At Eagle Rock School, we’re kept pretty busy, what with a variety of classes, meetings and continuously working to make our community strong.
Nevertheless, we still manage to find plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors. With our campus nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, we are minutes from excellent year round outdoor recreation — including skiing, biking, snowshoeing, climbing, fishing, hiking — and even painting en plein air.
All of our students begin their Eagle Rock School career with a 24-day wilderness course that is largely focused on orientation, self-management and learning the skills necessary in order to live and learn cordially within a community of peers. And nearly all of this experience takes place in a pristine outdoor environment.
For many of our students, this is the first time they have been enveloped for a lengthy period in a natural setting, surrounded by rivers and forests and meadows and mountain peaks. Many of these students tell us the wilderness course is a highlight in their lives, and many say they continue to prefer spending their free hours outdoors upon their return to campus.
Our access to outdoor recreation venues is truly a blessing. Without even leaving the Eagle Rock campus, students have access to nearly eight miles of trails traversing the Eagle Rock property. The northeast side of campus has three small peaks (Shaman, Bonepipe and Armadillo) with popular trails weaving between and atop them.
The eastern edge of campus is marked with the perimeter trail, meandering between drainages and ridges. The Field of Dreams — our sports field located on the southern side of campus — connects to the northwestern side of campus via Rick’s Trail, built in memory of Rick Gaukel, an Eagle Rock-affiliated adjunct who died in a spring 2013 avalanche at Loveland Pass.
Our “sacred space trail,” located on the north side of campus, leads to a meditative area with wooden benches and a permanent log of student and staff thoughts since 2001. In addition, our scheduling regularly includes taking students on camping trips, day hikes, and trail runs throughout the area.
Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center is situated several miles from downtown Estes Park, where the Big Thompson River flows into the dam area at Lake Estes and then continues down Big Thompson Canyon to Fort Collins. A popular Sunday trip includes a bike ride around Lake Estes — a casual four-mile loop with breathtaking views of the 14,000-foot Longs Peak and the rest of the Rocky Mountain Range. The Big Thompson also provides excellent fly-fishing, and students who have taken our River Ecology class are often excited to get out fishing recreationally.
Following the Big Thompson River upstream for about five miles brings students to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, which offers endless outdoor pursuits. This past winter we had some excellent snowy hikes with snowshoes, visiting frozen lakes and waterfalls. Students who took our Winter Ecology class learned to telemark ski in the park. In the fall, we took some scenic hikes to witness the changing colors of aspen leaves. And with the arrival of spring and summer just around the corner, we’re getting warmed up for some serious peak climbs and alpine lake dips.
Most of all, students and staff appreciate the fact that we live in an outdoors Mecca here at Eagle Rock, and we all look forward to taking advantage of these surroundings for years to come.
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About The Author: Eliza Kate Wicks-Arshack is an Adjunct Outdoor Education Instructor at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. There, she develops outdoor education curriculum and assists in instructing and course directing Eagle Rock’s wilderness course. Eliza Kate earned her bachelor’s degree at Colorado College where she studied Sociology and ran their outdoor leader training program.