4th Grade Pioneers New Hut Trip

September 23, 2014- Halfway up to the trail to the Sangree M. Froelicher Hut sits the remnants of an old log cabin, well on its way to returning to the earth. Shards of purple, leaded glass and and the rusty remnants of a wheelbarrow suggest that this may have been a 19th Century mining camp. Last Thursday, the beautiful creekside clearing served as a convenient spot for lunch as the first of two fourth grade groups made their way up to the 10th Mountain Division hut where they would spend the night. The spot was particularly fitting, because, like those who built the structure, this group of lower school students were also pioneers of sorts. Winter hut trips are a hallmark of the VMS experience and have been for many years, but last week’s excursion was the first time a group of fourth graders made the trek to treeline and also the first such trip during fall.

In the trailhead parking lot, as students donned packs bigger than their bodies, Ms. Sideli set the tone by asking the students what it means when people say, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” The query quickly turned into a discussion about the importance of group dynamics, and students were asked to volunteer for different roles to ensure everyone’s safety and happiness. One held the map and tracked progress. Another was the group’s caretaker, responsible for monitoring energy levels. The snack captain determined when it was time for nourishment, and last, but not least, the spontaneous dance party captain had the distinct privilege of leading a group rendition of the “Jellyfish,” a dance intended to loosen things up, both physically and mentally.

The three-mile hike took the fourth grade through gulches, across streams, up steep jeep trails, and finally above treeline into vast mountain meadows. Peak aspen foliage made the journey even more picturesque, and for some members of the class who had just moved to Colorado, perhaps reinforced that this was a place like none other they’d experienced before. Of course, hiking at 11,000 feet carrying packs laden with all they would need for the night was a challenge, but that’s part of the intention behind this VMS tradition designed to build character, foster a sense of community, and instill an appreciation of the natural wonders that surround us.

Toward the end of the hike, a collective scream of excitement erupted from the group as they emerged from the forest and caught sight of their destination, a modern-day log structure complete with solar lighting, beds, and a wood stove. After settling in, and a well-deserved snack, the group set out on more adventures which included hiking to the top of the mountain, building forts, and cooking a spaghetti dinner. The evening concluded with a gathering around a campfire where the students enjoyed fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies while reflecting on the day’s highs and lows.