Cottonwood Institute kicked off the upcoming trip season by convening new and returning staff for a spring training weekend packed with learning, community—and of course—good food.
Like any great night, Friday started with pizza. Instructors met, some for the first time, and immediately hit it off over slices of ‘za and an amazing loaf of homemade bread from Program Manager Andrew. With full bellies and easy camaraderie, the group then loaded up our freshly-wrapped van and began the winding drive out to the Cal-Wood Education Center near Jamestown. We set up camp in the glow of the moonlit snow, enjoyed raspberry-infused s’mores and learned more about each other by sharing “imaginary facts” over a toasty campfire. Who knew so many of us had pet giraffes at home?
After a chilly night’s sleep, Saturday was packed with opportunities to dive deep into both technical skills and really important conversations. Safety is a critical part of any CI trip, and instructors deepened their leadership toolkits by learning efficient fire-starting strategies (check out how to use vaseline and cotton balls as a fire starter here!), building “bombproof” tarp shelters, and reviewing emergency scenarios to dial in our responses. In the afternoon, NVHS CAP Instructor Amy and Program Director Katie facilitated an amazing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) exercise where staff reflected on our own identities and considered how privilege impacts our perspective as leaders. We closed out a full day of learning and laughing around another expertly-built fire, carrot whittling, jamming along with CI Executive Director Ford and AXL CAP Instructor Adam’s fire-side guitar, and discussing what makes “magic” for students on a CI trip.
Sunday greeted us with bagels and sunshine as we learned more about Cal-Wood’s campus and history from the legendary Angie, the facility’s Natural Resource Manager, and shared pets with Hercules, the beloved resident cat. Adam then guided the team in considering how to minimize our impact in the backcountry and modeled engaging ways to teach Leave No Trace practices– check out these really cool hand signals to remember the seven LNT principles here! We closed out the weekend sharing our wackiest icebreakers while finishing up van training (happy to say we all passed!).
Many of our instructors come to CI in part because we have a personal relationship with our outside spaces, and we left with new relationships with each other and the CI mission. And while training is always an opportunity for learning, it also acts as a reminder of the power of the outdoors as a space for connection, and self-discovery, and yes—magic.
We can’t wait to share the magic with all our students on our spring and summer programs!
Written by CI Instructor Chelsea Tossing
See more photos from the weekend here!