It’s easy to tell when summer is in full swing at our Estes Park Center. Besides the increase in laughter, hoot and hollers, and the occasional “woo hoo’s,” just take a look at the budding aspens, the spotted fawns, the melting snow, the wildflower-filled meadows, and the rushing rivers. All of these are reminders that summer is in full swing in the Rocky Mountains!
At the YMCA of the Rockies, we mark the beginning of summer in our own way. For Day Camp, that means hundreds of kids a week playing and laughing in the shadow of the mountains. For the hiking program, it means guided hikes into the Moraine, up Flattop Mountain, and even on the Mummy Range! And for the Outdoor Education Department, it means sharing the wonders of nature on hikes and talks.
For those of you who are in the dark about what the Outdoor Education Department does here at the YMCA in Estes Park, let me bring you up to speed. You see, we do most of our heavy lifting in the fall and spring, when school is in session. During our peak times, schools will come to the sprawling YMCA grounds for a few nights. In the mornings and afternoons, the students take part in classes taught by our incredibly trained and breathtakingly attractive Instructors, the topics of which range from glaciology and montane ecology to beaver ecology and group initiatives. Our classes also align with state and national standards, meaning that students are actually LEARNING in the most incredible classroom of all time: outside!
In the summer we shift our focus a touch, instead teaching guests and families in a more informal setting. These types of classes can be the most fun; it’s both entertaining and heartening to see three generations bonding together to create a survival shelter in our Outdoor Living Skills class or posing for pictures in the National Park on our Mountain Forest hike. It’s even cooler to see the same families coming back for multiple classes. In addition to Outdoor Living and Mountain Forest classes, we offer the enormously popular Astronomy class four evenings a week and the sometimes frustrating (but always informative) Elk Walk (we haven’t figured out how to make the elk cooperate in the summers). We’ll even be adding a Route Orienteering class in the next few weeks, which is a crucial component to Outdoor Living!
The greatest thing about all of these already stupendously terrific classes is that they are taught outdoors! Interacting responsibly with nature is one of the central tenets of our Outdoor Education philosophy and we take it to heart every day.
Take the time to join us this summer. It’ll be a valuable experience and you might even see something awesome!
Classes are available seven days a week, free of charge, starting at the Sweet Memorial building. See you soon!
Blog post was written by Ryan Ayala, Assistant Outdoor Education Director at YMCA of the Rockies – Estes Park Center.