For me, the biggest thing I learned about camping, and in general, is that bad things can happen, but you just need to keep on going. From the first day to the last, we were always doing awesome activities and having fun, but that’s not to say that that we came out unscathed. For example, the canoe trip was filled with great hikes and awesome views, but on “camp day 4,” some people had to “groove” in mosquito-filled territory.  I waited until day 5, but the pests were still active and nasty. We survived, itchier and redder, and continued to row on. A day later, we were happily eating our candy, not crying from the experience. That shows just how important having a positive attitude is. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

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Colorado Reflection

Prior to Colorado, I had never been camping, I had never been without electronics or isolated from the rest of the world, I had never been without a shower for more than a week, and I had never done my own laundry. I can now say I have done all of the above…and survived!  Throughout the trip, I faced many anxieties and fears. For example: running out of gas in the middle of no where and having to push the vans for endless miles until we reached a gas station. Another fear was trying to fit all of my stuff into a dry bag that I didn’t think was going to be large enough for all my essentials. But by the time we started our journey on the river, I began to relax, forgot all about my worries, and was just enjoying myself and the beautiful scenery.

I think this trip really helped me learn to live in the moment and let go of some of my fears (our bus never ran out of gas, all my essentials fit in the dry bag). I temporarily overcame my claustrophobia when we crawled through the cave dwellings at Mesa Verde. I realized that I didn’t really miss being “connected” (we stayed busy immersing ourselves in our surroundings, with crew work and card games). The laundry was not as hard as I thought it would be, and although I relished my shower after the days on the river, I did manage without one for 7 days (I considered it a start to my efforts at water conservation)! In fact, I have made an effort to take shorter showers daily as a way to conserve water.

There were a number of other firsts on this trip. It was the first time I spent more than 2 weeks away from my family, the first time I ever used a debit card, the first time I slept under the stars, the first time I was ever in 4 states at one time, the first time I tried cliff “diving” and fly-fishing, the first time I had ever seen a dam or walked on a real farm. I cannot even begin to explain everything that I LEARNED on the trip. I had only ever thought that water rights/access were an issue in developing nations. I learned otherwise on this trip. The historical and political issues surrounding water use and conservation along the river are varied and complex. The problem of water conservation has really “hit home” and I don’t really see an easy solution to this ecological problem. This trip has forever changed me. The experiences that I have had, everything I have learned, and the friendships that I made, will always be with me.

In a few weeks we are traveling to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, etc.. and I am looking forward to applying all that I have learned about glacial geology and watersheds. Glacier National Park serves as the headwater for three continental drainages (Atlantic, Pacific, and Hudson Bay) and is located on both sides of the Continental Divide. I will get to experience the Northern Rockies and see how the melting glaciers (the glaciers are not what they used to be due to changing weather conditions) will impact the geology and biodiversity of the region and what the implications of the melting glaciers are for us. I am looking forward to my trip; and because of my Colorado experience, will see things from a different perspective. Thank you Coach Sadtler, Mr. Meyer, Coach Notestine, and Mrs. Sadtler for the experience and perspective!

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This trip has taught me things that I will always remember. After sharing a room with other people and moving around frequently I learned how to keep my things organized and not forget them in my room or tent. Also, having a card with a certain amount of money on it helped me become aware of the money I was spending on a daily basis. Ever since this trip I have been cautious and aware of the what I have been spending and buying. After camping on the Green River, I have a new appreciation of nature. It was awesome to get away from the loud city and experience the peacefulness and beauty of the canyons, mountains, and desert.

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Before going on the Green River I didn’t think camping was survivable, but after I realized how relaxing and important it is to explore the nature around us. Recently I went camping again, and it was a walk in the park. The river trip taught me how to see nature as our home and how to respect it. I now know that we need to keep what we have left of nature safe so we can connect with everything before us, and escape our crazy world.

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Journal excerpts: Writing

While we were a bit prescriptive about the sketching process, our journaling time was wide open. Some kids wrote observational pieces. Some took notes as if the landscape were a textbook, lecture, or whiteboard. Some wrote poetry. Below you will see the entries volunteered by some:

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Journal excerpts: Drawing and sketching

The practice of sketching is the practice of seeing. When we draw we are tempted to draw what our mind thinks a thing should look like, not how it actually looks. To counteract this tendency we follow a process of study and sketching.

One-minute memory drawing

Look at the subject for one minute. Study as much detail as you can. Then draw for one minute without looking at the subject.

One minute blind contour drawing

Look at the subject for one minute, drawing the subject without looking at the paper–blind, so to speak.

30 second gesture sketch

Draw the subject for 30 seconds, capturing as much detail as you can.

15 second gesture sketch

Draw the subject for 15 seconds, capturing as much detail as you can.

Five second gesture sketch

Draw the subject for five seconds, capturing as much detail as you can.


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Back in Denver, 8:15pm

We’re back in Denver, safe and sound. Expect updates, reflections, and some journal samples tomorrow morning.

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Course Update: Agriculture in the West: Past and Present

In days prior, we explored the use of water for recreation, for hydroelectric power, and as an ecological linchpin for wildlife. Throughout those days we made frequent mention of a vague term–irrigation. We often hear that the majority of western water goes toward agriculture. On Saturday agricultural water use took concrete form thanks to our visits at the Ute Mountain Ute Farm & Ranch Enterprise and Mesa Verde National Park.

The Ute Mountain Utes operate a farm outside of Cortez, CO. They draw water from the McPhee Reservoir on the Dolores River. Eric White, a Ute Mountain Ute tribal member, talked to the kids about the tribe’s travails with water rights and their own growth plans from supplier to retailer. He then gave us a tour of a cornfield and the enormous irrigation pivots that water fields as large as 140 acres.

We finished the day climbing cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, just outside Cortez. Mesa Verde NP was our nation’s first designated World Heritage site. The remnants of a native people (The Ancient Puebloan, otherwise known as the Anasazi) remain on the mesa. Although many theories exist as to why these people disappeared, there is one theory that brings us to this place. The Anasazi people originally lived and farmed the verdant surface of this high mesa. At some point they abandoned their homes on the mesa and retreated to cliff dwellings. And finally, they vanished for good. One possible reason for this change is water. As water supplies became strained, tribes splintered, tempers raised, and the threat of violence drove their people to the cliffs. Could it be that this was the last civilization to run out of water?

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Course Update: Down the River

As we continue moving down the Colorado River watershed, we take moments to think back to our time in Grand Lake. It seems like an entirely different trip. Likewise, setting up camp in Cortez, CO this evening, it seems like a week ago that we took out of the Green River. In fact, it has been two days. Much to catch up on.

After we loaded up our boats and bid our guides farewell we rode “the infamous Mineral Bottom Road” (no pictures available as all hands were on steering wheels, door handles, or covering our eyes) up to the rimrock and out of Canyonlands NP just a few miles north of Moab. We checked in to our hotel and did a quick turn-around to do some laundry and get some dinner. We decided to defer our evening in Arches NP until the next morning so as to give the kids some time to rest. So, the evening stargazing trip became a pre-breakfast journaling/sketching trip. We spent about two hours among Arches’ dreamlike Entrada Sandstone formations–time well short of what the park deserves–then headed down the road toward Page, AZ.

The drive from Moab to Page is one of inexplicable complexity. Intermittent periods of uplift, erosion, volcanic intrusion, and faulting make the landscape a bent, burnt, burnished, burled, and ultimately beautiful collection of cliffs, mesas, buttes, towers, pinnacles, hoo-doos, anticlines, monoclines, hogbacks, entrenched meanders, volcanic necks, and most other geographic features one can conjure. Geologic time presents itself in plain view, as if written in code on a chalkboard for anyone with curiosity enough to read and comprehend it. We spent the long drive reminiscing about the canoe trip, asking questions about the chalkboard diagrams outside our window. The kids are asking so many more questions than before the canoe trip. Not only have they sparked their curiosity, but their curiosity is better informed than before. They’re able to ask questions because they are beginning to know what they want to know.

What came next was “one dam thing after another.” Our arrival in Page was a bit later than we had hoped, but we did manage to squeeze in a visit with Paul Ostapuk, President of Friends of Lake Powell, an advocacy group committed to the preservation of Lake Powell for commercial, agricultural, and recreational purposes. Having already heard about Glen Canyon Institute’s “Fill Mead First” proposal (basically a call to decommission Glen Canyon Dam), our students found it quote stimulating to hear an opposing viewpoint. We are deeply impressed by the kids’ ability to ask thoughtful, provocative questions in a respectful way. On multiple occasions Mr. Ostapuk applauded the kids for their depth of interest and for the evident knowledge that lay behind their questions.

The next morning (this morning) we took a morning kayak tour on Lake Powell, exploring side canyons and doing a bit of swimming and “cliff-jumping.” We followed our kayak/swim with a private tour of the Glen Canyon Dam. Again, the kids impressed our Bureau of Reclamation tour guide with the level of thinking and understanding that went into their questions.

Still a bit soggy from kayaking, we hopped back in the vans and headed for Cortez, CO in the afternoon. We managed to make it to Four Corners with about seven minutes to spare before they closed. Given the time allotted, we had to be creative with our “Four Corners souvenir photo.”

We are in Cortez for the next two nights and will therefore be able to enjoy a slightly more leisurely pace.

Postscript . . . given that we are finally are finally editing and posting this a day late, we obviously have not hit any sort of leisurely pace 🙂

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Group shot from Window Arch!


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