Course Update: Colorado Front Range, East Slope

In the coming days you’ll start seeing regular posts to this blog–specifically, two different types of posts. “Course updates” are meant to give you an idea of the daily itinerary, activities, and resources. “Reflections” are meant to give you insight into our students’ thinking and learning as they experience it.

Upon our arrival in Denver we picked up the vans, loaded up the kids and the luggage, and struck out for our first site…Walmart. With our shiny new whiteboard and walkie-talkies in hand we headed northwest to the Gross Reservoir on South Boulder Creek. While on the drive, each van listened to some archived public radio stories on Colorado’s ongoing water concerns:

After a bit of frolicking at the scenic overlook above the dam, we sat the kids down to talk about some of the forces at play in the mountains, particularly in relation to water, in particular orographic lift and the rain shadow effect (which causes the rain shadow that resulting in a verdant west slope of the Rockies while the east slope is semi-arid by comparison).

An orientation to the central question of the course, and to how air, earth, and water interact in the Front Range of the Rockies

An orientation to the central question of the course, and to how air, earth, and water interact in the Front Range of the Rockies

We also discussed the central conundrum: while 80% of Coloradans live in the east slope towns (Greater Denver, Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins, etc.), only 20% of the state’s water drains the area through natural processes. The Colorado River and its tributaries pose an attractive resource to the population of the east, but rules are put in place to help keep balance. While still overlooking Gross Reservoir the kids played an interactive game tantalizingly titled “The Prior Appropriation Game.” It was much more fun than it sounds.

After vexing a school of fish and the region’s Water Commissioner, we hopped back in the vans and drove down below the dam to the South Boulder Creek trailhead. We hiked down to the creek in increasingly steady rain where Mr. Meyer gave the students a primer on journaling (students received their own leather-bound journal at the airport after clearing security). He read from Wallace Stegner’s “The Sound of Mountain Water,” then students spread out and claimed a space to sit down for a half hour and wrote, drew, or just took in the day.

Hiking to our journaling spot on the South Boulder River

Hiking to our journaling spot on the South Boulder River

We hiked out with the rain waning behind us, and headed for our hotel in north Denver. After dinner, we watched a couple of video clips to help give context for the the day and how it relates to the days to come:

The kids are getting along marvelously, and we couldn’t be happier with how we started things off.

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4 Responses to Course Update: Colorado Front Range, East Slope

  1. Congrats on a great start of your journey! Looking forward to learning more along with you and reading your reflections. Stay safe!


  2. Donna & Mike Hinkes says:

    Looks like your having fun. We can’t wait for your next post. LOVE the video!


  3. Sounds like you are off on a good start to your journey. Looking forward to following your posts as you uncover the interesting geological formations that shaped the Rocky Mountains. Should be fun! Hope the weather improves along the way! Just be glad you weren’t there last week when they had golf-ball sized hail and lots of it. Stay safe and enjoy the natural soundings. Weather in Atlanta is staying in the high 80s.


  4. Whit M says:

    Clark, Ted and Dana, this looks wonderful! I’ll be following for sure.


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