On June 2nd, I along with Danielle and two other AYM staff loaded up our 15 passenger van with kids and headed up to Parker, CO. Ten people, more luggage than necessary, and camping supplies packed out the van making for a cramped but cozy trip. On our way up, we crossed into New Mexico and visited the Acoma Pueblo town of Sky City. This town exists solely on the heights of a beautiful sandstone bluff. This community has existed since 1150AD, likely making it the oldest inhabited community in North America. Being unable to explore Sky City unaccompanied, we stopped for a short time and viewed mesa dwellings from below. Two hundred fifty structures exist; none of which have sewer, running water, or electricity. A pretty unique find in today’s over-connected and comfortable America.
Continuing on we reached our evening resting place in the Pecos National Forest in northern New Mexico. The Pecos has sometimes been connected with millionaire Forrest Fenn and his buried gold. Releasing a poem in 2010 that serves as a guide to the treasure, Fenn gave life to a frenzy of adventure seekers reminiscent of an 1800s gold rush. Always in search of new ways to fund our ministry, we wandered around our campsite hoping for some Indiana Jones good fortune. Who would have thought it wouldn’t be hidden around a popular camping destination. Check out the poem for yourself and join the hunt! Check out Dal Neitzel’s blog for all you need to know.
After getting a fire going (a good time using jumper cables, a battery and soaking wet wood from a day of rain before eventually breaking out a matchbook) the sun disappeared and the stars emerged. I think that is one thing that is most beneficial to a camper- the reminder of one’s size in a seemingly infinite universe. It’s as God put it in Psalms 8:3-4 when King David says, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Pretty counter-culture in a me-first world where material gain is atop spiritual obedience.
The next morning we continued north and reached Parker, CO and joined up with a supporting church of AYM. From this point on, the church provided everything, planned everything, and encouraged the staff and students for the next several days. These trips are a key ministry for our students as they are able to be encouraged by Christian youth similar in age and to see more of the world outside of the reservation. That week, we hiked around Parker and Garden of the Gods, visited the Air Force Academy, served at a Christian food bank, played some crazy 9-square and kickball, and shared what God’s been up to in Whiteriver with our prayer partners. The highlight was probably serving the food bank, SECOR, and seeing our students get down and dirty helping others. Pretty sweet stuff. Danielle and I were also able to slip away and hit up a Fjallraven outlet store which is nonexistent in AZ…so that was actually probably our highlight.
Leaving Colorado, the van headed west through the Rockies and into Utah. Our group stopped in Moab, a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts for its rock climbing, canyoneering, and mountain biking. When we arrived at our campsite, our group encountered the fiercest challenge of the trip: the mighty mosquito swarm. Camping on the banks of a Colorado tributary, we were in mosquito territory. Outnumbered and outgunned, we used nature’s insect repellant and built a wall of smoke with a triangle of small fires. The mosquitos tried their best but eventually retreated. The area surrounding Moab, known for it’s vast canyons and natural arches, was very different from Colorado and the Pecos that we had camped before. In the morning, we drove through Arches National Park and then headed south for Whiteriver. All in all, we were extremely blessed by the time spent with our partners in Parker for their hospitality, encouragement, and service toward us.