Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!
I am sitting in the chadar ochel an hour before lunch, Israeli music is blaring from the loudspeakers, and the sounds of chalutzim (campers) returning from masaot (excursions) fill the air outside. Over the next three hours all our chalutzim will return from their masa’ot. After the initial shrieks of delight and quickly paced stories, all will unpack, shower, change, and be ready for another Shabbat at camp.
Our youngest two edot spent most of their week on our chava (ranch) where they had a chance to ride horses, shoot archery, ride bikes, and also go mining. Masa weeks tend to be much quieter at camp since half our kehillah kedosha (holy community) is away which allows us a chance to do programs that might not be possible when everyone is in camp. For example, this week our staff from the Mexican delegation treated us to real Mexican food for dinner and we had two shira (singing) sessions that were incredible because all the chalutzim and tzevet (staff) were able to fit into the small chadar ochel (dining hall) where the acoustics are so much better than our larger dining tent.
Yesterday and today, Ilanot has been on a masa of their own. On Thursday morning, they hiked out to Ramah Valley where they set up a base camp. Half the group then spent the afternoon hiking up Prospector Mountain and the other half of the group hiked to our neighboring buffalo ranch. On Prospector, the wild raspberries are in season, so hikers had a chance to eat their way up the mountain. At the Buffalo Ranch, chalutzim had a picnic overlooking a gorgeous pond before heading into the pasture on a UTV to feed the buffalo and cattle (the cows, by hand). In the evening, everyone met back in Ramah Valley for dinner and a campfire. Today the groups switched.
Due to transportation issues, we combined our entire Metaylim edah and sent them to the Arkansas River for their rafting masa. The group camped out together by the river on Tuesday night, and then spent Wednesday on the water. All reported that it was an incredible experience and the weather was perfect throughout. Our rafting company, Noah’s Ark, are some of the best trained and most responsible guides on the river, and so even when one boat flipped, the guides pulled all the campers into accompanying rafts just as they are trained to do. Campers in the flipped boat all called home, but most, whether in the water or on other rafts, just thought it would be an awesome story to tell. Sadly, this will be our last rafting trip of the summer since the water level will drop considerably by IIB.
Sollelim chalutzim had a chance this week to choose a masa that would challenge them on bikes, by foot (on one of three hiking masa’ot), at a 3-D archery range, and on the cliffs of the surrounding mountains. When I asked some of the Sollelim chalutzim what the highlight of their trip had been, I heard combinations of: the meals and camaraderie in the evenings at the camp sites, summiting some beautiful mountains and of course setting personal goals and achieving them. I heard from a few madrichim (counselors) who told me that they were so impressed by how well the chalutzim worked together to accomplish a number of challenges and encourage each other, especially when walking/riding up steep hills.
Our Bogrim chalutzim spent time on Earth Mountain Farm, climbed in two areas near our camp, biked on miles of road and single track, and hiked throughout Pike National Forest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. One group also spent the week kayaking near Salida, Colorado. For many of our Bogrim chalutzim this was their 5th or 6th masa at Ramah in the Rockies, and each year we seek to add additional challenges, especially for those chalutzim who have been “growing up” with us. One of the biking madrichim mentioned to me that this was the strongest group of bikers he had seen and they completed their initial route by Wednesday at lunch before tacking on two extra days of biking yesterday and today. On one of the backpacking masa’ot, their leader reported how self sufficient the chalutzim were a few days in and that they had taken charge of setting up camp and cooking each day. That is truly one of our goals for our chalutzim- that they learn all the skills necessary to backpack on their own and lead trips one day!
As has become the tradition with JOLI in the first set of their masa’ot, they returned to the Indian Peaks Wilderness where they had five magnificent days of hiking and camping. The group split into two and made a figure eight hiking loop so that they barely overlapped with each other. All had a chance to spend a night and day on their solo where they sit in one area and appreciate how far they have come (literally and figuratively) and have a chance to journal, meditate, and relax in the magnificent Colorado backcountry. Each JOLI participant also had a chance to be “a leader of the day”, where they had a chance to guide the entire group – deciding on the pace, when to eat, and the best route given the camp site they had to reach each night.
We will wait to hit “send” on this email until all our chalutzim are back on our ranch. Tonight is going to be the final Friday night at camp for almost 75 of our chalutzim and 12 of our tzevet members. When we gather tonight in our circle and sing our niggunim, we will be feeling an enormous amount of gratitude for having had another terrific week at camp and a sudden realization that the final 18 days of the summer are likely to fly by, so we need to savor each and every one them.
A quick slideshow of some of the photos we have received back from our Masa’ot can be found here!