The Aspen leaves just began changing, and this weekend Cottonwood Institute had the chance to see the leaves and enjoy the fall weather camping with four National Guard families in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The group had various outdoor experience but one commonality, as one of the mom’s explained, “My family doesn’t usually camp and my husband is deployed so he’s not here to take us out, but with this trip there’s a chance to go camping with a safety net.”
Saturday, the group met up in Golden and caravan-ed to Reverend’s Ridge Campground, learned about setting up a campsite, and started their outdoor experience with a “Find Something Awesome in Nature” Scavenger Hunt. One young man and his dad took an Edibles Field Guide and found a small patch of wild raspberries, another mother/daughter duo took the group to an area near a creek away from camp with the beginnings of a lean-to shelter. After lunch, the group went back to the creek to do a lesson on shelter-building. Using the already established lean to, the group gathered forest debris of varying size, finished the shelter wall, and insulated the area. Each person had a chance to try out what it felt like inside! After shelter-building, the instructors led a discussion of predator/prey relationships, and the group got to practice their predator stalking, playing a few rounds of the game Camouflage. The group was having so much fun that a neighboring family asked to join in the game! The day ended with lots of practice fire-starting, a very successful fire, and S’mores.
On day two, the instructors led the families out on a beautiful hike to a lookout called Panorama Point. Along the way, they stopped for a snack at a spot with a great view. The group had a chance to do sit spots and many of the kids talked about hearing the wind coming up the mountain, and noticing ground squirrels running through the rocks around them. The parents pointed out the beginning of yellow on the Aspens surrounding them. Back at camp, the group did a sweep for micro trash at their sites and the neighbors’. There was a chance to talk about the importance of minimizing impact especially in popular camp areas so the next families can come explore the beauty of nature without seeing trash or, as one kid jokingly pointed out, “finding someone’s old bandaid.” Day two finished with a final lunch and evaluations. The kids wrote about using flint and steel to make a fire and the parents talked about how nice it was to be out with other parents and their families.
Written by Cottonwood Institute Instructor Keiran Bissel.