The summer of 2015 experienced early, heavy rains followed by drought, wildfires, smoke, trail closures, and a very unpredictable Mother Nature. While Northwest Montana and many other parts of the country hoped for rain, the outdoor adventurers took every opportunity to walk with nature – thankful for late sunsets and warm, sun-filled days.
During the summer months, we enjoyed three full days of adventure activities every week including mountain biking, swimming, horseback riding on and off-campus, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, hiking in British Colombia and the Kootenai and Flathead National Forests, and rock climbing at beautiful Stone Hill with breathtaking views of the Lake Koocanusa Reservoir and the surrounding Rockies.
While we had to cancel some of our multi-day trips this summer, there were still several that students chose to participate in. In June, Fathers joined their daughters for a retreat to the upper Missouri River in central Montana. In July, we spent a long weekend camping and whitewater rafting near Missoula on the Clark Fork River, the largest river by volume in Montana. It rained day and night for three days, but on top of that we still had a great time. We ended the trip with a surprise visit to the local hot springs to warm up with a long soak.
The entire campus spent a week at Glacier National Park to participate in service work in July. The projects included shaping hiking trails by widening, clearing check dams, shoveling gravel, brushing and limbing vegetation, and digging and removing tree stumps. The long trail work days were followed up with camping, swimming, and incredible hikes through the Crown of the Continent. One group reached the summit of Mt. Brown. Others hiked to the Sperry Chalet located on Sperry Glacier, known as one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the Park.
August was host to the annual Mother/Daughter retreat to Flathead Lake and the Summer Leadership retreat where 7 students, consistent leaders among their peers, were invited to hike the granite spires of The Bugaboos in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia.
As our beautiful big sky summer comes to an end, we look back feeling grateful for another successful adventure season. Some might guess we’d measure success as injury-free days on the trail or students who arrive with their lunches and all necessary adventure gear. While we do not forget to celebrate the small victories, we see success as having many more facets, multiplied, within each individual. Through training, action/adventure, processing and debriefing, our students are able to learn and develop leadership skills, communication, cooperation, and self-confidence. The true gems are acquired through the actions that lead up to reaching the summit after a strenuous hike, working as a team to navigate a river, trusting in the ground crew to reach the top bolts on a tough climb, or developing the bond between horse and rider.