I just returned from an amazing 36 hours at the Ramah Rockies Ranch. I had been there twice before, although never in the growing season. Wow, what a magical place! Although I have been telling people for some time that he ranch is 385 acres, I did not quite realize how big that was until I spent the better part of yesterday exploring the trails on the ranch only to realize there were so many more to walk when it was time to cook dinner. (By comparison, the ranch is a little less than half the size of Central Park! It took me about 5 years to really get to know Central park. I hope it does not take me as long to know the ins and outs of this place)
Peter Weinstein and Liz ?? (both former Ramah Canada trippers) joined me at the ranch for our exploration. It was great to have the company, because I can see how easily one could get disoriented if one did not have a good sense of direction. And letâ€™s face it, the number one rule of spending time in the back country is DO NOT GO ALONE. Even though this is all private property, it might as well be national forest, as there are areas that are well defined with nice roads and areas that are totally wild. We also left the back gate and hiked for a little while on the National Forest trail. It was super cool to think that we can literally walk out of the ranch and be in the National Forest! We turned back eventually when we realized that we were heading deep into the forest with only half a liter of water.
There are no words to describe how fortunate I feel to be able to begin this outdoor program on this property. Ramah Outdoors could not have asked for a better setting to begin programming. It is impossible not to be inspired by the towering mountains all around. It also is amazing to see how the burned out mountain sides on one side of the ranch have come alive this summer with green shrubs. When I was up there in November there was not so much as a blade of grass in the burn zone. Now 9 months later there were shrubs and tall grasses. I had been told it would be 400-500 years for the area to regrow. I could not but help to think that this projection might be off by a few hundred years if so much has grown in such a short time. 90% of the ranch was untouched by the fire. About 75% of the surrounding mountains were untouched, although there certainly is some burned out areas on the high mountain sides around the camp.
Last night after cooking dinner, Liz, Peter and I sat around a fire just dreaming about the programming that will soon transpire as part of Ramah Outdoors. We talked about the hiking, the climbing, the nature projects, the horse back riding etc. Peter has been instrumental in helping to guide this project along and it was so good to hear him talk so enthusiastically about the potential we have given the use of this amazing site. (They both are spending the week exploring trails for us to use next summer.) As the temperature dropped into the low 50s and our fire burned low, we looked up at a moonless night. The sky was ablaze in stars. I thought to myself, this is what Abraham looked at when God blessed him as the father of the Israelite nation. Here we were, the first Ramah Outdoor staff/advisors/ participants looking up at the same stars dreaming about the day when the camp will be filled with kids wanting to experience the outdoors in a rustic setting.
Before leaving today I went around the site with Mikki Gooding (the Ramah Rockies care taker) and went over the details for our summer training. We identified the area of the Ranch we will be using as our base camp. It is in a heavily forested area complete with running water, a covered cooking area and 3 solar powered toilets. I am now officially counting down the days until we welcome our first staff training participants to the Ranch in early August. If these past 36 hours are any indication, it is going to be a magical time!