Field Notes

Colorado Trail : 1A • June 15-June 28, 2016

Final Days in Colorado

June 29, 2016

The first day rock climbing in Taylor Canyon presented us with a short hike up to a slab of rock covered in tricky wide cracks and deep overhangs. After a quick briefing of how to tie the knots, belay, and safety precautions, the students were ready to hit the sweet Colorado crag.

During lunch, one of the climbing guides, Will,  asked all of the students to pick up a piece of trash to get a reward (which was a high five from another climbing guide) and Stella made us all laugh by walking over to Will and picking him up.  It may have been one of my favorite moments during the trip. Hannah proved to be one of the most enthusiastic climbers of the group, being the last climber off the rock at the end of the day.

On the second day, we hiked up a steep slope to a huge sunny rock face with more challenging climbs than yesterday.  Carter showed us his new skills by challenging himself to climb the hardest route blindfolded and he made it to the top! We were all super impressed.  After two days of physically challenging our bodies, we can officially say we’ve climbed the Colorado Rockies!

On our drive to our campsite, we saw some snow just off the road on the top of a mountain and we stopped to let the students have a quick snowball fight.  Hunter was particularly excited for this moment, because he had never touched snow before!  The next day we woke up to a perfect day for whitewater rafting the Royal Gorge. Our previous guides in Brown’s Canyon warned us of the extreme rapids that we would face that day, but that did not scare any of our students as we headed to the River Runners office.  We suited up and met our rafting guides who explained the importance of paddling your heart out during the rapids to prevent the boat from flipping.  As we paddled through Bighorn Sheep Canyon, the section of the Arkansas just before Royal Gorge, one boat was lucky enough to see a baby bighorn sheep grazing along side the river.  Pryor, being very amused by our raft guide, who was 6’8’’ and had the nickname “Sasquatch,” created a new chant for our boat that included yelling “Sasquatch” and screaming really loud.

After lunch on the river, we headed into the Gorge.  This section of the river was jam-packed with class III and IV rapids that allowed the strength to test their strength and listening skills.  Stella decided that the best way for her boat to paddle correctly and effectively was for each student to yell “PULL” every time they had to paddle. It proved to be an excellent method for the boat and the guide even told me that these students paddled better than most adults.

During a rapid called ’Sledge Hammer’, we glided over ‘Envelope Rock’ and Carter decided to take a swim.  Luckily he popped back up out of the water with a smile on his face and Ally grabbed his PFD and pulled him right back into the boat. For the rest of the day, Carter went around telling people he got to swim one of the biggest rapids!  Kristin showed us that she was most prone to losing things in the river after her water bottle floated down the Arkansas and the top of her bowl was lost to Bear Creek on our backpacking trip. Most of the students said that rafting this section of the Arkansas was one of their favorite parts of the entire trip!

We got off the river and headed back to our campsite where we made a fire and feasted on hotdogs, baked beans, watermelon, and homemade french fries, fried by our very own Intern, Lillian.  Gunnar got to practice his flyfishing skills on the river and will probably be purchasing a rod when he gets back home. Hudson and Hannah continued to be a great help to us by volunteering to clean the dishes after the messy meal that we just consumed.  In return, they got an extra scoop of No Bake Oreo dessert.

The next morning we drove to our last campsite and made it there just in time to have the Iron Chef competition.  The students decided to break up into boys vs. girls. We laid all of the leftover food on a tarp and the students played rock paper scissors to decide who got to choose first.  The boys won and eventually all of the food was divvied out.  Each group had to prepare an appetizer, entree, and dessert for the leaders to judge.  The girls quickly presented us with a dish that Sally Anne had eaten in the past and said was her favorite dip.  It was cream cheese and salsa combination served with tortilla chips.  Lillian and I were impressed with the taste of the dip, but CJ warned the groups that he disliked tomatoes, so they received low scores from him. Brooks led the boys to present a creative dish called “Skins and Fins” which consisted of  potatoes, summer sausage, burned fried onions and cilantro.  We liked the creativity of the dish, but were unimpressed with the potatoes.  Ally led the girls in a stir fry dish with summer sausage, peppers, onions and rice.  The boys prepared a beautiful chicken burrito bowl.  We were very excited to see what each team had in order for dessert.  The boys presented us with an exquisite dessert called ‘Awesomeness’ that consisted of a melted marshmallow with chocolate in the middle, powdered sugar sprinkled on top and Crasins to top it all off. It was scrumptious.  The girls created what they called ‘CPB bar.’  It had a graham cracker base with melted chocolate and peanut butter topping and blueberries on the side.  The dessert was the most difficult category to judge, but the boys ended up with an almost perfect score.  In the end, the boys won by about 20 points.

After Iron Chef, we went into town to buy silly outfits from the thrift store and wash the van. We finally took showers and then went to dinner at AJ’s pizzeria.  Sally Anne and Dallas led us in our final Moonup in which they told us to say something nice about the person to our left and then asked us what we would miss most about the trip.  It was the perfect end to our trip. Before going to bed, Sally Anne, Dallas, and Ally started to joke about something that they called “The Poopy Monster.” He lives in the pit bathroom and wears all black and emerges at night to scare people, but he is always completely clean.  CJ and I thought this was hilarious, but they kept secretly thinking that the Poopy Monster was going to come scare them in the night.

Veryyyy early next morning, we drove to drop our pack of weirdos off at the Denver airport.  With tears streaming down our faces, we said our final goodbyes, but not without a dab or two on the way down the walkway to the plane.

CJ, Lillian, and I (Lorna) were so pleased to have this hilarious group of students for our first group and we are looking forward to seeing them again!


San Juan Mountains Backpacking!

June 24, 2016

After our trek across the Great Sand Dunes, we drove to a cozy campground complete with showers!! Everyone was happy being clean and smelling somewhat normal (especially the girls) and CJ gave a lesson about how to properly pack our backpacking packs. All the campers were a little uneasy knowing they were going to be without deodorant for four days! We agreed to an early night to bed under the stars before our drive to the Bear Creek Trailhead.

Two hours after distributing food, group gear, and properly fittings packs, we were off on our journey. We were quickly challenged by tough uphill switchbacks all while still getting used to our heavy packs. Time flew by as Pryor kept us all entertained by explaining everything about his exciting life and playing many time passing games while leading the pack as the pace setter. Due to his eager pace, we were able to conquer a strenuous 4 miles on the first day! We winded through hundreds of Aspen trees and huge fields of dandelions. Everyone was relieved to arrive at our first campsite and fill our tired bodies with pasta. Gunnar quickly became the most popular one in the group because of his massive mosquito head net that came in handy at our swampy spot. At this point, Lorna had become the go-to girl for blisters, hotspots, and anytime a morale booster was needed.

We slept a bonus amount the next morning and had backcountry French toast and bacon before an easy 2 miles to our next perfect camp spot. It was an open riverside area perfect for Hunter, Pryor, and Carter to have an afternoon of fly fishing where they caught some beautiful rainbow trout!  Later I went on an incredible day hike with Stella, Kristin, and Hudson where we discovered multiple waterfalls and took artsy pictures in the dandelions. Back at camp, Hannah dug up a pristine fly box from the dirt full of over 200 flies that had everyone else jealous of her find. We all hung out in an Eno fort set up by the boys and told funny personal stories before cooking a “Thanksgiving” dinner including turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and even gravy!

After two nights of backpacking, everybody’s hips were sore from packs, but Kristin was super innovative and taught us that by putting our extra pair of socks under our waist belt, it created instant comfort for another 4 miles of hiking that day. She was a constant motivator through the day and I never heard her complain once. With only ten more minutes until our last campsite, we were greeted by an incredible, but intense storm that allowed us to practice lightening position. But it wasn’t before long the storm passed. Hudson made it clear she was ready to book it to our campsite so everyone could get dry and warm in our tents. Brooks was super helpful with getting dinner organized and always volunteering to help clean dishes. Dallas and Ally faced off in a water chugging contest which was both entertaining and important for preventing dehydration. Stella also used her headlamp for creepy but funny late night entertainment.

We all woke up early the next morning knowing we were only a short hike to the van and clean clothes. Sally Anne challenged CJ to a “What Are The Odds” bet and CJ ended up having to carry both his own and Sally Anne’s pack the entire last day of backpacking! We finally reached the van and moved back into living out of our duffles and drove to the small mountain town of Telluride for our town day. We all refueled on burgers and milkshakes and bought plenty of T-shirts, stickers, and outdoor gear to remember the sweet city. We are now headed to Taylor Canyon for two days full of climbing as we near the end of our two week trip together!

Hey Mom and Dad!

I miss you lots but this is the best camp ever! I hope you all are having loads of fun! I love you so much and hope you are taking great care of my critters! Love ya!

-Hannah

Hi everybody!

I miss y’all so much but I have met a lot of awesome people and am having a great time! The food is way better this year, but I am still craving some of dads food! See y’all soon!

-Ally

Hey Mom and Dad!

It’s going really well, all except I broke my fly rod. I’m having a really good time with all my new friends. Can’t wait to see our soon! Lots of love!

-Pryor

Hey Mom and Dad!

I am having the best time ever! The food is much better than last years. We just got back from a 4 day backpacking trip and tomorrow we are going rock climbing! Anyways, I am having the funnest time ever! I love you all so much!

-Hunter

Hey Mom and Dad!

I am having a great time and I have made a lot of new friends! Tomorrow we are going rock climbing. Tell the brothers I said hey!

-Carter

Hi Mom and Dad!

I am having a great time! I have made great friends. We are headed to a 2 day rock climbing trip! I miss you guys so much! Tell Brodie I said hey and fill up Leo and Echo’s water. I hope you’re having fun in your alone time!

-Brooks

Hey Mom, Dad, and Wiley!

I miss y’all sooo much! We just got out of the woods from a 4 day backpacking trip- thankfully! The food is amazing and Lillian is an amazing cook! But I can’t wait to have Willy’s and steak! We’ll send my love to everyone and Dixie! See y’all soon!

-SA

To Murphy and Mango,

Miss you!! Love you doggies! You are the best!

-Dallas

Hey Nunns!

Love y’all lots! Tell Lucky and Gus that I said hi! Also tell Mo and Molly hi! Love y’all and miss y’all!

-Kristin

Hey Mom and Dad!

Miss y’all lots! Mom, please tell Gloria and the Barton’s I said hi! We went shopping in Telluride today and Dad I have a surprise for you when I get home! HAPPY LATE FATHERS DAY! See you soon!

-Hudson

Hey Billups,

I miss y’all tons! I hope y’all are having fun! I am having lots of fun! Tel Lannister, Bear, and Chickie I love y’all. I love y’all! Tell Bryan I hope he had fun at camp!

-Stella


Wonderful Times on the Water

June 19, 2016

After weeks of preparation and about 8 hours in the Denver airport, CJ, Lillian and I finally scooped up all the kids. Hudson was a trooper and hung out with most of the dudes for about four hours before any girls arrived. Needless-to-say, their rowdiness kept her entertained. We were stoked to hit the road to our first campsite!

On the first night, we filled our bellies with delicious pizza and camped at Hecla Junction right by the Arkansas River, which we anxiously awaited rafting the next day.

A chilly morning greeted us as we headed to River Runners for our white water rafting experience. We met our awesome rafting guides, Corban and Paul, and split up into raft groups. Gunnar quickly decided on a raft  team name and routine (which obviously involved the dab dance). We rafted into the afternoon until we reached our perfect secret campsite right by the river. For the rest of the afternoon, we had free time! All the girls and I went on a lady hike up to the top of some rocks to see the view of the collegiate peaks of the canyon on the other side of the river. Ally stayed super positive and happy, despite a couple of splinters that could have ruined her day. All the boys tried their hand at fly fishing and not only was Hunter was the first to catch one, but he also caught the biggest one! It was a delicious brown trout that we cooked and ate it as an appetizer before our cheeseburger and salad dinner. Carter was adamant on getting the guides to teach him all the knots needed for fly fishing which proved successful when he tied his own flies and caught two fish!

We played a few games at the campsite including ‘Celebrity’ in which Sally Anne fooled us all. She was so quick to answer the questions that we asked and her game lasted for about an hour.

At the campfire, Stella performed a harmonica rendition of “Let It Go” and shocked us all with her beautiful singing voice and dancing skills. CJ and Kristin accompanied her as back up dancers. Post s’mores, Paul brought out his glow in the dark Bocce Ball set and a group of us broke into teams to show our accuracy skills. Lillian and I were embarrassingly terrible, but Pryor and Carter excelled and won the game! We were all super exhausted from the exciting day and we slept under the stars.

The next morning, we awoke to a scrumptious breakfast including French toast, sausage, and fruit, prepared by our outfitters. Many of the students floated down the river all morning, while others basked in the sun. As leader of the day, Brooks briefed us with a perfect quote: “it’s nice to be nice and it doesn’t cost a thing.”  Once we finally hit the river, we were pumped for all of the rapids ahead of us. Dallas rocked the GoPro on many of the rapids and strived to get that perfect shot. Hannah proved to be the splash queen and took any chance she could get to splash the other boat. She instigated many competitive splash fights between the two boats.

After lunch, we approached Slidell’s rapid, the highest ranked rapid on the river, and parked our rafts to observe the rapid. This rapid is a class 3-4 rapid with a surging cloud-like wave that we needed to avoid, because it tends to flip rafts. The guides said it was the best they had seen the river in a long time! It seemed to be a difficult challenge for many of the students. As we entered the rapid, our guides assured us of their confidence in us to paddle our way towards Slidell’s. We breezed through it. The guides said that it was one of the cleanest runs they had ever done! It was a really pivotal moment for many of the students, especially Kristin. We could feel her confidence building as she overcame her fear of the rapid.

After we got off the river, we headed back to Hecla Junction campsite for the night. Hannah showed us her love for cooking when she volunteered to join the cook crew instead of playing cards with the rest of the group! We ate an amazing chicken and vegetable curry dish that everyone loved. CJ, Lillian and I were pumped about that, because we were worried that some of the kids would be wary of the curry, but they proved us wrong!

Yesterday morning, we zip-lined all morning with some rad guides named Harmony and David. They awarded Stella with the best all around zip-liner, which encompassed attitude, excitement, patience, and loudest scream!

Once we got off of the cables, we ate lunch and hit the road to the Great Sand Dunes. We all went down to the lake just below the dunes to cool off and avoid the bugs.

Our cook crew flipped us some personal quesadillas while the rest of the group tried desperately to figure out Lillian’s riddles. We hit the hay but only for a few hours before CJ woke us up at 3 am for our sunrise hike on the dunes. We scrambled up the sandy dunes, certainly feeling it in our calves. It was absolutely worth it for that sunrise!

The students felt bad that they couldn’t say anything to their dads on this Father’s Day, so we took this picture of them on top of the sand dunes so they could show their appreciation and love for their fathers!

We are now headed to the San Juan mountains for our four day backpacking trip! Report back to the Moondance site for another trip update after we emerge from the mountains with smelly armpits and big smiles.

Shoutouts from the students:

Hey mom and dad! I’m having a blast! Thanks for sending me to camp! I love and miss you guys! Happy Father’s Day, sad! Please wash Spot, mom! I love you! -Hannah
P.s. My tennis shoes are totaled

Hey mom and dad, I miss you, but I am having a lot of fun! Happy Father’s Day, dad! Love y’all! – Kristin

Hey mom and dad, I am having a blast. Happy Father’s Day, dad! Hope you enjoyed it. Miss you guys but having fun. -Brooks

Hey mom and dad! Having fun but miss y’all so much. We start our backpacking trip tomorrow. Yesterday we went ziplining and it was really fun. Much love, Hudson

Hey mom and dad, I love you so much! I can’t wait to tell you all about Moondance :). I’m having SO much fun!! I can’t wait to see you :). Happy Father’s Day, dad! You bring so much sunshine to my life. I would never ask for a better dad. You are the most hard working person I know! Hope you have a great day! Love y’all to the moon and back! -Stella

Hey mom and dad, I’m having a great time. Happy Father’s Day dad! See u soon, gtg backpacking. -Gunnar

Hey mom and dad! I am having no the best time possible! Happy Father’s Day dad! I caught a big brown trout and ate it for dinner! Anyways I love y’all! -Hunter

Hi mom and dad! I miss y’all so much and Wiley. I’m having so much fun! Anyways happy Father’s Day and early birthday dad! I love you! Well I’ll see you guys soon! -Sally Anne

Hi everybody. It’s been so fun so far and we have done such fun things! I hope everyone has an awesome time in Costa Rica and Father’s Day dad! Love and miss y’all lots! -Ally

Dear the Clement fam, love you! Miss you! I’m having loads of fun! See you soon! -Dallas

Dear mom and dad I am having a blast! The sand dunes are HUGE! Me and some new friends were doing flips off of them. Love you see you soon! Love, Carter

Dear mom and dad I am having a really good time here. We went to the sand dunes which was my favorite and we did flips off them. Love and can’t wait to see you. Love, Pryor

Lillian is going to send a text with the picture attached if y’all could attach it to the trip update.

Hope all is well!!