, how thoughtful, observant and supporting of one another they can be. As trip leaders, we’re impressed and proud of this group for the strides outside of their normal lives/comfort zones they’ve made in such a short time.

Wednesday morning, we hiked back to the meadow to do one final gratitude check with an activity called “Here we found.” The group sat together and surveyed the landscape, remembering some of the many new plants, animals, personal strides and group accomplishments we made in three days. We heard:

Here we found…

  • “New friends.”
  • “A marmot.”
  • “Shady trees.”
  • “Osha.”
  • “A moose.”
  • “Camaraderie.”
  • “Fresh cold drinking water.”
  • “Songbirds.”
  • “The top of Mt. LuLu.”
  • “Confidence.”
  • “Respect.”
  • “Bravery.”
  • “Colorful flowers.”
  • “Plants that are good for us.”

We’re back at camp for the next several days, with each of our participants preparing for a 18-hour solo experience tomorrow. This will be the pinnacle of the trip in many ways, as we expect that everyone demonstrate many of the skills we’ve shared during the expedition so far (tarp setup, cooking dinner, awareness, proper waste disposal). It’s also a huge reach outside of the comfort zone for many campers, which is generally quite rewarding for personal efficacy and confidence. We’ll be close by, but have full confidence that each participant will perform highly during their solo.

Look for another update in a few days! Please enjoy some photos from our journey thus far below.

Claire

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Teambuilding at Educo

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Water procurement at lake dowdy

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Sunset at Eagle’s Nest

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Backpacking American Lakes, Day 1

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Tall Mountain Larkspur

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Osha

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power pose!

tandem poop

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Elephant’s head

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Hiking Mt. LuLu, 12,202 ft

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Katie at the Summit of Mt. LuLu

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Mt LuLu Summit

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Mt LuLu summit

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Mt LuLu Summit

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Mt. LuLu

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Mt LuLu Summit

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Miles & his best 80’s Patagonia ad impression at the summit of Mt LuLu

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Dylan & Columbines

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An edible king bolete mushroom, found by Dylan!

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Wild strawberry snack

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Foraging wild strawberries

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Picking wild strawberries

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Hello Everyone!

Instead of telling you what has happened over the last couple adventure filled days I will show you!

Monday!

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Team building!

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Making Friends!

Making Friends!

Camouflage!

Camouflage!

Making Chili!

Making Chili!

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Challenge Night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Challenge Night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Creating New Creatures

Creating New Creatures

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Brushing Teeth Before Bed!

Brushing Teeth Before Bed!

Tuesday (aka Dylan’s Birthday!)

Adventure sessions with our tents!

Adventure sessions with our tents!

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The other tents did mountain boarding and climbed the rock wall. Look for those pictures and more on our Smug Mug page.

Zipline!

Zipline!

Making Lunch!

Making Lunch!

More tent adventures!

More tent adventures!

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Making a delicious spaghetti dinner!

Making a delicious spaghetti dinner!

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Today (Wednesday)!

Last tent adventure session!

Last tent adventure session!

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Success!

Success!

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Quesadilla Lunch!!!!

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To Narnia!

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Tonight after dinner we are headed out on our camp out at The Point!

We have been having tons of fun and cannot believe that tomorrow is our last full day at camp!

~Anna

Our seven survival skills course participants arrived on Sunday afternoon. This course is somewhat unique in that Kieran, one of the trip leaders, has designed a curriculum for his senior project at Prescott College. This includes detailed lessons on shelter-building, knots, water procurement, hygiene, lostproofing, animal encounters and more. Additionally, this course is co-programmed with No Barriers Youth, which means we’ve added additional journaling, discussion and teambuilding exercises. Overall, we’re in for an amazing expedition.

As soon as parents left yesterday we started off with team building activities and name games. The small group got to know one another quickly, and seem to work very naturally with one another. As a part of our co-programming with No Barriers Youth, we have explained the roles of each member of the group for the next ten days as being part of a rope team. The rope team is literal in that we’ll be working together to support one another’s safety and wellness throughout rock climbing, mountaineering and ropes course challenges during the course. Rope team is also metaphorical in that we have an opportunity to form a tight-knit community in which everyone has a strong purpose and contribution.

For our first group discussion, we asked everyone what strength(s) they bring to the rope team. We found out we’ve got a great listener on the team, as well as some natural leaders, people who are good at going with the flow, a girl who keeps a level head during stressful situations, and a boy who loves analyzing group dynamics and what makes people tick. We’ll continue to revisit everyone’s strengths throughout the course.

After teambuilding we learned to set up tarp shelters at our first campsite by tying the trucker’s hitch. After dinner, we headed to our campsite to hang out on a rock outcropping with a beautiful view of the sunset. We’ve enjoyed hearing everyone respectfully discuss a wide variety of topics together, and this group is showing how the woods can be a powerful setting for thoughtful conversation. This group has already shown an ability to be thoughtful and considerate, asking tons of questions to one another and the trip leaders.

It’s an Educo tradition to finish the night with last light, a time to wind down and reflect on the day with a short group discussion. Last night, each participant and trip leader set an intention for the trip. We heard intentions to be present throughout the trip, practice communication, make the most of each day, be open to new experiences, make new friends, and be open to all the activities.

After Kieran ran a lostproofing lesson (methods of avoiding getting lost in the wilderness) this morning, we headed out for a six-mile hike on the Lady Moon trail, which leads to a meadow with a stream. There, we learned about water filtration and sanitation.After our hike, the group was a bit tired, so we took a few minutes to sit or lay down and quietly observe our natural surroundings. Afterward, everyone had fifteen minutes to free-write or draw about their observations.We also learned to identify several wild plants, including yarrow, stonecrop, mariposa lily, indian paintbrush, bergamot and wild onion.

When we arrived back at camp, Chelsea taught our first cook crew how to operate whisperlite backpacking stoves. Then everyone set up their tarps to rest up for a long day tomorrow. We’ll head to Dowdy lake in the morning, where we’ll learn about water procurement (how to find water if you’re lost in the wilderness) and backwoods hygiene. On Wednesday, we’ll head out for our three-day backpacking trip off site. Look for another update late this week. Until then, enjoy some photos below!

Claire

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Our lunch spot today, Lady Moon Meadow

 

 

 

 

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Nature journaling

 

 

 

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Lady Moon Meadow hike

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The view from our lunch spot

 

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Striking a pose on the trail today

Hello!

The Boys and Girls Club has made it halfway through camp!

Monday we got settled into camp meeting our tent mates, playing team building initiatives and camouflage. In the evening we had an energetic and hilarious challenge night! (CHALLENGE NIGHT!) Our challenge night teams competed to create songs about Educo, sold us products they had created, acted out new creatures and sang camp songs!

This first part of our week has been spent building a strong community among the tent groups through tent adventure sessions and last light conversations. For our tent adventure sessions each tent rotates through ropes course, rock climbing and mountain boarding! We finished up with those tent adventure sessions this morning and will be moving on to choose your own adventure sessions latter in the week. In between challenging ourselves to step outside of our comfort zone we had adventures learning new games in the yurt (and staying dry from the rain), collecting fire wood and of course playing ga ga ball.

Last night we played a loud game of werewolf around the fire (the villagers won), told jokes and made s’mores!

After lunch today we plan on heading down to Narnia to play in the creek and cool off on this hot day.

~Anna

Learning to Mountain Board!

Learning to Mountain Board!

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Ropes Course!

Ropes Course!

Sister Love!

Sister Love!

Climbing Blind!

Climbing Blind!

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Yesterday we finished up our team adventure sessions so that everyone got to do mountain boarding, rock climbing, the leap of faith and the high ropes course. For some of the younger boys with a fear of heights, the ropes course was particularly challenging. One team member was debating trying the ropes course at all, but he ended up joining his other two team members. We had some tears on the first element, but the whole team made it through the entire ropes course…even cracking a hesitant smile by the time we reached the zip line.

In the afternoon, we hiked to a river on our property (we call this spot Narnia) and went wading to cool off before preparing for our all camp overnight. This is always a big moment for our campers because we remove the relative comfort and routine of the tents, braving the elements a little more in tarps we set up as rope teams. As a part of outdoor learning at Educo, the kids learn to set up tarp structures by tying truckers hitches to trees and rocks. Our hope is that we can stargaze and sleep outside, but if it rains the campers can get into their tarps. Some of us took quite a while perfecting our structures, as we let campers pick their own spots and tie their own knots. By the time our tarps were ready, a big storm had blown in and we had to head to the yurt for a game of werewolf. We rescheduled our overnight for tonight, so keep your fingers crossed that we get to stargaze and learn about the nighttime sky.

This morning, half of our camp went real rock climbing at eagle’s nest while the other half went on a plant identification hike. By this time, the kids are very accustomed to supporting their rope teams as they move through challenges. For this age group, real rock climbing can be very challenging and rewarding- kids have to use their creativity and perseverance to figure out holds rather than grabbing holds custom built for them. During our group debriefs, we talked about why we do things that scare and challenge us.

The plant ID hike is a great time for kids to allow their curiosity about nature run free. This group in particular was super interested in what plants are edible and medicinal, how long they’ve been here, whether the counselors live here and only eat plants when the campers are gone, and how all the parts of the ecosystem work together. We got to identify yarrow, dandelion, indian paintbrush, salsify seed, miner’s candle, horsetail, juniper, blue flax, ponderosa pine, douglas fir, lupine,wax currant, and (we don’t always see this!) Colorado columbine. We harvested a small amount of some edible wild plants for tea, thanking the plant and being sure to leave at least 80% of the population for other animals, humans and the plant itself. If your camper is interested in learning about plants, we recommend picking up a Rocky Mtn plant ID book and starting with some common edible and medicinal weeds: mullein, yarrow and dandelion. We looked closely at some lupine, discovering that hundreds of tiny insects were living on the plant.

As a part of our co-programming with No Barriers Youth, we settled into the grass beneath an aspen grove for ten minutes to listen with all of our senses. We asked kids what they noticed:

  • “A spider was crawling on me!”
  • “The aspen trees flutter and shimmer when it’s windy.”
  • “The air smells clean.”
  • “I can hear a river and I think aspen trees like to grow near rivers.”
  • “I heard a buzzing of a bird or a bug.”

After our hike we took some time to do a service project for the future campers at Educo. We asked campers to think about why it’s important for everyone to help maintain the camp. They said:

  • “For the animals and plants.”
  • “So everyone can use the trails.”
  • “So we can come back and it will still be here.”

This group helped by beautifying the areas around our fire pits and collecting firewood. After the service project, we reflected on some bigger purpose we might act on in our communities back home.

  • “I want to volunteer at an animal shelter.”
  • “I want to help my mom with some of her work because she works really hard.”
  • “I’m really busy, but if I have time I might be able to try raising money for something important.”

Then we took thirty minutes to write a letter to our future self, reflecting on our time at camp and all the things we want to remember (we’ll mail these out later this year.) Some highlights- and there are a lot of highlights:

  • “I am 12. I am going to leave Educo soon. I am really good at GaGa ball.”
  • “I am a little less afraid of heights. And water, I like water now. I’ve finally realized it tastes pretty good.If I’m not drinking water in the future, I really need to. Also, make that bet with mom and dad if you forgot (the soda bet.)”
  • “Remember how helpful you were.”
  • “It was great having you around and seeing you jump further on the leap of faith. And I also hope that you liked the ropes course.”
  • “You are a great leader.”
  • Dear future self: at “Educo” we had lots of fun.
  • “Some things were tough, like getting up at 6:00 or earlier to hike to eagle’s nest, but that was my choice and I’m glad I did it.”
  • “Hey, remember when you somersalted off the mountain board? Or the satisfaction you felt when you reached the top of eagle’s nest? Don’t ever forget all those incredible moments.”
  • “Finally, I understand what it would be like to live out here.”

We’ve had such a wonderful time getting to know this hilarious and perceptive group of kids! Tonight, we’re in for s’mores and campfire songs before we head to our overnight campout spot. Tomorrow, we’ll have a special closing ceremony as a part of our programming with No Barriers Youth at about 1:30. Parents, you are welcome and encouraged to join us for our closing circle to witness our wish and pledge. Until then,

Claire

identifying yarrow

identifying yarrow

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Blindfolded plant ID

Blindfolded plant ID

Identifying plants blindfolded

Identifying plants blindfolded

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Wild geranium

Wild geranium

5 senses check in

5 senses check in

Ropes course

Ropes course

5 senses check-in

5 senses check-in

Ponderosa pines smell like...

Ponderosa pines smell like…

Preparing to leap

Preparing to leap

Juniper berry foraging

Juniper berry foraging

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Blindfolded plant ID

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Thistle flower

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wild foraged tea

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service project

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service project

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“Look at this beetle and caterpillar sharing a tree!”

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focus

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Mountainboarding

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Before the zipline

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Gathering up the courage to leap

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identifying miner’s candle

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Identifying geranium

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Wild geranium

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Identifying horsetail, a pre-historic plant!

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Yarrow

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Bluebell

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New friends

We had clear skies for the first day of our No Barriers Youth collaborative adventure camp, so the kids got to meet new friends and play teambuilding games in the sun. As a part of our collaborative program with No Barriers, we have integrated additional thoughtful reflection and introspection after many of our adventure activities. Yesterday, the kids met their rope teams- the people they’ll depend on and support throughout all of our activities this week. We asked kids to share what they would bring to the rope team, as everyone is an important part of each team. Their answers included:

  • “I bring experience because I’ve been to Educo before.”
  • “I bring support and good listening skills.”
  • “I am really good at doing songs and riddles.”
  • “I bring the craziness and weirdness!”
  • “I’m pretty used to rock climbing so I can encourage people who are afraid.”

After teambuilding, our cook crew worked with a counselor to make camp spaghetti with veggies and tomato sauce. As a part of our leadership skills, every kid at camp helps cook and do dishes for at least one meal. We discuss how everyone at camp has to impact the whole group by being a leader who serves others. This week, we highlighted the importance of minimizing food waste and even had one camper pledge to produce zero food waste during camp.

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After dinner, we did challenge night- a night of team skits and challenges. The kids made and performed original songs, produced an infomercial (one featuring a tent that pops out of a wand and it would be all set up and ready for bed, for the very reasonable price of $21.99!) Campers also have to create a mythical creature that does not exist. By the end of the night, we had made a lot of new friends!

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A mythical beast we encountered at challenge night

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A zombie attack the judges endured at challenge night

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Challenge night!

This morning one of our staff led an optional early morning hike to eagle’s nest, a beautiful overlook near camp. A group of campers chose to forego sleeping in and hiked up the hill to check out the view.

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After breakfast, we started in on adventure sessions with our rope teams. By the end of the week, each team will complete the high ropes course, leap of faith, rock climbing and mountainboarding sessions.

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Teambuilding on the ropes course

Some kids worked with their fear of heights while others played a supportive role, cheering their friends on and offering encouragement. On the ropes course, several elements are team challenges, meaning we can’t move on unless everyone works together as a team. On one element the entire team has to hold a rope which raises a board that we walk across one by one- so we literally couldn’t complete the challenge alone. This connects to our goal of building strong communities through collaboration during challenging moments at camp.

After the ropes course we did a team debrief called “the team circle.” Everyone holds onto a rope that’s tied in a circle, and then a counselor asks kids what would happen if someone decided they just didn’t want to do the ropes course. At that moment, the counselor lets go of the rope and everyone loses their balance a little, emphasizing that everyone is important to the success of the rope team.

Some kids acknowledged each other for being supportive, facing their fears or doing the leap of faith even though they were nervous. This group has done remarkably well with many of our discussion prompts, listening and respectfully allowing others to share. We’re looking forward to getting to know each camper’s personality more, and graduating to some higher-level group discussion as the week goes on. Although we had to do skits and lunch in the yurt today due to a big thunderstorm, we’re spending most of our time outdoors, not letting the patches of light rain we saw throughout the day affect our adventures.

Tonight, each team chose a prize for their performances in challenge night, including hot chocolate and a night hike. Check in on our blog Thursday for updates about our overnight campout beneath the stars and a plant identification hike tomorrow!

Claire

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Team belay on the leap of faith

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leap of faith

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Smiles on the zipline

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Goofing around on the ropes course

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Mountainboarding

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One of our rope teams ziplined upside-down!

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Lots of sunscreen!

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Everyone’s brushing their teeth!

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CHALLENGE NIGHT feat. emcee Phil and his snuggie!

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Making new friends

Hello Everyone!

I hope you all have stayed warm and dry so far this week. We have finally had enough sun today to post on the blog! Here is what we have been doing to stay warm and have fun despite the weather.

Monday after meeting our new camp friends we worked on building our adventure team for the week by playing “Where is my water bottle?” with Phil. Following that we then went on a stroll down to Miller’s Cabin. Along the way we learned about local Educo plants and searched for the famous stage coach treasure! We returned to main camp for a filling chili dinner and then headed to  CHALLENGE NIGHT!!! For CHALLENGE NIGHT our teams competed to create newly discovered creatures, infomercials about products they invented and wrote brand new camp lyrics to pop songs. Exausted from the days adventures we headed to bed after brushing our teeth .

Tuesday morning each tent experienced one of three adventures: rock climbing, mountain boarding or ropes course. After lunch we had a little bit of down time to bond with our tent mates and dry out. Next we had another tent adventure session and our tents rotated to a new activity. While dinner was cooking we learned new card and dice  games in the yurt with the thunder as our music. We then had a campfire, sang camp songs, told jokes and played campfire games, there was even s’mores!

Yesterday morning we finished up with our tent adventure sessions, so now everyone has gotten to experience rock climbing, the ropes course and mountain boarding. We were all pretty soaked by this time in the week so we rigged up a couple laundry lines and our propane heat lamp to dry wet clothes. Then we had more tent bonding time before heading to our next challenge: The Leap of Faith. We all went to cheer each other on and support everyone as part of their rope team. As a wonderful dinner of rice, stir fried veggies and curried greens was being prepared, the rest of the group was preparing for our sleep out by learning to set up tarps! We slept in the yurt to keep everyone dry and had a wonderful time hanging out with the entire camp and had an amazing all camp last light before bed.

This morning we got a little extra much needed sleep before waking up to blue sky! We took advantage of the blue sky and hiked to the top of the Eagles Nest were a few of our campers were able to challenge themselves climbing the real rocks while others hiked to the top before the storms rolled in and chased us back to camp for lunch. We played outside and enjoyed the sun before heading out to do our camp service project: maintaining trails. Once we finish up with that we will write our letters to ourselves, make dinner and make the most out of our last night at camp.

Pictures to come.

Looking forward to seeing all of our families at camp tomorrow.

~Anna