| Teagan Papke

Changemakers Challenge: From Backpacks to Bowdrills (and Back!)

Leadership, Nature, and Growth on a Transformative Trip. Written by Changemaker Program Students, Lahja Wise and Iona Kelly.

How can a single trip be so exciting, introspective, and informative at the same time? The only thing we know for sure is that it would not have happened without our lovely mentors, Erin And Chelsea.

Changemaker student poses in a backpack with hiking polesThis trip was so much more than just a backpacking trip, both literally and figuratively. Our culminating experience started with three nights of backpacking on Willow Lake Trail above Crestone before we were warmly welcomed to Earth Knack for the last two days.

As a group focused on teaching and practicing leadership, a central idea in our final trip was putting those skills to the test. Aside from independently planning the trip with minimal support from our mentors, we were actively putting our leadership skills to the test day-to-day. We nominated a “Leader of the Day” every day, sometimes appointing pairs to help balance the workload, facilitating meals, bear hangs, route-finding, group welfare, and games. This allowed everyone to stretch the muscle that is leadership and for us to realize that leadership can appear in many forms, all valuable.

Changemaker instructor and students pose with plans as moustachesOver the course of nine months, we have formed unbreakable bonds as a group. These bonds made every challenge feel surmountable. Before the trip, we spoke in-depth about risk assessment and management with the help of the wonderful Sadie. This, along with excellent direction, got us home unscathed despite the many obstacles we faced, such as climbing above 11,000 ft in “iffy” weather, several river crossings, and traversing snow fields.

We then transitioned into the capable hands of Robin, owner and caretaker of the Earth Knack land. Our goals shifted to learning about skills that would bring us more in tune with nature and ourselves. Our trip concluded after spending two nights on her land. We cooked in her wonderful outdoor kin and camped by Cottonwood Creek. During the full day we spent there, we learned from Robin and her friend Ivan about the history of fire and how to make our own bow drill kits. (Bow drills are a way to make fire from natural materials.) Every moment spent on the homestead was one of learning and wonder. The structured time allowed everyone a project to take home and expand upon.

Students working on bow drillsA very overlooked but crucial aspect of the trip was the five-hour van ride both there and back. Bonding over sing-alongs to hit songs or playing road trip games are so important to witnessing each other as a full picture.

“Changemakers played a vital part in being able to look in the mirror and see a man I want to be.” Jesse Holtsnider. This quote is one of many insightful reflections around our closing campfire and an excellent representation of a shared experience. Over so many trips, meetings, and reflection circles, a common theme has been the Changemakers Program’s role in helping to cultivate experiences in which we can learn and understand how to navigate the world gracefully and intentionally. We will be forever grateful for this opportunity and the people who made it possible.

A huge thank you to a few funders who help make this program possible, including: The Guthrie Family, Larrk Foundation, Thorne Nature Experience, Nature Kids/Jovenes de la Naturaleza, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program.

If you want to help make the Changemaker Program continue to thrive, Donate Today!

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