| Teagan Papke

RiseUp Makes a Splash! A Week of Rafting, Reflection, and Recharging in the Colorado Mountains

From Fish Hatcheries to Fierce Rapids, RiseUp Community High School Students Navigate Nature and Themselves in Leadville. Written by CI Field Instructor Hailey Schmidt.

A RiseUp Community High School student rafting on the Arkansas River during the Watershed Project tripA small group of RiseUp Community High School students spent a wonderful week with Cottonwood Institute, learning about watersheds, getting to know each other better, and experiencing nature’s joys in the mountains of Leadville, CO. As a small group of six, students were brave and vulnerable, trying new things and facing challenges.

On day one, we met the group at RiseUp in Denver and prepared for the car ride to the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS) campus, where we camped for the week. Upon our arrival, we set up camp and prepared for a fantastic time together in the woods. Students found the best tent spots for the next four nights to make their home. After setting up our space, we talked about what we were excited and nervous about and how we could work together as a team to have a fantastic week. We closed our night like every camping night should end: making s’mores.

A RiseUp Community High School students cooking dinner during the Watershed Project tripDay two was an opportunity to explore the COBS base and better know our surroundings. We took a beautiful walk down to the fish hatchery and enjoyed the trees and butterflies we saw. We fed the Rainbow Trout at the fish hatchery and learned about the native greenback cutthroat trout. After walking back, we had lunch and rested before our fly fishing lesson. Fly fishing was a challenging new skill, but everyone gave it a try.

Wednesday was exciting for us: we listened to music in the car… because we were driving to go RAFTING!!! Both of those things were equally as exciting to the group. We went to Wilderness Aware Rafting, pumping the jams the whole way there. The water on the Arkansas River was the highest it had been in ten years, and we could see it in the waves. Students were initially nervous as the waves splashed everyone in the boat, but we soon started working like a well-oiled machine to paddle through the waves, grinning while we did it. Needless to say, rafting was an absolute blast! We were so grateful to our guides at Wilderness Aware for taking us down the Arkansas and introducing many of our students to rafting.

RiseUp Community High School students rafting on the Arkansas River during the Watershed Project tripThe last full day of our trip was spent giving back to the area with a service project. We helped clear out a drainage ditch by removing raspberry bushes and willows that were clogging the ditch. A couple of brave students stood in the freezing cold water to help while others used shears on the bank. We went to Turquoise Lake for a picnic lunch and some beach time in the afternoon. Students already began to reflect on how it had felt to be away from home for the week without their phones. Not having phones was a challenge for students. They missed their music and their streaks. However, many noted that it gave them space to pause and reflect without constant distraction- bringing them closer to themselves and each other.

We finished off the night with a mac and cheese cook-off. We wore silly costumes, participated in smack talk, and ate some dang good mac and cheese creations. The dishes were different and delicious, and our honored guest judge, our beloved princess, could not decide on a winner. We ate more s’mores, reflected as a group, and went to bed with full hearts (after a good little dance party, of course).

A RiseUp Community High School students cooking dinner during the Watershed Project tripThis trip was unforgettable in many ways and impossible to capture fully in a blog post. It was not easy, and we were all pushed out of our comfort zones again and again. But our students faced these challenges head-on, and we worked as a team to bring lots of fun and meaning to our time in Leadville.

Categories: Program News, Updates

Back to Blog

Comments are closed.