Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weeks 6-8


Shalom and good tidings to you all!

Week 5 and 6 was rock camp. A group of nine high school students from around Colorado and Texas to learn the ins and outs of rock climbing. I was not on that trip but I was still able to get some climbing in. Nick, Meghan, Fritz, Jeremy, Ellen and myself went to Hartman’s Rock on the weekend to go rock climbing. We left camp after dinner on Friday night and drove an hour to Gunnison. By the time we got there the sun was already starting to set so we found a place to camp for the night but decided that we all wanted to sleep outside so we didn’t bother with putting up a tent. We then found a spot to go bouldering and along the way found a group of people who were having a good time with their friend Budweiser; we made sure to give them their space. When we got back to our campsite we decided to go straight to bed because we were all exhausted from the week and wanted to get up early so we could climb more. Well, we were awoken much earlier than we had expected by a rain storm at 4:00am! I must remind you that we were just sleeping on top of a tarp with no protection over top. I stayed fairly dry but the rain was loud and we were all awake so we talked until the rain stopped, which was at about 5:00am. Meghan kept yelling “Waffle House!” because she was hungry and that’s what she was wanting. Fritz decided to get up at 4:30am and go for a bike ride. He came back a bit later and asked if anyone wanted him to ride into town to get McDonald’s. We were able to fall back asleep after all the commotion and slap-happy conversation. The night was hilarious despite the rain and we still talk about it.

The next day was sunny and hot which made it perfect for climbing. I was able to climb some harder routes and I must say I’m now addicted to climbing.

After rock camp was done we expeditions staff and the Anderson family packed up for a trip to Ouray. Ouray is a small town in the heart of the mountains. It is considered the ‘Ice Climbing Capital of the World’ and is only about 40 miles from Lake City, but is about a three hour drive because to get there you have to drive on mostly 4-wheel drive roads at approximately 10-20 MPH. Needless to say it was an interesting (and bumpy) drive there.

Protecting our heads from smashing into each other on the bumpy road to Ouray

While we were there we took some time to go window shopping on Main Street, sample the local ice cream shop, and went urban bouldering. We stumbled upon a pretty neat playground in the city and the boys decided to use the playground as if it were a rock climbing area. It was a pretty funny thing to watch and we entertained ourselves with that for a few good hours.

Ryan urban bouldering


Cyndi urban bouldering

Ryan and Nick enjoying their time in the park

Also, while we were in Ouray we attempted to climb Mt. Sneffels but were unsuccessful because a large thunderstorm chased us off before we could summit. But we were all okay with that because that meant we got to spend more time in the hot springs in town. Sitting in a huge hot tub for several hours was just what we all needed. I think when we got out of there that night it was the cleanest any of us had been since we’ve been here. Yes, we do shower but this pool was able to rid us of our ‘perma-dirt’.

The next day before we left Ouray we went climbing at a local crag there which was a lot of fun. I was able to climb up a 90 ft run and from the top I could see most of the city. We then had to go back to camp but before we did we stopped for a greasy burger, sweet tea and ice cream; best meal ever!

My view from 90 feet up

Posing outside a bed & breakfast in Ouray

Week 7 I was again on logistics, but we did take a hike up Grassy Peak to break up the week. Grassy is a 12,800ft tall mountain right next to camp. There is really no trail up it so we used the hike to practice our map and compass skills. The hike up is ridiculously steep and really long but the view from the top was really cool. I could see all of camp, Red Mountain, Lake San Cristobal, Uncompahgre Peak, and most of the other mountains in the area. There was also some cell phone reception at the top so we all made some phone calls to tell people back home we were on top of a mountain. Actually most of the mountains around here have some cell phone reception at the summit but I’m usually with campers and unable to use any electronic device around them. The hike back down was tough on the knees but we made it fun by trying to only walk on fallen trees and rocks while descending.

Arial view of Camp Redcloud

This past week (week 8) I was with Fritz guiding Faith Lutheran Youth (FLY for short) from Castle Rock, CO. It was a typical base camp week. Monday high and low ropes, Tuesday rock climbing, Wednesday peak assent, Thursday rafting and Friday we did some more climbing. The bummer about this past week was how much it rained. Monday was nice but everyday after that we got a larger thunderstorm in. On Tuesday we had to stop climbing early because of lightning and on Wednesday we were unable to summit because of ominous looking rain clouds for miles that were being blown in. Thursday it was cloudy and a little cold but my group dressed warm and wore wet suits so none of them got terribly cold and all of them seemed to enjoy it.

Week 8 group on the hike up Uncompahgre

The group was one of the more hard-core groups we’ve had in. They were from Colorado and many of them had been rock climbing and hiking before. Several of the guys and one of the guy leaders were really involved with boy scouts. They had a fire starting battle to see who could start a fire quicker with mostly wet wood. The group that won used some notebook paper so I don’t know if I’d consider them the winner but the fire felt good after being stuck in the rain for a large majority of the day. The group was fun to work with and they liked to talk and discuss everything from skiing/snowboarding, to PC vs. Mac, to theological issues. I got to know all three of the girls but I also enjoyed getting to know the guys on the trip as well. The guys were big into music, beat-boxing, and overall enjoyed being outside, so, I got along with them pretty well. The girls were outgoing, were willing to talk about a lot of stuff and one of them was interested in creation vs. evolution stuff, so, her and I spent a lot of time talking about that which I loved!

Overall, the group was hard to say goodbye to. But, they all really had a great week and each of them said that God truly met with them. They were excited about all of the activities and what they were learning throughout the week.

Last night I was on a tired high. After we were done cleaning and debriefing my energy level suddenly shot up. I got Kristin, the ATC, to play catch with my foxtail and then we decided to hook ourselves up to the giant swing. We didn’t drop from the platform but figured out a way to hook the both of us up at the bottom and ‘pushed’ ourselves by running and then pulling our feet up. Every time we lifted our feet I either ended up sitting on Kristin’s lap or she ended up kneeing me in the thigh. It was an adventure and a good way to unwind after a busy and tiring week.

Kristin and I on the swing

This next week I’m helping lead a large backpacking trip with a group from Houston, TX. They actually arrive tonight and we are going to eat with them in town in a few hours. We will hit the trail tomorrow morning and get back late Thursday night. It should be a good trip. I’m excited to go but also hoping that the thunderstorms hold off a bit.

Prayer Requests:

  • Nice weather for the trip
  • Continued energy
  • Ample sleep
  • Mosquitoes leaving us alone
  • Jake has contracted Giardia – quick recovery for him
  • Enjoyment of the last few weeks
  • Safety
  • God continuing to reveal Himself to campers, leaders, and guides

Praises:

  • Lots of fun with fellow staff
  • Blooming flowers
  • The most amazing rainbows I’ve ever seen!
  • Being able to enjoy the activities and views around here
  • Brianna is now able to do all of the activities once again

I can’t believe that I’ll be home in about three weeks! This summer has just flown by. Thank you for all of your prayers, letters and support!

God bless!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Weeks 2-5

Greetings to you all!

It yet again has been a long time since I have posted anything, but know that I have been very busy with many wonderful things!

Week 2 of camp here at Redcloud was pretty easy going for those of us in expeditions. We only had a group of four boys come for the week so two of our male staff were with them and the rest of us had a few work projects and other random things to do. Our big work project of the week was to build a fence along one of the roads here at camp. We had to first demolish the old fence and then gather new wood from the aspen groves around camp. This was an interesting project because we needed twelve foot long logs that were not already rotted. The only logs of that sort we could find were of aspen trees that were dead but still standing. You may be asking yourself how do you gather trees of this type. Well, it involves a little bit of pushing and a little bit of carrying. You see, when aspens die they stay standing until a strong wind, an elk or a human forces them to meet the ground. Just a few strong pushes, a sturdy helmet to protect you from falling dead branches, and a yell of “Timber!” gives you a tree fit for a fence.

Here's a video of me harvesting an aspen

video

The Crew in front of the Finished Fence

When we weren’t building a fence we were watching the HBO series Band of Brothers. It all started on Sunday before the campers came. We wanted a short filler between a meeting and welcoming campers so we decided to pop in the first episode of Band of Brothers. We were able to watch about thirty minutes of the first episode and that was enough to get us hooked. Six days and ten episodes later we finished the series but still wanted more, so we’ve discussed watching the interviews and other extra stuff on the DVD’s. That will probably be next week’s treat.

The adventure staff had a huge group from a church called Bethel in Houston, TX. The group has been coming since Redcloud started in 1981 and uses the camp grounds but kind of does their own programming. They bring in their own speakers and do service projects around camp but they also take time to enjoy rock climbing, the high ropes course, and whitewater rafting. Since there were so many people here that week and since most of the expeditions staff were not assigned to the group for the week we helped out in the kitchen and I got to assist with the rock climbing. They also hire a square dance caller and rent out the town hall in Lake City to have a square dance. Several of us decided to go and I kind of wish that square dancing happened weekly in Lake City. All in all, it was a very fun week.

At the Hoe-Down in our flannel

The next week (week 3) we had a small group from Laverne, OK come for a traditional base camp. I was actually one of the official guides for the trip this week and I was both nervous and excited for that. The group (all five of them) was a lot of fun and really made me see the way that sarcasm can get out of hand. It was really neat to see the group of them grow individually and grow together as a group.

During the week Nick found a chipmunk and decided to keep it. I’m guessing it was ill and on it’s last legs because it didn’t move around much. He kept it in his shirt pocket or on his shoulder like a parrot.

Nick with Chuck the chipmunk in his shirt pocket (you can see the tail sticking out of the pocket)

We were able to repel off a cliff type thing called God’s Nose. It was one of the most fun things I’ve done since I’ve been here! Basically stepping off the side of a cliff and trusting a rope to get me down 118 feet safely, super adrenaline rush plus an astounding view!

God's Nose Repel Site

I happened to turn the big 2-0 on the Wednesday of that week. The day started at 4:30am. We had camped out near the trailhead of Uncompahgre so I woke up to a frost covered sleeping bag and still an abundance of stars up above me. We ate some quick breakfast and headed up the mountain. I wasn’t thinking we would be able to make it to the top because we got going a little later than we wanted to, the group’s physicality wasn’t outstanding, and it was rather windy that day. However, we made it to the top and it was an amazing birthday present! Uncompahgre is the sixth tallest peak in Colorado at 14,309 feet. The top is relatively large and flat so we were able to run around and have some fun at the summit. And by we I mean the other guides and myself, the group from Oklahoma decided to take some much needed R&R while enjoying the view. We saw several Marmots while we were up there and one even decided to sit right in the middle of the trail and wouldn’t move when we needed to go back down, so we had to poke it with a trekking pole to make it get out of the way. Also at the summit were quite a few small purple and yellow flowers that were being pollinated by none other than the classic bumblebee. I was surprised to see that at 14,000 feet. Mark, one of the full time staff here at Redcloud who was with us, told me that the first climbers of Uncompahgre saw several Grizzly Bears at the top. The grizzly bears have left since then because of the popularity of the climb, but I can’t help but wonder how terrifying that would be to get to the top of a mountain and find out that there are gigantic bears waiting for you there.

On the summit of Uncompahgre

The next week (week 4) I was again assigned to the group that was coming in but this time there were a few more people coming. Grace Fellowship from Witchita, KS brought 24 students and 5 leaders for a grand total of 29! To remind you the week before we had three students and two leaders so it was a bit of a change of pace around here but totally worth it! I really enjoyed the first day they were here because I was able to lead them in a few cheesy camp games (ie: the shoe game and horse, knight, rider) and then led them in a few cheesy camp songs (ie: Radical God and Jesus Loves Me-clap style). It was very good and they actually enjoyed it. It was probably the best first day we’ve had with a group so far, even though dinner took awhile to prepare because of an incident involving burnt noodles…

The next two days of that week the group did low-ropes, high-ropes and rock-climbing. I was assigned to rock-climbing for the two days. I got to work on my soft skills for those two days because I was assisting with the people who were not quite sure about the height factor of rock climbing. However, all of the students made it to the top of at least one route and were very proud of themselves (and I was too!).

On Wednesday we packed up our huge backpacks and were ready to hit the trail for two and a half days. Since we had such a big group and the road we needed to take required four wheel drive we got to take the army truck!

Ready to leave in the Army Truck

When we got to the trail head we explained such tactics as how to hike uphill, how much food and water a person should consume while hiking, and of course the beloved biff (bathroom in forest floor) talk. The trail we had chosen was a fairly easy one which looped from one valley to another. Basically, we started in the same place we finished. The guys went one direction and the gals went the other, we had planned to meet up in the middle but were unsuccessful… (both groups ended up going off trail).

The whole group (I'm on the far right)

The gals enjoying the scenery

I got to know all thirteen of the girls and the two leaders during the trip and I was able to get to know a few of the girls quite well. It was fun to see them grow as leaders and in their faith throughout the week. When they got here they were all pretty shy and didn’t know each other really well. But, when they left, new friendships had developed, confidence had flourished, and I could really see how God had grabbed a hold of many of their hearts. Since this was an extended trip (eight days), I felt even closer to the group than usual which made it even harder to say goodbye to them. I will admit, I shed a couple of tears as they drove off in their three fifteen passenger vans and I do miss them. But, I know that more groups will be coming in and I can stay in touch with them via Facebook. I will miss them, though. The whole group was a huge blessing to me and I know that many of them in that group will go on to do great things for the Lord!

Expeditions Gals

And now for this week’s happenings (week 5). This week is open sign-ups for Rock Camp. What that means is individuals (not just youth groups) can come for camp. Since it is a rock camp the group has been going rock climbing every day so far and will do so the entire ten days they are here with the exception of the two days they climb up Ninja route to summit Unnamed 13,394. The group has been in Gunnison climbing at Hartman’s for the past few days so it’s been relatively quite around here. Those of us not on this trip have been building a fence (again), going for hikes around the area, rock climbing, sleeping, building a sand volleyball court, and preparing for the extremely busy weeks to follow. Us gals had a girls night at Kristin’s house a few days ago which was a much needed time of fun and rest. We ate some amazing food with fresh berries for dessert, watched ‘Secondhand Lions’, and slept on some amazing temperpedic beds. Even though the beds were comfortable we all woke up at least once during the night (probably because our body was confused as to why we were sleeping indoors). We also had a hotdog/s’more roast at Kristin’s the next evening where Meghan made her first hotdog over a campfire. Astounding, I know! She’s 22 and has not roasted a hotdog over an open campfire until now!

I have started running this week and I’m surprised at how long I can go at this altitude. My lungs are basically going to be unstoppable when I get back to Minnesota.

Random fact about the pine trees around here: about two weeks ago I started smelling something that was terribly foul. The first time I smelled it I was with Meghan and it was like we had walked into a wall of death. The smell forced us backwards just about and we decided it smelled like a mixture of death and garbage. I figured it was something that would pass away in a few days but it started to waft into more places around camp. About a week later one of the full time staff here informed me that the cedar trees around here have some sort of fungus growing on them and that is the smell’s origin. I’ve been getting used to the smell but it definitely is in my top five for worst smells.

There has been more rain around here lately which has been nice. The dust storms have calmed down because of it and being in a valley surrounded by mountains makes thunder sound that much more awesome!

Brianna has been healing really well! She’s been helping us with worship, low and high ropes, and has been going on some longer hikes around here. Looking at her you wouldn’t even know that she was in a serious bike accident a month ago! She still has a long way to go but is doing more and more everyday. She has a doctors appointment on the 9th so we’re hoping that he gives her the go ahead to carry a backpack and sleep outside again. Thanks for all of your prayers! She has really learned a lot through this and is thankful for the speedy recovery.

Lake City is crowded with tourists at the moment because a lot of people from Texas come here to vacation over the fourth of July. On the fourth all the shops in downtown are open, people are everywhere, there are three legged races and other things like that going on, there is a parade in the afternoon, and to top it all off there are fireworks after dark. I’m looking forward to the parade because Redcloud always drives the army trucks in it and the expeditions staff get to repel off the sides of them! In other words I get to dangle from the side of a WW2 army truck by my climbing harness in a small town parade. (Don’t worry Mom, it’s safe! J)

Next week we don’t have a group coming in so we’re planning an all Expeditions staff trip. We’re not entirely sure what we want to do yet but we’re thinking rock climbing somewhere, a three day backpacking trip either on the continental divide trail or around Ouray, CO. Also, possibly a few other things such as cliff jumping/diving or whitewater kayaking but we shall see. I’ll let you know what we did after the week is over.

That’s all I can think to tell you for the moment… If I think of any interesting stories I forgot to tell you I’ll try to get those up.

Prayers:

- Safety for our rock camp group this week

- Courage among the campers that have been here to share what they have learned

- Safety among the staff

- That a newness and excitement is brought with every group that comes.

- Fun and safety on our staff trip

- That I find time to do everything, and do it well

- Health and rest among staff

Praises:

- Brianna’s recovery

- The fact that I get to see the most amazing parts of God’s beautiful creation everyday!

- Sleeping outside

- Great groups

- Staff bonding and friendships

- Great food and cooking outside

- Fun in all the activities

- Safety in all the activities

- Warm weather

- Thunderstorms

- God teaching campers, me, and other staff great things so far this summer!

Thanks! Love you all! God bless!