Students mtn biking

The entire high school group tuned their mountain bikes for gear check the Friday before our outdoor education trip to the Kokopelli trail. Monday morning, students arrived early to strap their bikes to the trailer, load their camping gear, and drive three hours to Loma, Colorado, to the trailhead. Our leaders, Lea Gibbs, Emily Shoff, Claire Eastham, and Jesse McTigue, split off into groups to take the students on their first experience of the trail. Some worked on their biking fundamentals, while others worked out the kinks of their equipment, breaking chains and discovering some necessary tweaks for the coming week. Todd Smith took three students to Fruita to purchase all the food for the week, following careful meal planning prepared weeks before by the students. Now fully stocked, repaired, and loaded, we drove to our first campsite at the Rabbit Valley campground. Camp stoves were assembled, and tents erected as nightfall soon came on an already exhausted group. We circled up as a group just before lights out and made goals for the week to map clear intentions for a successful trip.

Tuesday morning, and each morning after that, proved a logistical puzzle with five leaders, three vehicles, and various biking experiences that allowed for some variation in our route and a spread of riders along the way. The leaders worked diligently to plan for the week with a detailed schedule of who, when, and how we would support our students along the trail with a SAG wagon, water, snacks, and gear ready to go at the next campground. Then, in the evenings, the students would step into their cooking roles to feed the hungry group. Meals of fajita burritos, stir fry, pesto pasta, grilled chicken, and burgers were eagerly scrounged with delight. Clean-up crews would then scrub dishes and pots as campfires were lit and smores and laughter were enjoyed under the emerging Milky Way.

Each evening, leaders would put on their teacher hats and lead the group in guided journal reflections. Jesse inspired the group with a story of one previous TMS student who wrote their college entrance essay about one memorable OE trip. Then she asked the students to identify their five I’s: Identity, Intellect, Ideas, Interests, and inspiration, fodder for their own future essays. Emily helped the students to develop events of the day into written memories on the page. Claire provided Social Emotional Learning lessons to manage the emotions that arose from such a physically and mentally challenging trip.

Tears and sore muscles from the trail inevitably turned to joy and pride in their accomplishment. Leaders telling their groups that it was all downhill after their hardwon climb was always met with more hills. Bloody calves and grease-smeared shins were soaked in the Colorado River in our final campground at Dewey Bridge. Then, a sunrise ride on Friday morning was rewarded with a perfectly timed, meditative view of slick rock and a pancake breakfast back at camp. 

We are thankful for such a successful trip where a broken chain became the symbol of hardwon acknowledgment and well-deserved reward. Like our Work Hard Play Hard crown, the chain was given each night to the students who best lived the values of our school. We met challenges with solutions as a team, bonded as a group, and became stronger as individuals. 

Click here to view a photo gallery