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Prep Outdoors

There was no lightning threat in any direction; swirls of mist climbed the valleys, with pools of sunshine in the distance; we were working our way up the shoulder of Santa Fe Baldy at about 12,000 feet above sea level; and I was struggling. After all of my preaching about the Prep outdoor trips being an opportunity to get to know each other in a different context and intentionally entering into a state of shared vulnerability, here I was feeling very vulnerable. The students in my charge were, of course, idly chatting as I gasped for breath. 

We made the summit and marvelled at the 360-degree view and took our pictures. I mentioned to the kids that I was a little embarrassed at having struggled so much on the way up. They responded with an assortment of “It’s all good,” and “No biggie,” and “But you made it, right?” 

We headed back down to our basecamp near Puerto Nambe fairly quickly, fearing that our weather window would close. Soon after getting off the ridge and into the woods, the skies opened with a fury of hard rain mixed with hail. We got to camp and dove into tents to escape the tempest. Some apparently napped. Others sang Christmas carols. I tried to nap, periodically kicking the hail off the roof of my tent, while trying to figure out how to keep my soaked dog, Ruby, warm without soaking my sleeping bag. Finally, after about three hours, the inclement weather stopped and everybody emerged from their tents. We ate a very late lunch, which was really early dinner. Eventually, against all odds, the kids got a campfire going. We told stories around the fire and laughed and laughed, with the inside jokes that form on camping trips. We awoke to the first clear skies of the trip and hiked back to the ski basin.

I am confident that there are dozens more stories like mine from the 300 or so Prep students and faculty who were out camping in places as diverse as Buena Vista, Colorado; Chaco Canyon; Vallecitos; Coyote Creek; Wheeler Peak; Corkin’s Lodge; the Carson National Forest; and Panchuela Creek, to name a few.

Some stories will be all about the fun and some about the hardship and challenge. It was a good reminder for me, in my struggle up Santa Fe Baldy, that we create a better learning environment when we share our humanity—when we struggle and help and comfort each other. Somehow, getting out into the wild, away from the ubiquitous awareness-stealing technology, often brings out our best, most kind selves. We pause and have deeper connections with each other. We find fun and laughter, and let go for a time, our seriousness at school. We settle into this beautiful world we call home.

– Eric Rounds, Director of Service and Environmental Learning

Click here for photos of the many adventures our faculty, staff and students experienced in the outdoors at the start of school.

Above: One of the incredible views our students witnessed.