Friday, June 4, 2010

Staff Training and the First Week

It’s been awhile since my last entry. I apologize for that but I literally have had no time.

Since I last wrote a lot and I mean A LOT has happened. I’ll try to fill you in on the biggest, most important, and most exciting parts. I’m sorry that this is so long but like I said quite a bit has been going on.

Well, the rest of the staff got here a couple weeks ago and I’ve been able to get to know them. However, we don’t spend much time with the other branches of camp. Expeditions (aka: wilderness) is like the relative that everyone sees at big family events but doesn’t have time to stop by for frequent visits. We do like to keep to ourselves but for the most part that is because we don’t have time to branch out. But, we all still like hanging out with each other, so hopefully we don’t get sick of one another.

Let me briefly explain the other ‘branches’ of camp Redcloud that I am talking about.

- Adventure camp – this consists of a staff around 20 people. They are what you could call ‘typical camp counselors’. They work with 8-14 year olds who come to camp for the week for games, bible studies, and other activities.

- Family camp – this consists of a staff around 20 people as well. Redcloud has a HUGE log cabin that is sort of like a nice hotel. Families come for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for a type of vacation. The family camp staff are in charge of doing activities with the children and the adults such as games, canoeing, and mountain biking.

- Equestrian program – Redcloud has a heard of 52 horses and about 10 people are in charge of taking care of these horses and running horse camp. Horse camps run just about every week and involve learning the basics to going on a multi-day trip on trails through the mountains on horseback.

- Operations – this is the ‘catch-all’ branch of Redcloud. Operations includes kitchen staff, maintenance, custodial, and office staff.

- Expeditions – this is the branch that I work in. We lead base camps, backpacking trips, rock camps and we assist the other branches of Redcloud in activities such as rock climbing, high ropes, whitewater rafting and peak climbs.

Some of the other things I was able to do during staff training was repelling, high ropes course, and a four-day backpacking trip.

Repelling was fun. The cliff that we repel off of is only about 30 feet tall but because of the nature of the hill it’s on it looks like you go almost 100 feet down. It started to snow while we were there but we still had a good time because while we were waiting for a turn to go we played ninja. It got really intense and Nick kept diving for people and as a result fell several times; once he almost fell of the side of the cliff.

Jeanne Marie, Jake and Nick playing Ninja

High ropes was a lot more challenging that I anticipated. The fact that I was at least 20 feet off the ground the whole time did get to me a few times but don’t worry, I was securely strapped in to a safety wire by two ropes that can hold upwards of 6,000 pounds each. The upper section was a partner section and I learned that laughing really hard while trying to balance on a wire about the size of a finger is not an easy task. I also ended up using many muscles that I didn’t even know existed.

The High Ropes Course

Our backpacking trip was so much fun! We left right after church on Sunday and got back around noon on Wednesday. Just to give you an idea of how little we brought with us I’ll tell you what I packed. One rain jacket, one warm fleece jacket, one long sleeve shirt, one short sleeve shirt, one pair of rain pants, one pair of hiking pants, one pair of shorts, one pair of long underwear bottoms, two pairs of underwear, one bra, three pairs of wool hiking socks (one pair I kept in my sleeping bag so I could sleep in clean socks every night), hiking boots, one hat, one pair of gloves, sandals, a few small items like chapstick and a brush, and that’s about it. I did have to carry some food and some tent poles but for the most part it was really simple living. I wore the same outfit everyday, which made choosing what to put on in the morning very simple.

We only hiked for about 1.5 miles the first day. We took a lot of time learning about compasses and maps, choosing a campsite, cooking with the ultra-lite stoves and of course biffing in the great outdoors. Biff stands for bathroom in forest floor, I hope you can figure out what we mean by that. On that note, I have become quite skilled at biffing and when we got back I almost missed not having a toilet. But I won’t say anymore about that for the sake of those who feel uncomfortable right now. If you have further questions or if you want my recommendations on biffing please ask. I was also able to share my testimony with the group that night and we played a fun get-to-know-you game that involved M&M’s.

The first night was not very fun. It was uber windy all night and it snowed some. I didn’t warm up until we started hiking later that morning.

The second day we hiked about five miles. I surprisingly didn’t get that tired or sore. The weather was nice and the view were good. I really enjoyed the fact that we got to hike through some snow during the afternoon. The campsite we stayed at was a site that is used by a hunting guide service, but they only use it during the fall for elk hunting. That night it was less windy so we were able to have a fire. The sky was super clear and beautiful that night and we got the best smore talk I have ever been a part of. One of the full-time staff, Steve, has a smore making system that is super legit! He gave us a good 15 minute speech on how to properly make a smore. It was a good way to end the day.

This is the group with our packs on

The third day was a lot like the second, but I was the official route finder. We hiked for about six miles and I am now very good at using a compass and a map. We camped right by a large creek, but the ground was really lumpy. Inside our tent (which by the way is named the Taj Mahal because it’s the biggest tent camp owns fitting 6 people quite comfortably) we had some foliage and several large mounds of earth. I slept on top of one of those mounds which at first made for a nice lumbar support but I remember waking up sometime in the middle of the night thinking I was sleeping on the side of a hill. Because of that I tried grabbing onto whatever I could to keep from rolling down this giant imaginary hill. I ended up grabbing Brianna (the person sleeping next to me) before I finally woke up and realized what was going on. Needless to say I do not recommend sleeping on a large mound of dirt, but somehow I didn’t have any weird cramps that morning.

The fourth day started off interestingly. I woke up to Meghan stating, “They left us.” It was about 8:00am which was definitely sleeping in, especially for a pack trip. It turned out that our three bosses who were with us decided to leave us all to get to the trail head by ourselves that day. We weren’t scared by this because we only had about one more mile to go, but it was just the fact that they left us without notice that gave us something to talk about. We were pretty mad about the fact that they didn’t even take their tent with them, so we had to carry another tent!

We did make it to the trail head in really good time! On the way we saw a heard of elk, cows, and newly blooming flowers. The road up to the trailhead was closed, however, so we had to walk four miles on a road which was not very fun because my feet were definitely starting to hurt by that point. But we made it and were welcomed with ice cream sandwiches!

The Gals

The Guys (being cool)

When we got back we cleaned up all the group gear and took showers (we all stunk pretty bad by that point). After the much needed showers we dressed up a little bit (and by dressed up I mean jeans and a non-t-shirt) and went over to Sarah and Mark’s house for a celebration dinner of Cornish game hens stuffed with wild rice and cranberries. Sarah is such a good cook! We also got to play with their four wonderful kids and talk about the trip, but we left pretty early to go to bed because the next day was peak day.

4:00am Thursday morning. Yes, that is the time I woke up to get ready for the day. I had to pack my day bag and be down to breakfast at 5:00am to be ready to leave for Redcloud peak. We leave that early for several reasons. One, climbing a peak takes a long time. Usually if a group starts climbing at 7:00am they don’t reach the summit until 11:00-2:00. Most groups don’t even actually reach the summit by 2:30pm in which case we have to turn around so we don’t get stuck because of the darkness of night. Two, it gets windier and windier as the day goes on and some of the last few hundred feet of trail are covered in snow. Wind and slippery snow do not go well together and we don’t really want anyone to fall off of a mountain because he loses his balance in the wind. Three, driving to a trail as the sun is rising is extremely beautiful!

For this peak climb I was able to lead the adventure camp. I wasn’t planning on it because it was supposed to be Cyndi, Meghan and myself leading them together but Cyndi hurt her knee on our pack trip and Meghan hurt her foot, so they stayed at camp to recover for the day leaving me in charge. I was a little nervous having never climbed a mountain before and now being the ‘expert’ leading a group of people my age. It went really well though and I learned a lot. I feel much more confident about leading other groups for the coming weeks this summer.

The climb itself was very grueling. It was physically difficult because of the altitude, rocks, and snow but very worth it once we got to the top. The view from the top was unlike any other. It felt like I was on the top of the world! I could see for about 100 miles in every direction. Pictures just don’t do the view justice. I’m very excited for the next time I get to climb to the top of a peak.

Me at the peak of Redcloud

The next day was thankfully a lot of sitting around and listening. We learned more about how to lead a group and organize a trip. We also packed out food for this week. That night we were treated to another amazing meal at family camp and took an all staff picture. We had also made plans to go to Gunnison on our day off for rock climbing, mountain biking, and a Wal-Mart run.

Friday night a few of us decided to sleep outside. Four of us girls slept on the porch of the cove and Nick slept in his hammock that was six feet above our heads. We slept in until 9:00, packed our bags, packed up some bikes and helmets and took off towards Gunnison.

The weather was awesome! It had to have been around 80F with very little wind and no clouds in the sky. The trails for mountain biking were unbelievable! There were a few steep uphill climbs but for the most part it was slightly downhill with some fun curves and dips. It was a fun thrill until we got to a really steep downhill section. Just to warn you this next part of the story is not the happiest. We couldn’t see the entire trail but Fritz who was an experienced mountain biker went first and made it all the way to the bottom. Then Meghan, who also has some experience with biking went and made it to the bottom. So Brianna decided to take her turn before she got any more nervous. The other three of us at the top never saw her come out at the bottom. Then we saw Fritz turn around towards where she must have been. Then Meghan turned around towards her as well. At this point the rest of us decided to walk down and explore the situation. After going down the trail a few feet I saw that the trail got increasingly steeper and more rocky. A little further down I saw Brianna laying face down with Fritz and Meghan on her side. I definitely did not want to refresh myself on my Wilderness First Aid training that I had just completed but it looked like that was what was going to happen. We were still on an incline but we had to roll her over so we did that. She was complaining of back pain and shoulder pain. I got the job of stabilizing her head for the hour that we were there. If you ever want a really good arm workout, stabilize someone’s head for an hour. My arms were very tired when the whole ordeal was done. Thankfully Meghan is a Wilderness First Responder and very good at it. Fritz rode to find Steve who is an EMT intermediate. We ended up calling an ambulance and putting her on a backboard to go to the hospital in Gunnison. Once she left safely in the ambulance all we could do was pray and wait so the rest of us decided to finish out the trail we were on. It was about 4:30 by the time we got back to our vehicles and none of us had eaten lunch so we left the trail/climbing area to go to a pizza place in town. By this time we got a call about Brianna so we went to the hospital to see her. She was still undergoing x-rays so we got the group that was at the hospital and we all went to get pizza. We were all a little slap happy because of tiredness, being in the sun all day, and the mental exhaustion of Brianna’s accident, so dinner was entertaining to say the least. The pizza was really good and almost everyone I work with likes supreme pizza!!! SO AWESOME!

We went back to the hospital to visit Brianna and found out that she broke her collar bone in two places and fractured four vertebrae. Thankfully the vertebrae broke in an area that will be able to heal themselves in about four to six weeks without much problems. Thank God!

Before we left Gunnison for the evening we stopped at the local grocery store (which is about half the size of the grocery stores around home but still the closest and largest grocery store to Lake City). I bought some Red Vines and Milk. They don’t serve milk here because it’s expensive so I had to go without milk for about two weeks! It was a very bleak two weeks.

So the whole 911 emergency was the reason I was unable to write a blog post last weekend. I apologize and I hope you will forgive me.

On Sunday we went to Grace church in Lake City. It’s a very nice little church. I really enjoy going to it. After church we went to the bakery in town which has the most amazing pastries ever! And they aren’t too expensive and the bakery itself is only a few blocks from church. I feel like that will be a normal stop after church.

Around 3:00 our first group of campers from Veritas private school near Austin, TX came. I got the job of cleaning bathrooms and the weatherports. But I did get to wear my cool staff shirt so that made it all the better.

I’ll let you know what a day in the life of an Expeditions staff member at Redcloud looks like. A typical day involves waking up around 6:00am. Meeting at 7:00am for prayer and then breaking off for individual devotional time. At 8:00am we meet at the cooking area to make breakfast which is quickly becoming my favorite meal of the day. I get to eat lots of scrambled eggs, bacon, breakfast burritos, French toast, blueberry pancakes, and fresh fruit. Around 9:00 I pack up my bright orange backpack (aka: my day bag) with everything from raingear to a climbing harness so I can be fully prepared for whatever the day may bring. Once everyone is packed up we leave for the day’s destination. Everyday is different but for the most part I’ll be going with groups to low and high ropes courses, rock climbing and repelling, the peak of a mountain, or whitewater rafting. At noon the group stops for lunch and rest for a bit before we pick up where we left off. We return to the cove somewhere between 5:00 and 7:00pm to unpack our stuff, use real bathrooms and start preparing dinner. After we have eaten diner and dessert, we either head up to the chapel for an evening talk or around a bonfire. Then it’s quickly off to bed around 10:00pm.

This week I’m on what we like to call ‘logistics crew’. Basically I’m not officially assigned to the group that is here but I do still have to work. A big part of what I’ve been doing is cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning. I don’t really mind any of it. In fact I’m really enjoying this week. I like cooking the meals because we get to be outside and I just really enjoy cooking in the first place. The dishes are kind of a drag but we get the campers to do most of them so it’s not too bad. I’ve cleaned the bathroom a few times which is surprisingly fun. I bring my laptop in there and crank some tunes and get to have some personal time, which can sometimes be hard to come by when you work at a camp.

A little bit about the town I’m living in. Lake city is like a blast from the past. There is one main road through town and if more than five cars are on it at a time it’s considered a traffic jam. There are a few coffee shops, a soda shop, several novelty stores, restaurants, a super small bakery, and a few other shops. All of these businesses look like they were built in the 1930’s and haven’t been changed much except for a new coat of paint or two. While driving through the town the people are seen wearing blue jeans, cowboy hats, and/or skirts. They are usually watering their lawns, fixing their bikes or cars, or just simply sitting on their porch drinking coffee. High school graduation happened last weekend. All four of the graduating seniors were blessed with a beautiful sunny day. One of the seniors is the son of a full time staff member at Redcloud and for his graduation gift he is going sky diving, he seemed excited to say the least.

An update on Brianna (the one who had the mountain biking accident). She had to stay in the Gunnison Hospital overnight but was able to come back to camp later on Sunday. Quick fun fact about her accident: a bike helmet saved her life! The helmet had a huge dent in it and was broken all the way through on the back. Wear a helmet!

She’s been staying in one of the rooms in the giant family cabin. Her parents drove up from Nebraska to stay with her for about three days. I got to meet them and they were both really nice and I could tell that Brianna was happy to have them there. Since those of us on the logistics crew didn’t have much to do in the afternoons we went over to visit her which was a lot of fun. She just had surgery on her clavicle Wednesday afternoon in Gunnison and it went extremely well. She now has about an inch wide plate holding her clavicle in place. She is starting to walk around a bit more and is feeling better each and every day. Her parents left for home yesterday morning but she will be staying here. She’s either going to be staying with Mark and his family or Kristin and her roommate Amy for the next couple of weeks. The doctors said that she should be able to go on hikes and things like that in about five weeks! Until then she will probably be helping us with things like cooking, cleaning and hanging out with the kids.

This weekend I will be helping the LEAD program (this is like Redcloud’s version of the BUDDIES program) on a rock climbing day. In other words, I get to spend a day in the sun supervising climbing, belaying, and repelling. Next week there are only four boys coming so all of us girls are planning on having girls night every night at Kristin’s house because she has a house with a TV and a hot tub! Brianna will be able to join us and we are all looking forward to that!

One last thing. Cyndi, Ryan and I had about an hour of free time last night so what did we decide to go do? Deer chasing! There were about ten mule deer in the field by camp last night and we had a previous conversation about if a guy were to slap an animal he would get a man point. However, Cyndi and I didn’t want the guys to have all the fun so we joined Ryan in this quest. We attempted to get them twice but were unable to get close enough… We figure, though, that it is only the beginning of the summer and we will be experts at chasing deer by the end of the summer. I’m really glad that the staff can be as crazy and up for anything as I am!

Prayer Requests:

- Brianna and healing quickly

- Continued energy among the staff

- Safety on our activities

- Some rain around here would be nice

- Continued relationship building among the staff


- The first week went well

- I’ve gotten to play some guitar

- The weather has be gorgeous

- Brianna being able to stay here at camp and still be involved with the ministry here

- I’ve been able to start some good friendships with several of the staff already.

- The campers this week really learned a lot about themselves and more importantly about their relationship with God.

- Whitewater rafting was awesome!

Thanks! Love you all! God bless!