This isn’t your grandparents’ summer camp.
No, the Explorer Base Camp offered by Canyonlands Field Institute is up in the mountains and it’s unplugged.
That’s right. No cell phones, iPods, Gameboys or anything electronic.
Just aspen trees, mountain air, tents and a raft trip on the Colorado River with a couple of college-graduate guides in their 20s.
“It’s a chance to be out and be wild in nature, camp and have fun without a lot of gadgets,” said Karla VanderZanden, executive director of CFI. “To be up in the mountains is a treat this time of year.”
The base camp is open to students entering 5th through 8th grade. Three sessions are offered. The first – Tuesday, June 19, through Thursday, June 21 – still has openings.
The other two sessions are June 26-29 and July 3-6. Those have openings as well, though the second is nearly full.
The groups are small, VanderZanden said, with only five to 10 students per camp.
“The intention of the program is essentially that it’s a nature, outdoor-adventure-oriented camp,” she said. “We make a simple, rustic camp with tents at Wilcox Flats, which is near Warner Lake (in the La Sal Mountains).
“There’s a learning emphasis, but they’re also just out there having a good time.”
The campsite is about a 50-minute drive from town. Parents drop campers off at the CFI office at 1320 S. Hwy. 191 at the beginning of camp and wave goodbye until they retrieve them from the same location, three days later.
While at camp, the youngsters will hike – distances vary. One hike is a half mile near the lake. The big goal for the camp is to climb Gold Nob, which is about 3 miles and has a pretty good elevation gain. (Sometimes, campers don’t quite make it, VanderZanden said, and that’s OK).
Campers also take part in games and activities related to wildlife. They’ll learn about animal tracking and will spend time at the lake looking for water critters, finding who lives where and how they’ve adapted to be there.
In the forest, campers will learn about aspen trees including their role and what they’re used for.
“The focus is getting to know your backyard,” VanderZanden said. “A lot of the emphasis is being comfortable (in nature) but also on skill development. They’re learning how to do things, and there’s also some job exposure. Guides share how they got into their careers (with a message that) you could do this, too.”
Most of the campers are from the Moab area, but some come from surrounding communities such as Grand Junction, Colo., Price and Green River.
Organizers keep the camp to three nights because they realize that for some of the younger campers, it might be their first time away from home.
“That’s a big step,” VanderZanden said. “We do three nights instead of a week long also because it’s a little gentler on the moms.”
CFI provides healthy meals during the camp and also teaches kids how to be good stewards of nature. Organizers also provide tents, sleeping bags and pads, as well as other items the campers might need. They don’t want anyone to be turned away for lack of equipment or money.
An additional plus: The guides are conversational in Spanish.
On the final day, the campers ride paddleboats down a short stretch of the Colorado River.
Cost is $100. Scholarships are available, based on need.