RMNP — SAFE BASE has embarked on something amazing, something unheard of. It is taking 68 students for one week into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado on a $100,000 grant obtained in March.
When I wrote the story for the Colorado trip, little did I know that my editor, Susan Lynn, would be gracious enough to let me tag along for the week. I will be following the groups around, speaking with students, taking pictures and doing my best to capture the essence of the week. For those parents who are sending their children out — possibly for the first time — I hope their minds will be put at ease even the slightest bit, seeing and reading about the children’s adventures.
Even after the first day on the road, and at camp, the children have made a summer’s-worth of memories. The students are alive with chatter and excitement, surrounded by the beauty of the mountains (a feeling which, in my opinion, cannot be replicated).
There are about 25 staff on the trip, including a police officer and a registered nurse. The students could not be in better hands, and Angela Henry, along with the help of her staff, deserve all the credit.
Each day is filled with new activities and experiences for these southeast Kansas youths. Their time spent in the mountains will extend much further than when they unpack their luggage at home. I’ll do my best to preserve that.
THE SUN is setting on the Moraine Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park, and 68 grade-school students are bustling around the tents, yelling and laughing.
Their attitude is quite amazing, considering how far their journey into Colorado has taken them over a mere 24 hours.
The buses left at around 9 p.m. Saturday, taking the SAFE BASE students west for a week-long excursion of fun, learning and excitement. But, the ride got off to a slow start.
“I could barely sleep,” Garrett Henderson, a Jefferson fourth-grader said.
“It’s awesome, but tiring,” Jefferson fourth-grader Josie Plumlee said while sitting on a rock outside the campground. She and her seat partner, Miah Shelby, spent the night in the charter bus, chatting, laughing and trying to sleep.
“We were screaming our lungs out (on the bus), what else could we do?” Shelby said with a giggle.
Following a 10-hour ride on two charter buses, the students stopped first at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. They filed into lines for breakfast, spreading out across the lawn of the museum — chatting with the occasional Denverite cycling around the area.
Once the museum opened, the groups (which consist of three students and one leader), split up and had the opportunity to see everything the museum had to offer. The students scoured the three-story building, watching demonstrations on space exploration, mineral mining, dinosaur fossils and the creation of the universe. The two hours flew by in a flash. SAFE BASE Director Angela Henry, still recovering from a sleepless two days prior to the trip, gathered the students in the museum’s IMAX theater for “Titans of the Ice Age,” a film about wooly mammoths.
Children “oohed and awed” at the beasts on the screen, while some others caughter a quick 40 winks during the presentation. From there, it was on to the mountains.
“LOOK, I SEE the mountains!” Plumlee yelled as she saw the peaks rising above Denver. It was Plumlee’s first trip to the mountains.
The children peered out the windows of the bus, gazing upon the touring range they were going to experience firsthand.
After a two-hour drive, the buses pulled into the campground, and eager students drained out and into the forest — greeted by an elk running across the road and into the underbrush. A park ranger from the campground filled the students in on campground etiquette and bear safety — the latter subject caught their attention.
“Watch out for bears!” was Nick Ruppert’s (Lincoln fourth-grader) advice for his fellow campers. The leaders made the proper precautions to avoid having any midnight visits from furry friends , locking food away into bear bins. As the middle school students prepped for dinner, a taco salad, the students filtered out into the camp. They looked among the trees, took photos of deer and stretched their legs after a long night in a bus. They are ready for some action.
“I’m excited about being adventurous,” Shelby said. “And just being outdoors for once.”
Skyler Sucher summed up what seemed to be most of the groups’ reaction from the first 24 hours. He simply looked up and said “Wow.”