The students from Casa de la Esperanza experienced a lot of new things this summer. For most of them, their camping trip with Cottonwood Institute in Rocky Mountain National Park was their first time camping or hiking. For some of these middle schoolers, it was their first time spending the night away from home. And for all of them, it was their first time hiking in the snow. And it was the end of June!
The week leading up to the camping trip was mostly spent in preparation. They learned things like how to set up a tent and they learned a ton about Leave No Trace principles. They ran a relay race where they had to decide which gear to bring (or not bring) on a camping trip. They had a fashion show where they dressed their chaperones in a camping clothes. And they planned their schedule for the camping trip.
Students also completed a service project, partnering with the City of Longmont to help save trees around Golden Ponds. They learned about the beavers that live at the ponds and how the beavers cut down trees in the area to use for food and to build their houses. Wildlife and Natural Resources workers helped them identify some trees that needed protection from the busy beavers. Students got to work painting those trees with a gloppy mixture of cement and paint. Beavers take one nibble on those trees and decide they hate the texture and move on to another juicy sand-free tree. This way Golden Ponds can have trees AND beavers.
The morning of the camping trip, the weather forecast was 100% chance of rain. The students squeezed into vans packed with extra layers of clothing. After setting up their tents and admiring the amazing view from the campsite, they packed their daypacks for the hike they had planned to Mills Lake. The hike up was beautiful as it followed a waterfall through the alpine forest and although it was spattering rain, no one really minded.
When the Casa de la Esperanza students had almost reached their destination, the rain turned to lightning and they were disappointed that they had to turn back to get out of the exposed area. Then the spattering of rain turned to hail! The campers trucked down the mountain as the hail turned to a thick sloppy snow. After drying out at the visitors’ center, they returned to camp to cook dinner and learn to make fires in the rain.
The next morning, the early risers woke up to the soft, tick-tick-tick of snow falling on their tents and Alexander woke up the others to go build a fire. After a frosty breakfast warmed by mugs of hot cocoa, the campers packed up their campsite and went in search of warmer weather at a bit lower elevation. They got their blood moving and their bones warmed with tons of games at Hall Ranch Open Space. After playing round after round of “The Wind Blows,” “Ninja,” and that Cottonwood classic, “Camouflage.” Finally they had were warmed enough to enjoy some peace during their sit spots and closing circle. Their first camping trip was one they will tell their own kids about.
Written by CAP Instructor Erin Angel
See more photos from the trip HERE!