Are You Ready for Your Odyssey?
It’s 70 degrees and sunny here in Keystone, Colorado. As the weather finally turns warmer and the mountains suddenly turn from brown to green, we’re getting excited for our Summer of Odyssey! Spring is a season of transition, reflection, and preparation. A time when we think back on our summer adventures of the past and use those experiences, good and bad, to steer our way to new adventures.
Last summer one KSS counselor assistant wrote an incredibly eloquent blog post reflecting on her summer adventures at KSS. This is a truly beautiful account of one girl’s journey and the life-affirming lessons she learned along the way. Give yourself ten minutes today to read Anne’s story and I promise you won’t regret a single second of it.
At KSS, you mostly learn things about yourself that you couldn’t learn otherwise. It provides you with the circumstances to gain experience…that, “live and learn,” that everyone always talks about. The things you do and the activities you partake in throughout the six days act as a catalyst for change in self-knowledge, character, and emotion; they allow one to learn to persevere, and to conquer fear in its every form. Every year I go to KSS, I go in expecting to learn something new, and I’m always surprised at how profound it turns out to be when reflecting back.
Discovering snow science
As part of our Community Programs at KSS we frequently collaborate with Girl Scouts of Colorado to offer weekend environmental camps. This letter came to Girl Scouts this spring from a chaperone parent who attended the Wonders of Winter: Snow Science and STEM camp in March with her daughter’s troop. We feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with the Girl Scouts of Colorado’s Mountain Communities exposing them to new adventures and the everyday fascinations of nature.
Thanks so much for coordinating (and securing support funding for) the wonderful camp for Girl Scouts at Keystone Science School. We had a truly wonderful time and I think our girls had a really memorable experience.
As you know I was mildly concerned before we went that at 7-8 years of age, our 5 girls (from Brownie troop 14538) might be a little young to truly benefit from the snow science curriculum. However, you were totally right - the team at KSS had carefully tailored their educational program and activities for the different age groups and our girls’ interest and involvement was maintained throughout the weekend, and they definitely came away having learned valuable information and skills on how to manage themselves in the winter mountain environment.
The weather was pretty rough on Saturday with plenty of wind and clouds and snow. After a late night getting to bed on Friday night, my daughter, Eva (7), was tired and grumpy and announced during our Saturday field trip that she hated the cold, the snow, and everything about winter. However, after getting to play with interesting new tools, learning about different types of snow, looking at it through magnifying glasses, building snow pits and caves, building model avalanches and watching how they work, and learning how scientists measure snow conditions throughout the winter, she became quite the self-appointed expert! At one point during our Sunday field trip, I sank knee deep and fell beside her. While I laughed and exclaimed at falling in the snow she rolled her eyes and sighed with faux patience and explained knowingly, "It's not just 'snow' Mummy, it's 'melt freeze crust'!" At that point, I knew the camp had successfully pulled her out of her winter attitude funk, and by the end of the weekend Eva announced that it was all "really cool" and that when she grew up she wanted to be a "snow measurer" too. She also told me that she never wanted to leave KSS, and that we should stay for "at least the next 17 weeks" but if we couldn't do that, then we absolutely had to come back for the weekends in April and September, as well as the two-week camp in summer.
Experiences like this that encourage inquisitiveness and boundary-pushing and develop confidence and enthusiasm in our girls is why we joined Girl Scouts. Well done!
Living in a Piece of History
As an instructor for School Programs my days mostly consist of being in the field with students. However, just the other day I was spending a rare moment in the office when I stumbled upon old papers describing Keystone Science School’s history. I was ecstatic about my find because I always wanted to know more about the place I have come to love. While flipping through them I found documentation about the cabin I’m currently living in on campus. I reside in Wapiti, a small two-bedroom cabin. When I first moved to KSS I was told my cabin was built in the late 1800’s. After that I never really gave another thought to living in a 100 year-old cabin. But as I read through the old papers I got a glimpse into the past and connected with my cabin’s roots. I learned that it was once home to the Erickson family, some of the original residents of Old Keystone. It was also one of the first buildings in Old Keystone to have electricity.
As the first camper cabin on campus, Wapiti has been lived in and loved by many, and has even had a bit of renovation along the way. I feel lucky that I’m now part of this cabin’s long and happy history. I look forward to a day in the future when I can visit KSS and check on my little cabin.
The Good Side of Mud Season
It is finally spring in Summit County and the signs and sounds of melting snow are everywhere. If you’ve spent time in the mountains you know it as mud season. And I know it as the season of post-holing at the most inopportune moments.
It doesn’t happen when I’m by myself, investigating new terrain on a long cross-country ski. And it doesn’t even happen when I go wandering on a long run to see what kind of bird is up in that lodge pole pine. It always seems to happen when I am traveling with students. That soft snow is great for snow balls and also for swallowing me up.
When I’m with students in the field I carry a very heavy pack. The bottom is filled with extra clothes for wet kids and an over-packed bag of first aid supplies. The next layer is things that I know I’ll need like warm layers and my lunch, plus some salty snacks for growing boys. On top of the pile I have all the things I need to teach – my whiteboard and countless laminated sheets with graphs, maps, and some pictures. Top it all off with a few liters of water and as many markers as I can fit in a small zip-lock and it’s easy to see why I sink like a stone.
Typically I’m traveling with the kids on snow shoes or skis, cruising over the snow in our light and fluffy sage field, and it seems effortless for me. Maybe because I spend my time watching others struggle -- kids flopping everywhere, their first time on cross country skis. But when I stop in the middle of the field, because I get excited about fresh animal tracks or the perfect place to dig a snow pit, my feet go in deep. Usually we have just arrived in a place the kids would call the middle of nowhere. The students take off their skis to walk around in just their boots. Watching them start to explore, getting down on their hands and knees, starting to dig their first snow pit – this is when I get excited. I take off my skis, take a step, and down I go.
I’ve grown to like it. I like thinking of the small animals that have built tunnels in the snow all winter down by my toes. And how even though my feet go down, they are just reaching a crust and there is so much further to go. It’s good to remember that down there the sage is waiting for a little sunlight to start photosynthesizing again. It always takes me a little while and a little struggle to return to the top crust. But it’s just long enough to look around and see students finding new things that will melt away with the spring.