by Nick Meyer
I quickly lost my concept of time when I came to the ranch. A day feels like a week, yet the last 5 weeks have flown by and I’ve had some of the best times of my life. Photographs and stories can give you an idea of what I’ve been up to, but it’s impossible to capture the beauty of this adventure without experiencing it.
I was anxious about embarking on this journey because I wouldn’t see anyone I already know for the whole summer. This has turned out to be a huge opportunity as I was quickly immersed into a community of incredible people. Although the views are breathtaking, it’s the people here that make the ranch special. Our staff has traveled here from all over the world from places like Switzerland, Australia, and Costa Rica, and the unique camp setting has resulted in a diverse group coming together as one. My favorite consequence of this is that even though we’re all walking different paths in life, we walk together during this time and all differences are forgotten. As a result I’ve been able to connect deeply with so many people I normally wouldn’t encounter by doing things like reading magazines in a hammock with a high school Spanish teacher from Kentucky or taking campers on an excursion with a boat cop from Louisiana. Each unique staff member has contributed to the formation of a diverse community that quickly became a family.
An additional reason I’ve connected with people so well here is because every camp counselor has the common characteristic that we’re all adults that are still kids inside. When the kids aren’t around we make up for it by doing things like building forts in the woods, singing camp songs in public, and throwing moose poop at each other (I will not deny participating in the last activity).
Something unique about the Colorado Mountain Ranch is that we are a day camp (except for Thurfriday, the best/worst day of the week, which I’ll explain later), yet our staff lives here the whole summer. There are four staff cabins, each of which will tell you that they’re the best, but mine is actually the best because I’ve decorated my room with pictures of friends from school and home.
Something important to us at the ranch is water conservation. We use outdoor toilets we call ‘flushies’ which you flush with your foot. I personally think that a toilet flushed with a pedal is the greatest innovation of the twenty-first century and it’s a national crisis that all toilets don’t flush this way. To save water, we’re also only supposed to shower twice a week, but that’s not a problem because most of us can barely find time to fit in one. I’m combatting this by using the strategy of spraying cologne on my armpits each day so when I sweat I start to smell good. We’ve learned to just embrace being dirty and rock our dirt tans. Our meals are prepared by our two chefs which we eat together in our main lodge. We need to start an exercise group because most of us eat 5 meals a day and the effects are starting to become noticeable.
We usually work 80-90 hours each week, but it’s very rewarding. There aren’t many jobs where you can get paid to climb trees with kids or go to an in-service where you jump on a trampoline with friends the whole time. My two main jobs here are working on our park crew as well as being a counselor for our youngest campers, 6-8 year olds. Because the camp is a half hour into the mountains on a dirt road, park crew transports the campers in buses and vans from a park in North Boulder. This entails entertaining the campers by singing songs and telling stories which they will tell you were bad and then demand that you tell another one. I’m actually grateful that the lady who sat by me on the train wouldn’t stop talking because I’ve just been slowly telling the campers her life story and it has kept them entertained. There are some days that I spend with the young campers where I feel more exhausted than I did after I ran a half marathon. Nonetheless, I love each one of them and I’m thankful for the opportunity to spend so much time with them; most of my kids come back each week for most of the summer, which I enjoy because it allows me to get to know each of them pretty well.
The kids get to spend the night once a week. We call this day Thurfriday, the never ending day. We have themed overnights and play related games with the kids. My favorite night has been Disney themed when I ran the fishing-for-donuts station. Because we don’t have enough room in the staff cabins for all the campers, we sometimes have to hang our hammocks outside in the gymnastics pavilion or the top of the lodge to supervise campers. Even if you are lucky enough to sleep in your own bed, you don’t get to sleep on Thurfriday; half the kids won’t be quiet when it’s time to fall asleep and the other half won’t be quiet when it’s not time to get up yet. Despite the lack of sleep, it’s still a great time and fun to show the campers where we live when they’re not around. Thurfriday ends with Whirlwind, which is where we deep clean the camp, which includes power washing buses as well as line dancing in the lodge.
Going back to water conservation – we actually ran out of water last weekend. This happened at the worst possible timing because it was the morning of our first catered event of the season. We addressed this by buying just about every single individual gallon jug of water in Boulder as well as filling a 3000 gallon semi trailer to water the horses. Fortunately, we determined that the reason we ran out of water was because there was a leak in a water-line, which we shut off and then we refilled our water tanks with the water we retrieved from Boulder. In the end, we were only without water for about 6 hours, which was great because we were all prepared to get memberships at a rec center in Boulder so we could shower there.
Life at the Colorado Mountain Ranch brings new challenges and blessings each day and I’m so lucky to be able to spend the summer with such an incredible group of people. I am the happiest I’ve ever been here and I wish I could bring each and every person back to Iowa with me in August. I think I’m going to have a hard time convincing them to come along so in the meantime I’m going to make the most of the next 6 weeks and I look forward to what lies ahead for me during that time.