Back to School with Mother Nature
As the first glints of gold touch the leaves and the days grow shorter, our thoughts turn to the beginning of a new school year. For me and all of the lifetime learners out there, September might even be better than New Year’s Day at motivating us to embark on new goals and learn new things. At Vermejo, there are lessons around every bend in the trail, and we’ve got a teacher who is second to none, Mother Nature.
Of course, back to school season at Vermejo is not just for the kids. Couples, groups of friends, or colleagues, basically all of us, love this time of year when the call of bugling elk can be heard in the distance and chilly breezes are the perfect accompaniment to warm sunny days.
Mother Nature is calling us outside to her classroom where nothing is virtual, and everything is real. In these hands-on classes you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch, history, biology, geology, Southwestern culture and art, and even schedule time for physical education on nature’s playground at Vermejo.
First Day of School
Just like in every school, day one is pretty simple. At Vermejo, instead of checking out a classroom, desk and locker, you’ll be making yourself comfortable in a cozy guest room or cottage that takes you right back to the turn of the 20th century. Sometimes called the Gilded Age, the late 1800s and early 1900s were a time of rapid economic growth in the Northern and Western United States. This is when Chicago grain baron, William Bartlett decided to move west. With the help of a crew, he built most of the roads, lakes, stone mansions and homes you’ll see at Vermejo. But before you get too busy with social studies, head out on our massive lodge lawn for a little frisbee or corn hole and then settle in on the veranda to soak in a stunning Vermejo sunset, breathe in the mountain air and settle into Mother Nature’s classroom.
Jump right into the sciences with our “It’s a Bug’s Life,” aquatic insects and fishing tour. You’ll spend time lakeside capturing and studying the insects that are hatching and thriving in and around the water. An expert guide will explain how the bugs’ life-cycles influence the fishes’ seasonal diets and then give you a chance to choose a fly and see if one of the fish thinks it looks tasty.
In the afternoon and evening, take a tour to see some of the work we’ve been doing to restore our riverbanks and forests to make them healthy environments for fish and wildlife. Along the way, you’re sure to see lots of different animal species, like bison grazing in a field, elk and deer wandering through the forests, eagles, hawks, and other unique birds soaring overhead, and if you’re lucky, maybe a bobcat, coyote, or fox.
Geology and P.E.
Hiking at Vermejo is always a geology lesson. In Fossil Canyon, you’ll see the layers of different colored rock that mark the time periods in the earth’s history. There are fossils that tell the story of the ancient sea that once covered much of New Mexico and Colorado, and in some places, you can even see the KT boundary, the line in the stone that marks the time period when the dinosaurs went extinct. Don’t forget to compare all of the different trees and grasses, colors and scents, and notice the warm sun and cool breeze on your skin.
A hearty boxed lunch is best enjoyed while gazing out at the view from a mountaintop and sometimes is a great beginning for an afternoon nap. Don’t snooze too long though, it’s time for a little physical education. What’s your choice 3D Archery, Archery Tag, Disc Golf, or maybe shotgun shooting at our 5-stand or Wobble Deck? No matter what, the name of the game is hitting the target and getting a little exercise in a gorgeous natural setting.
Social Studies and Astronomy
On day two, why not ease into the day the morning with a yoga class. Next, get a little equine therapy with a gentle headquarters horseback ride.
After lunch, you can hit the books with a Catskill Kilns Hiking & History Tour. You’ll ride in a truck or UTV up Spring Canyon past the Dead Easy mine which provided the coal to power headquarters during the Bartlett era. Truly step into history as you walk through the kilns and hear the story of the logging town that thrived there in the early 1900s, turning over 3000 cords of wood into charcoal each day.
Dinner is always something mouthwatering with fresh ingredients from our local farms and greenhouse. With a full belly, you might think about crawling into your warm bed, but don’t forget Astronomy Class! Vermejo’s dark night skies provide excellent conditions to see the constellations and on the clearest nights, the milky way. Nothing is better than a toasty s’ more roasted over the campfire while you study the stars.
P.E. & Art
It’s been a busy week. On this last day in Mother Nature’s classroom, let’s really focus on nature. A High Country Guided Mountain Biking Tour is the perfect way to take in the landscape with all of your senses while getting a little exercise. The trail is a gentle flat to downhill grade that starts in the high forest and winds down beside a gurgling stream and fields that are frequented by elk and deer herds. At the bottom, Costilla Reservoir waits, sparkling in the sun. Enjoy a lakeside picnic and maybe a little fishing before going back to the lodge.
With its spectacular view, the veranda is the perfect spot for everyone to unleash their inner artist. With nature crafts and painting projects for both kids and adults, we love watching guests take inspiration from their time in nature and turn it into a work of art that they can take home.
Whether you’re a lifelong student yearning to add a few more of Nature’s lessons to an already deep well of knowledge, or part of a family needing to escape the household screen for some connection with nature, Mother Nature’s classroom at Vermejo can’t be beat for a back-to-school experience this fall.