At an early age I learned what you can do with a little help from your friends
The journey: I recall my first experience with outdoor education in the Aspen School District as a three day weekend to Ruedi Reservoir in the third grade. It was simple enough, we learned how to build a campfire, put up our own tent, and of course, fish. Throughout the next several years our class would go on bigger longer trips. The one that stands out the most is our 8th grade journey to Outward Bound in Marble, Colorado.
Weeks before we left we learned how tie ropes and bark out commands for climbing and repelling like “On-belay” to let the person on the other end of the rope know you’re ready, and “Belay-on” in reply to let them know “I’ve got you”. There would be no busing it to our destination, oh no, we were to walk. Our class was split into several different groups that would hike from Aspen over several large mountains. My group consisted of 10 people and we had to partner with someone we wouldn’t normally hang out with. My partner and I had to pack all our food and gear between us for our two-day trek. As luck would have it I was partnered with one of the most beautiful girls in our class. Needless to say this was going to be a great trip.
Our group set out, up and over Capitol Peak, a 14,000 foot monster of a mountain in Old Snowmass. That night we camped high in the Rockies lost to the world with the most spectacular display of constellations I’d ever seen. The next few days were spent descending and ascending the green valleys blocking us from our destination. All around us was evidence of the massive glaciers that formed the Elk Mountain Range long ago. On the third day we started dropping into Outward Bound near Marble. What a view it was. The valley opened up in front of us and we could see the trails of other groups descending in a straight line like ants on a mission. Groups came over passes like Snowmass Mountain, West Maroon Bells, and other routes lost to other memories decades ago.
We all regrouped at base-camp and were now ready to conquer some of our worst fears and challenges ever set in front of us. There were wooden structures woven into an obstacle course like the ones only seen in military movies. We learned how to cross swift moving rivers in a group. We climbed and repelled 40 foot walls of granite, walked a thread high above the river known as the Burma Bridge, and learned to conquer a 14 foot wall aptly named the Berlin Wall. Our challenge was to get our group of ten up and over this wall without speaking a word to each other. Have you ever tried to get a thirteen-year-old to do anything without talking? Impossible! Challenge accepted, challenge achieved. One night we were given a clear tarp (for a tent, no poles), our sleeping bags, and a pack of matches. We were given our own space far enough away from each other that we couldn’t interact and told to “solo” the night. The time was spent reflecting on what we had learned over the last few days. The comforts of home seemed a lifetime away.
Toward the end of our trip we were given the challenge of trusting everything we had learned from the beginning of our journey. A journey into life you could say. We had to truly trust in others. Standing at the top of a 150 foot sheer drop, I strapped on my climbing harness, attached my ropes the way I was taught, and with every bone in my body telling me to run, I stepped backward into the abyss, trusting my entire existence to the person holding the other end of the rope. “On-belay?”…”belay-on!” was all that was spoken, and into the challenges and fears of life I stepped.
A legacy preserved: A few years ago rumors starting swirling that this island of education might be sold. How is this possible that we could lose such an important piece of real estate? Don’t they understand the importance? Not to worry, the school system would step up and never let this happen, right? These were the thoughts that rolled around my head. However, everything remained quiet and it seemed the property might be lost – forever. Then it happened, a grande donation and a plea for help stood out front-and-center on my Facebook page. There among all the videos of kittens and puppy’s was a plea from Anne Austin Clapper, the widow of the late great Willard Clapper, one of Aspen most beloved educators and firefighters. She offered up a $10,000 grant and a challenge. The challenge was for all of us to donate as little or as much as we could to preserve this legacy for generations of students to come. And the call was answered.
Donation after donation came in. Some in small amounts and some in larger amounts, but all made with the love, support, and memories people had for this property. There was a gathering at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen to announce some news. Before the news could be announced people in the crowed started stepping up to the podium with check after check. I heard amounts of $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 a few times, and then a family stepped up with a large donation of $50,000 in memory of a family member that lived their life with all the vigor only one could get from an outdoor experience the 8th grade provided.
The announcement at that point was almost moot. They announced that Great Outdoors Colorado with money from the Colorado Lottery would be giving a grant, but most importantly, they had an anonymous donor that would make up the difference to assure the purchase of the Marble property. My heart swelled with pride for this community that I have called home all my life. A community that steps up to the plate time and time again. I couldn’t believe it, this was really going to happen.
“Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the Roaring Fork Valley community, the 47-acre property two miles outside of Marble formerly known as Marble Basecamp has been preserved for outdoor education and public trail access – forever.”
On Wednesday June 1, 2016 The Aspen Valley Land Trust purchased arguably the most important piece of real estate in the Roaring Fork Valley, if not all of Colorado, to be used solely for educational purposes. “[The Basecamp} will help young people find that sense of place and connection that will inspire them to become community leaders and the next stewards of our land”
It’s amazing what you can do with a little help from your friends!