| Sarah Rudeen

Peaceful Power: STRIVE Prep-Westwood Overnight

SPW-5_5.7-8.2016_45Recently, CAP (Community Adventure Program) students from STRIVE Prep-Westwood had the opportunity to use all of the skills and lessons they’ve learned over the course of the semester in one spectacular, culminating event: an overnight camping trip at Cal-Wood Education Center. We spent the weekend exploring old mines, hiking up mountains, building fires and watching stars, all while braving the rain, wind, hail, and thunder. It was a weekend full of laughs and a wonderful reminder to all of us of the peaceful power of these mountains in our backyard.

As we drove into the mountains, the clouds grew heavier, the fog grew denser and by the time we arrived, we could barely see 15 feet in front of us. But that didn’t stop us! We hiked to camp, set up our tents in the damp fog, built a rain shelter, and got settled in. We were determined to explore these mountains and refused to let inclement weather get in our way.

SPW-5_5.7-8.2016_83After a quick lunch and a hot chocolate break, we embarked on our first big hike of the weekend: a 4-mile hike to explore the old Mica Mine. Along the way, instructors worked hard to keep up with the multitude of questions streaming from the curious minds of students: “What are those big holes in the ground next to the trail? What is all that ‘carnage’ from? What animal bones are those? Where do we use mica?” When we finally arrived at the mine, we broke out a flashlight and dove right in, watching the walls sparkle with flecks of mica. “This is the coolest place I’ve ever been!” remarked one of the students. Mica is a reflective substance that breaks apart easily and before we knew it, everyone was covered in a layer of sparkling dust.

After the epic climb back to camp, everyone felt quite accomplished… and hungry… nothing an evening burrito can’t fix. The kids took the reigns on cooking dinner and whipped up a culinary masterpiece worthy of a 5-star rating. We practiced our fire-making skills and the students were spectacularly determined. Finally, mouths covered in melted marshmallow from s’mores and eyes filled with starlit wonder, we climbed into our sleeping bags and crashed for the night.

We woke up to the great sun as the clouds had finally parted enough to let us soak up its warmth and check out the views. We decided that would be a great time for a “sit-spot,” a time for everyone to go off on their own and experience some solitude in nature, a gift that is hard to find in the city. The late morning brought us to our service project, a very important part of the CAP overnight weekend. We hiked over to the lodge, threw on some gloves, grabbed a few rakes, and got to work on some good old-fashioned manual labor. Our task was to re-distribute the gravel around the campfire to mitigate any fire danger that might result from a loose spark. We teamed up with another CAP group and made light work with many hands, restoring the fire circle to its original glory. It felt great to give back to Cal-wood as a “thank you” for letting us explore their mountain.


After lunch, we worked up the energy for one final hike: bush-whacking up to the top of the mountain. Breathing heavily with tired legs, we arrived at the top to a view unrivaled by anything we had seen yet. We looked down onto the entirety of Cal-wood, the snow-covered peaks of the Indian Peaks Wilderness to the west, and the flat expanse of Boulder and Longmont to the east. It was a beautiful culmination of everything we had worked for over the weekend; a moment of great peace, gratitude, and happiness for everyone. Overall, it was a phenomenal weekend and we were all grateful for the opportunity to be out there. Thank you to everyone that helped put this trip together!

Written by: CI Instructor, Dylan Gschwind

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Categories: CAP, Community Adventure Program, Cottonwood Institute News, Courses, STRIVE Prep

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