–Written earlier today, but sent once ALL chalutzim have returned from Masa–

Each Friday morning, when I sit down to write these letters, I wonder where the week went. They say that each day of camp is like three in the “real world” which makes these weekly updates more like 21-day summaries. This past week was no exception.

We began the week with a touching Havdallah on the basketball court followed by an awesome Yom Sport breakout consisting of flaming torches and blazing logs. Sunday was perfect weather for our monthly Yom Sport event. Ultimately, when all the points were tallied from the games, songs, and banners, Kachol [Blue] emerged victorious. Of course, point values did not matter much because everyone had a fun and exciting day.

Sunday morning also brought a joyous occasion: we were FINALLY able to name our goats. Despite our best efforts, the goats were not able to join us for Friday night tfillot. (Our goat farmers had to rush their “aunt” to the vet just before Shabbat due to a spreading infection, which is now under control.)  The baby goats will forever be known at Camp Ramah as Chalav and D’vash (Milk and Honey).

This week was our final masa week of the session. On Monday, the JOLI (11/12th graders) and Bogrim (9/10th graders) campers set out on separate 5-day masa’ot. While JOLI spent some time biking and climbing, they also took the opportunity yesterday to rise before dawn (at 3:00 AM!) to summit of one of Colorado’s beautiful—and challenging—14’ers (peaks higher than 14,000 feet above sea level).  Bogrim campers went on masa’ot including horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, and farming.  All had their own adventures and special stories that they told about getting wet in the backcountry, seeing incredible vistas, and having deep dinner discussions.

Sollelim (7/8th graders) split into groups between rock climbing, biking, archery shooting, hiking, and service projects at the Pueblo Mountain State Park. Now in its second year, our Archery Masa has become one of the more popular choices for this age group; chalutzim [campers] are able to spend four days doing intense shooting at the Staunton State Park Archery range, which features numerous 3-dimensional targets set up in the beautiful Colorado terrain. On the biking masa, chalutzim hone their skills over miles of forest service road and trail on our front-suspension mountain bikes. While some sections of this ride are relatively smooth, most of the journey is spent climbing impossibly high peaks or descending at rapid speeds into beautiful valleys. While pausing at the tops of difficult hills, many riders wondered whether the Forest Service could (or would) ever build paved bridges across these mountains.

All Metaylim (5/6th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where most were able to feed the giraffes by hand. They then left for a three-day backpacking trip into the Lost Creek Wilderness. Watching Metaylim chalutzim pack-out on Wednesday morning is always a pleasure because I see the looks of apprehension and excitement on their faces. As a younger edah, many embark on their first or second trip into the backcountry with the knowledge that, for three days/two nights, they will not be able to return to the comfort of their own beds. Madrichim [counselors] double and triple check that everyone’s packs fit and that each chalutz/a has all the gear they will need (especially rain jackets and water bottles). Every chalutz/a also carries a portion of the group gear, adding a level of importance and responsibility to each camper and each pack. Around 9:00 AM, groups hiked out into the wilderness or boarded busses to reach the trailheads, which led them home over the course of three days. The only thing that might compare to watching Metaylim pack-out was watching them return to us dirty, tired, and incredibly proud of the miles they hiked and the skills they learned along the way.

Ilanot (3rd/4th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the zoo with their older friends and then had an overnight with the horses on our ranch (despite their campsite being on property, we didn’t see them until they officially “returned” to us before lunch the following day). On Wednesday night, in a not-so-masa-like activity, the Ilanot girls enjoyed a private “spa-night.”  It was a great bonding activity, even if they appeared at Thursday morning breakfast as the cleanest chalutzot in the history of masa week! Today, the entire edah went to the local farmers market, where they interviewed the farmers and learned more about local agriculture.

Finally, our Amitzim chalutzim had their own three-day masa consisting of hiking, biking and a day at Wellington Lake. They slept out under the stars, cooked dinner over our camping stoves and enjoyed being in the outdoors. While every child in this edah has different abilities and sometimes they split into smaller groups for daytime activities, the incredible madrichim were able to ensure that they all came together in the evening for dinner, bonding, and resting.

As I am concluding this letter, the first of our trips are returning from masa. Over the next 4 hours 180 campers and 70 staff members will roll, walk and run into camp filthy, smelly and exceedingly happy. The washbasins are ready for everyone to clean and bleach their dishes and the solar water bags are filled (with over 1000 gallons of hot water) for everyone to shower. We will soon gather in the Pardes Tefillah for our final Kabbalat Shabbat of the session. It has been a magical beginning to this summer season, and we will be savoring our remaining few days together even as we look forward to next year.

As always, please be in touch with any questions, comments or concerns. Photos will be uploaded Sunday from the weekend and from masa’ot. In the mean time, please check out our video from the Masa’ot returning today.

Shabbat shalom!