The STRIVE Prep – Sunnyside third annual trip to Mission: Wolf certainly set the bar high. Eleven sixth graders, one teacher chaperone, and two Cottonwood Institute instructors ventured down the Saturday after school ended for a three-day course at the sanctuary. Students were excited to take the trip as it was the culmination of their final ecology unit in science class. The weather was clear and the drive was smooth on the four-hour journey south.
Although we knew the wolves are typically fed on Saturdays and Wednesdays, we didn’t expect to be thrown in so quickly to activity at Mission:Wolf. Students quickly learned the meaning of ‘wolf time’ as Kent rushed the group to the fire pit outside the ambassador wolf enclosure. After a descriptive talk about how to interact with the wolves, we were escorted into the enclosure for a great enrichment with Zeb, Abraham, and Nashira. The wolves were eager to meet the newcomers, and a few students even had Nashira sit in their lap! The experience was well worth a late lunch.
Afterward, we made our way back down the hill to set up tents, string a few tarps, and set the kitchen. From the start, the group was eager to contribute to camp living and quickly swung into a good rhythm. After dinner and dishes, everyone collected ‘smellies’ and met at the van to brush teeth and prepare for a night hike. Before the hike, we talked about some astronomical phenomena and things to observe during the hike (thank goodness for clear skies!) – we even heard the retelling of a legend of how the sky came to be as it is. Bed time was late and everyone quickly wound down from the long, exciting day.
The next day we woke to gray skies. Although the eventual rain certainly limited our plan, rain in southern Colorado is only something to celebrate! We were unable to contribute to the fire mitigation needed by Mission:Wolf, but the hours of downpour were hopefully enough compensation. Waiting out the drizzle, we passed the time playing games and enjoying each other in the green house and visitor center.
When the rain subsided, we hiked back down to camp in order to begin dinner preparations. Most of camp had survived the storm, though a few minor adjustments to tarps and tents were necessary. As the sun got ready to set, we played round after round of camouflage. With a fire ban still in effect, we made do with a delicious dessert of propane-s’mores and decided that another night hike was too much for our worn-out bunch. We fell asleep to the chatter of wolves and coyotes, a pretty incredible thing to experience.
The next day, we were up and packed early in order to head up the hill one final time to say goodbye and reflect on the trip. With hummingbirds buzzing past our heads, we shared the rocks, sticks and thorns we had experienced in three days. Meeting the ambassador wolves certainly took the prize for what rocked most.
We were recommended an alternate route through Westcliffe and Cañon City by Kent, and everyone enjoyed the incredibly scenic drive. There was a great spot for lunch along the Arkansas River that gave us a chance to gather one last time in nature before arriving back to school. It was certainly a wonderful way to end the school year, and we were thankful for the many memories, friendships, and moments we experienced!
Written by CI Instructor Jenny Brown
See more photos from the trip here!