After weeks of preparing, AXL Academy’s CAP class set off with 9 excited students, 1 AXL Academy chaperone, and 3 Cottonwood Institute instructors to Cheley Outpost just outside of Meeker Park. Many students had never been camping before and were looking forward to the camping trip all trimester. On the drive up we stretched our legs at the beautiful Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder. Some CAP students hit the playground, while others looked for fish in Boulder Creek. After some exploration, we piled back into the vans and headed up to Meeker Park, passing through the Boulder Creek Canyon and the famed “Peak to Peak” highway, taking in all of the beautiful fall colors along the way.
Upon arriving at our campsite, students rushed down to play in the fresh mountain water of the nearby Tahosa Creek. After a quick expedition safety chat, we had students show off their LNT expertise, and found a perfect camping spot further down the trail to pitch our tents. Everyone had fun racing to pitch and decorate their tents. As some kiddos explored the surrounding forest, others gleefully helped CI instructors prepare a yummy and healthy lunch. Soon after lunch, we set off on a hike up the trail through a lush and beautiful forest of autumn colors. After about 1 mile of hiking, we reached a clearing with a gorgeous view of Long’s Peak in the background, where we enjoyed a relaxing sit spot.
Reflecting on our sit spots, we shared observations of the cool mountain breeze flowing through the fall leaves, chirping birds, and the warmth of the afternoon sun. We then jumped into a spirited game of Camouflage with many kiddos finding excellent hiding spots in the trees, leaves, and brush. After a few rounds, students voted to play a game of hide-and-go-seek. They chose the “seeker” with a Spanish game called “Zapatito Blanco, Zapatito Azul.” CAP instructors were happy to see the students share their culture on our trip.
We then scurried back down the mountain to our campsite. Later that afternoon, we gathered around the fire pit for a fire starting activity. The youth did their best to spark a fire with bow drills, but we were not able to get a flame going until we broke out the flint & steel. Ramon was having so much fun with the flint & steel that he told his friend Andres, “You’re gonna have to take this away from me.” Ramon and Andres were by far our most dedicated fire starters and helped turn their flame into a grand campfire for us to enjoy. Instructors then gathered some kiddos to help make some delicious burritos and corn on the cob for dinner!
As darkness began to settle in, everyone gathered around the campfire to keep warm and make s’mores. Once everyone had eaten their fair share of campfire sweets, we set off for a night hike. We began just as the full moon was rising over the nearby mountain. CAP scholars were fascinated at how the moonlight lit up the hillside above us. One student remarked “Whoa, it’s almost like a sunrise!” During our night hike, CI instructor Tyler shared some magic candy, that sparkled in our mouths as we chewed it. Tyler then revealed that his magic candy was just lifesaver mints, and everyone laughed. As we returned to camp the moon was on full display in the night sky; CI instructor Corey broke out some binoculars, and he and some kiddos stared in awe at the moon. Soon after, everyone ducked into their tents and said their goodnights.
As morning arrived, CAP instructors awoke early to laughter emanating from the CAP student tents. The kiddos insisted that they wanted to stay in their tents and keep warm. Except for Damien, who was excited to help the instructors make hot cocoa and oatmeal for breakfast. The smell of hot cocoa was more than enough to coax the other students out of their tents for breakfast. After everyone was finished packing their gear and tents into the van we separated for more activities. Some students enjoyed some more time exploring the forest and streams surrounding camp, while others sat in the morning sunlight.
Soon after, everyone gathered to play some Ga-Ga Ball, a CI trip favorite! Everyone had a blast, and the CI instructors even joined in, as we played round after round. We then piled in the vans and headed for an adventure on nearby Lilly Lake, in Rocky Mountain National Park! As we hiked around Lilly Lake we were met with some intense mountain guests and spectacular mountain views. When asked what her favorite part of our trip was while hiking, Brianna remarked “I don’t know, I just really love nature! I really love the fresh mountain breeze!” As we hiked Tyler shared a story about the famous vanilla and butterscotch scent of the Ponderosa Pine. Many of the youth insisted that it smelled like oatmeal. We stopped to snap some photos in front of the famed Longs Peak, adding in a photo with a group dabb!
Afterwards, we headed down to Estes Park for a healthy lunch next to The Big Thompson River, and reflected on our trip. Many said that their favorite part of the trip was sleeping in a tent with their friend. Some of them felt a little scared about camping before our trip, but would definitely do it again! After our reflections, we set out to explore the river walk in downtown Estes Park. CAP students were excited to play on musical instruments along the river, and marveled at some Labrador retrievers playing fetch with their owner in the rushing river. We then made our way back down the river, exploring along the way, and piled back into the van. On the drive back to Aurora, some students napped, others reflected on their experiences and some pleaded with Corey to go on another trip. All in all, AXL Academy’s first Overnight Camping Trip to Cheley Outpost was a great success and a grand adventure!
A big thank you to Cheley Camps for their partnership!
See more photos from our trip here!
Written by CAP class instructor Corey Engle.