Adventures, Artists & Goat Ropers! Updates from ACES Summer Camp in June

ACES Staff

June 30, 2021

Adventures, Artists & Goat Ropers! Updates from ACES Summer Camp in June

ACES Summer camp started June 14th. We’ve had an incredible first two weeks of camp. Here are some updates from our Educators!

Story of the Forest 6/21-25

This week at Rock Bottom Ranch, campers of The Story of the Forest class explored the wildlands around the farm to discover the different shapes, sizes, textures, and edges of plant leaves in addition to experimenting with different tree fuels that affect how fires burn. As we got to know the forested areas like the Cottonwood Gallery, students discussed what makes a story a story and built a fort to play in. On Tuesday, we took an adventure into the Lake Christine burn zone on Basalt Mountain to photograph and video pinyon-juniper, aspen and lodgepole pine communities to observe how different forests recover after fire disturbance. On Wednesday, we hiked up Buckhorn to experience what the forest community was like before the wildfire on Basalt Mountain. On Thursday, we had the plan to visit the 2020 Grizzly Creek burn area in Glenwood Canyon, however, due to weather and the risk of mudslides we changed plans and hiked in at No Name with a view of the fire’s boundary on the steep slope. On Friday, everyone created their videos to tell the story of Basalt Mountain and Grizzly Creek wildlifes and their resilience after a disturbance.


-Kamille Winslow, (ACES School Programs Manager), Adam McCurdy (ACES Forest and Climate Director), Derek Johnston (Partner Educator, The Art Base)


Children looking at a fire pit
Kids around a fire pit, looking at charred wood. Photo credit: Kamille Winslow (ACES School Programs Manager)

Children in the Lake Christine forest burn area

Campers in the Lake Christine Fire burn area. Photo Credit: Derek Johnston (Partner Educator)


First Adventures 6/21-25

Each day we focused on one of the different senses to guide us in our exploration. We learned about what it means to adventure and “lead” with a certain sense, connecting it all together through various activities, group games and LOTS of creativity. Day one we “lead with our noses” and focused on the sense of smell. We spent the day getting acquainted with all of the different smells of the preserve – rocks that smell like the earth, spruce that smells like citrus and tree bark that smells like the ocean (yes really)! On day two we explored Hallam Lake and beyond using our sense of touch. From red tailed hawk feathers to bear and beaver pelts, tree bark and horsetails, there were plenty of natural materials to get to know. On day three we collected mint leaves and spruce needles to make tea as we talked about taste. Day four (today) we put on our listening ears then sat and listened to the sounds at Hallam Lake and John Denver Sanctuary. Tomorrow we will talk about sight, get a chance to watch a bird of prey presentation and talk about how the animals (and people) at Hallam Lake rely on this sense! It has been such a pleasure getting a chance to lead this wonderful group of creative and kind kids this week. I’m looking forward to seeing more of their faces around this summer!

-Michael Michalak (ACES Educator at Hallam Lake)

Using our binoculars to check up on our heron friends and their nest.

Kids looking at the Great Blue Heron nest on the Hallam Lake Nature Preserve. Photo credit: Michael Michalak (ACES Educator)


Children picking mint leaves from the ACES organic garden
Campers picking mint from the Hallam Lake organic garden. Photo Credit: Michael Michalak (ACES Educator)

Gnome Adventures 6/28-7/2


What an awesome adventure week! These kiddos truly LOVE nature and have very adventurous spirits. With all their imagination, creativity, and enthusiasm, everything felt like an adventure! We explored the woods, collected bones and other treasures, and built forts and “gnome homes.” I hope everyone’s summers are filled with more adventures!

-Casey S. (ACES Educator at Rock Bottom Ranch)

Kids pose in the woods with their built stick structure

Cute kiddos pose with their new structure in the woods. Photo Credit: Casey S. (ACES Educator)


Kids walk through a meadow in a line.
Kids walk in a line through a beautiful Rock Bottom Ranch pasture. Photo Credit: Casey S. (ACES Educator)

Adventure Kids 6/21-25

I am happy to share some photos with you from a really fantastic week of adventuring. Each day we went on different adventures, and our week has been full of different activities, projects, group challenges, and lots of creative play. On Monday, we explored the nature preserve here at Hallam Lake, and decided on a fort area where we have spent time playing, building, and learning. On Tuesday, we ventured outside of the preserve to Herron Park, and then back to the “secret beach,” all while discovering different types of adventures that exist right in our backyard. Yesterday, we explored water habitats, making fishing poles from sticks and string, and went “pond dipping” to determine the health of the aquatic ecosystem by looking for bugs that only exist if there’s no pollution. We started off by going around the preserve looking for signs of birds, bears, and beavers, keeping a tally of the evidence we found. We also used our listening ears and binoculars to help us discover the diversity of bird life around Hallam Lake. We will wrap up the week tomorrow by witnessing a Birds of Prey presentation, finishing our fort, and talking about what it means to be a true “adventurer!” The group was inquisitive, courageous, and of course, adventurous! It made me happy that everyone is excited about outdoor play- this is so important for their generation, and I’m thankful to have shared this time with your kids. 

-Nick Molodow (ACES Educator at Hallam Lake)


Kids in the pond, playing in the water.
Kids in the pond! Cheking out the rain boots and the water at Hallam Lake Nature Preserve. Photo credit: Nick Molodow (ACES Educator)


The group observes a snake during a presentation in the Hallam Lake nature center.

ACES Educator, Channing Kaiser, showing campers the Hallam Lake Ball Python. Photo Credit: Nick Molodow


Roosters 6/14-18

Wowee! What a wonderful whirlwind of a week. We cockadoodle-dood all over the ranch. The heat couldn’t dim this group’s enthusiastic, passionate, and fun-loving energy. Our week started off with fort building–many of which were storm resistant, creative, and beautiful! We got to know the trees in the gnome forest by using all of our senses and trusting one another with “find your tree.” This was one of our home bases as we spread our rooster wings all over the ranch. We explored the wetlands, romped in the streams, and saw animals from birds, to grasshoppers, to even a mama bear and her two cubs! This crew happily helped with many-a-farm chores. We harvested radishes, watered in the children’s garden, collected eggs (of all sorts of colors!), and moved the bunny enclosure so they could nibble on some new grass. The symphony of the ranch animals echoed throughout our ears for the week. The cows mooed, the chickens bocked, the sheep baad, and the bunnies were just oh so cute and soft in our little arms. This group of explorers and pro-camouflagers got to play all sorts of games all over the ranch. We ran around, shared many laughs, and reflected each day in a group circle or in our nature journals. We also got to channel our craftiness–in our free time, fishing rods were built, pencils were created, archery was played, and art projects flowed freely. There was certainly no shortage of learning and joy. 

-Olivia Sackler (ACES Educator at Rock Bottom Ranch)

Summer Camp

Kids exploring the woods in teams with blindfolds. Photo credit: Olivia Sackler (ACES Educator)

Goat Roapers 6/14-18

The Goat Ropers enjoyed observing Star and Delilah and built their own goat model. They learned how to rope a goat with Farm Steward Sam, and several of them were able to rope their model goat Star. The Goat Ropers also built forts in the Gnome Forest, hiked into the wetland to collect macroinvertebrates to learn about the Ranch’s water quality, played lots of games like poison dart frog, capture the flag and code break, and cooled off in the heat with drip, drip French or the creek. They loved learning about how people care for farms and wildlands alike, especially when we got to observe a mama bear and her two cubs from afar by one of the chicken coops!

-Kamille Winslow (ACES School Programs Manager)

Kids stand in the Barn with their cardboard goat project
Kids presenting their homemade carboard goat! Photo credit: Kamille Winslow (ACES Educator)

Close up of cardboard goat

Close up of the cardboard goat! Photo credit: Kamille Winslow (ACES Educator)

Exploring Around 6/14-18

The days were loosely structured by themes, such as forest, animals, and water. We did numerous explorative and hands-on activities, like digging in the garden, pond dipping outside the nature center, and floating boats made from found materials. Our group was very interested in arts and crafts, so we did a lot of coloring and even some watercolor painting with water collected from the Roaring Fork. Of course, we also visited and interacted with ACES’ resident reptiles and birds of prey, a staple of many camps here. It was pretty hot this past week, but everyone enjoyed a cool down with our daily story reading in the shade.

The highlight of every camper’s week was probably our time at the fort. The first day was spent primarily building the fort, but as the week went on and everyone became friends, the play became much more imaginative and fun. On Thursday, every camper worked together to defend the fort (which had a couch and an elaborate sitting area) from an invisible army of lightsaber-wielding mice. Everyone participated and worked together, and it was wonderful to see. Another bonding element was our group mascot, Brownie the marmot, who traveled with us everywhere and gave lots of snuggles to kids. We celebrated our time together with a lemonade lunch party, and I know everyone was looking forward to it. 

-Channing Kaiser (ACES Educator at Hallam Lake)

Children sitting on the path with stuffed animals and books

Three children sitting on the trail with their books and stuffed animals. Photo credit: Channing Kaiser (ACES Educator)

Children with their backs to the camera heading into the forest

Kids walking through the meadow towards the forest. Photo credit: Channing Kaiser (ACES Educator)

Hiking Boots and Artistic Pursuits 6/21-25

Wow! What a week! We are so very lucky to have gotten to share such an incredible experience. What an amazing group. Their strength, perseverance, genuine curiosity, unique personalities, creativity and wild silliness made the trip very memorable. 

We started off our week at Hallam Lake making drawings that tell stories, building nature sculptures and fairy homes, hiking up hunter creek to get our trail legs, playing games and studying the colors that surround us. 

We then set off on our backpacking trip! Somehow within around 48 hours we managed to play spontaneous camouflage, cross streams on logs, admire the amazing wildflowers, support each other as the trail got steeper, create our cozy camp, cook delicious dinners of ramen and pasta, adventure around the valley above treeline, have high alpine snowball fights, watercolor paint in the sun and rain, sing lots of songs from Hamelton, survive some amazing rain and hail, honor true emotions, embroidery in between storms, celebrate Sophie’s 10th birthday, play lots of games, wake up to frozen tents, see freshly fallen snow, overcome fears, cope with homesickness, comfort each other, and learn how to repack everything we brought with us!

Here is a small bit of our itinerary from our backpacking trip.
Day 1: ~ 4.4 Miles – elevation gain ~1,238ft Lost Man Trailhead to campsite near South Fork pass.
Day 2: ~ 2 Miles – elevation gain ~600ft  Adventure from campsite to Sioux Lake and back.
Day 3: ~ 4.4 Miles – elevation gain ~200ft Campsite to Lost Man Trailhead!

Total Miles: ~10.8 miles
Highest point: 12,151ft
Lowest: 10,557ft

-Nika Meyers (Guest Educator and Artist) and Cecily Nordstrom (ACES Naturalist)

Kids setting up tents

Hikers set up their campsite and put up their tents for the night. Photo credit: Nika Meyers (Guest Educator and Artist)

Group of kids and two counselors posing with backpacking packs

Hikers celebrate the end of a great camp week with their counselors!

Thanks for such a wonderful two weeks of camp so far!

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