Archive for July, 2012

The Littler Side of Grace

This summer we have seen big examples of grace but this week,we have had the opportunity to see some of the smaller examples as well.

This week I have spent a lot of time with the Homesteaders. The Homesteaders are 4th and 5th graders and they are the ones who spent time with the pioneers on Tuesday. Both of my grace stories come from them.

Yesterday one of our campers celebrated his birthday. The kitchen staff made him a special cake and everyone sang to him. He started by sharing the small cake with his cabin and the staff members who were sitting with them at dinner (which I was one of). He still had a couple pieces left and he wasn’t sure who to give them to. In the end, he decided to offer one to the member of the kitchen staff who had brought out the cake to him and the last piece, he offered to his sister who is also a camper this week. She came over and got her piece of cake and then went back to her own table and shared the small piece with her cabin. I know that if I had been in that situation, I wouldn’t of shared with my sister and it was awesome to see so much grace from someone so young.

My second story also happened yesterday. We have three worships a day, 1 that the staff plan and 2 that a cabin plan. We were at a camper worship that the Parks cabin had planned and one of the boys got up to read the lesson. He had some problems keeping his spot within the passage but the rest of the campers just sat there quietly and waited for him to figure it out. Other kids that I know would of gotten restless or jumped up to do it themselves. Then we get to the last song of the worship. We were singing Sanctuary and the boys of Parks were helping to lead it. The song wasn’t perfect and there was some wrong words, but it was a powerful reminder to the staff that it doesn’t have to perfect when we are singing to the Lord, we just have to keep praising Him. As a vocalist, this is something that I tend to forget. It was really amazing to realize that these elementary school kids had taught me something.

Grace is all around us, in the big and the small. It is just a matter of looking for it. Where have you seen grace this week?

God’s Peace
Brandi Patrick
Summer Office Director

Hoodlydo from all of us here at the Ranch. Life at Sky Ranch this week continues to be amazing. The plethora of ages of the kids provides a unique (also a side-note: the rule of “an” before a vowel fails when the word following it is unique, in case you were curious) dynamic that we haven’t been able to see yet this summer. As we continue to live out Everyday Grace, many people who know and love Sky Ranch will attest that it is the small things that make camp so much memorable and help us to see grace each and everyday. Yes, this merits a story…

Today for the first time we got to enjoy the Pioneer walk, where the staff dresses up as some of the pioneers who settled the Sky Ranch property and the kids get to time travel and learn all about Sky Ranch’s history. As normal, one of the most beautiful and powerful things here is the kids’ imagination. When they get immersed in the story and join the staff in the silliness of pretending to be in a time they are not they just about give us all face cramps from the constant smiling. However what we tend to forget is that these kids are often smarter than us and can outwit us.

For example…

Unknowingly one of our staff kept her sunglasses on after our time travel only to be so kindly reminded by several of our campers that they didn’t have snazzy sunglasses like that in the pioneer days. It is in these moments where the staff stands speechless and their minds race in agony that I find grace. Those moments that knock us off our high-horses and remind us that we don’t have all the answers are moments of grace. Those moments where we remember that we too are just like them; children of God are moments of grace. And so it is in the smart remarks of the children that we can be humbled and remember that God’s grace is for all, even when we don’t have the answers.

So for now, I hope you all can continue to find grace in the most unexpected places, and maybe, just maybe it will render you speechless too.

In love, Peter Gonia

Taking Joy in Children

It is so good to be back at camp.  We have been so thankful for the hospitality of Highlands, the churches and people of Fort Collins, and so many others.  And now we get to be back home for our first full week of campers.  This is good news!  We have some new programs this week: for the first time we have Round Up campers (1st-3rd graders), Mountaineers (3rd-5th graders), Homesteaders (6th-8th graders), and a Leave A Trace group (high school service group).  What a spread of ages for week 5!

My highlights already this week have been watching the Round Up campers.  We don’t get to see these young ones much over the course of the summer, and they are such a joy.  Smiles abound around, and because of, these children.  To give you an example, I’ll tell you a story from this morning.  At Sondance, our morning worship, there was a skit to tell the message of the day.  For our skits up here, we have the campers do ‘curtains down’ and ‘curtains up’ where they cover and uncover their eyes so we can set the scene.  After the skit today (which was about Jesus being with us all the time, and our being able to see him especially through baptism), one of the staff members said ‘curtains down’ (cover your eyes) to end the scene.  This staff member did not realize the importance of then saying ‘curtains up’!  A couple of Round Up campers listened very carefully and kept their curtains down until they were told they could bring them up.

Moments like these are precious.  They call us to another time when we were all a bit naive.  Being around these children takes us back to another time, when life was filled with so much wonder, and a stuffed animal was a necessary pal for worship.  These children carry with them energy, and a completely different perspective on life that, at least for me, as an adult, I sometimes forget.

May you be filled with wonder and energy like a child, living life unafraid and unashamed of whatever naivete you carry.  May you know that you are still a child of God, no matter how old you are.

Peace to you from Sky Ranch!

Kirsten Sauey Hofmann, Chaplain

Sky Ranch programs have resumed at Sky Ranch as of July 8! Our heart-felt thanks to those who helped us during our recent evacuation and relocation to Highlands Presbyterian Camp. And thank you to those around the country who held and continue to hold us in their prayers.  We are excited to be home!

Bear/Property Update:  As you have no doubt heard or seen on TV, in our three week absence from Sky Ranch, two bears tore into our trash shed, scattering garbage all across the property.  Displaced by the fire and hungry, they took up residence in our lodge and helped themselves to a feast from our kitchen and pantry.  Needless to say they made a huge mess in the lodge and around our property!

On Tuesday, July 3, we hosted a work day to begin the process of cleaning up the mess that our bear friend left behind. With the help of Kent Garvin, volunteers from Colorado Iron and Metal, and a few seasonal staff; we started the process to ready the camp for our work weekend and campers.  We hauled two dumpsters full of trash away at the end of the day to remove any enticement that would draw the bears to camp.

Returning to camp on Thursday, July 5, we discovered that the bear(s) had returned. Since all the doors were locked, a window was forced open to gain entry to the lodge. Because we had cleaned most of the mess from their first foray into our kitchen, they had to look harder to find food.  In the process they tore out the grease trap and drip pan on our stove, chewed on a grill brick and made a mess with the little food they did find.  The biggest problem was that our prep island in the center of the kitchen, was pushed aside, breaking the waterline to the prep sink. The kitchen floor and serving area were flooded, with several thousands of gallons of water pouring down into the basement into the restrooms, laundry room, and our maintenance (electrical) room.  We were fortunate to have floor drains in the basement to help remove the water, but it ruined the ceiling and walls in several of the basement rooms.  We did call Serve Pro to help with the cleaning and disinfecting process that night.

So what are we doing to eliminate the bear problem at Sky Ranch?  While at camp on Tuesday, July 3, Andy and I met with Chad Morgan, our District Wildlife Manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.  We crafted a plan to deal with our roaming bears.  One of the bears, the larger cinnamon colored bear, had already been hazed by the Forest Service fire crew housed at CSU’s Pingree Park campus.  The hazing seems to have worked as it has not been seen since the first kitchen raid.

That leaves us with a yearling black bear to re-educate prior to the arrival of campers.  This bear is young and does not seem to be habituated to humans (it’s scared of us and runs off when we are around). This is good!  On Tuesday we did set a pepper spray trap near the trash shed so, if sprung, the yearling would learn to associate the trash shed with a very unpleasant experience.  When we arrived Thursday, the spray had been discharged and there was no further damage to the trash shed.  With the arrival of some board members and staff on Thursday, the bear has been seen but has not gotten into anything.  The arrival of more staff and work retreat volunteers on Friday (lots of noisy staff and guests), combined with the removal of any accessible attractants, should discourage the bear from hanging around and go elsewhere for food.

Since this is a young bear and not as quick to learn as the older one, we have contingency plans to further deter him from being at camp including the use of a paintball gun (with frozen paintballs) as a deterrent.

Camper and staff safety is the primary concern for the board and staff at Sky Ranch.  We would not open the camp to campers if we did not feel confident in ensuring their safety.  Chad Morgan (District Wildlife Manager), the Forest Service and the sheriff’s Department have all been notified of our bear activity.  Chad will increase his presence in the area and will be at camp Monday, July 9 to educate staff and campers about common sense deterrents.  Many of these are already standard protocol for staff and campers at Sky Ranch and include:

  • Collecting trash from outside containers on a daily basis (so trash isn’t left out over night), especially around the lodge and campground
  • Not allowing food/drinks in vehicles or buildings other than the lodge, camp store and the backpack center (all have secured storage)
  • Groups of 3 or more are required when traveling around camp, especially at night
  • Additionally, for the time being during weekday programming:
    • All meals will be cooked and served in the lodge (both due to bear activity and fire bans)
    • Resource Staff will conduct nightly patrols around camp to insure that the bear is not lingering

If you have any further questions about the bears; please contact the camp office at 970-493-5258, or you can call me on my cell phone at 970-817-1574.

High Fire Update:  With the recent rains in our area, the High Park fire is not a threat to Sky Ranch.  The area around the camp is not affected by the fire although you can see where the fire-fighters did put fire lines around many of our buildings.  Fire crews continue patrolling the fire perimeter and conducting fire line rehabilitation.  Chippers continue to work along roadsides to clean up debris that was cut prior to burn out operations.  Crews are determining how to reduce impacts of post-fire conditions since wildfires do increase the potential for flooding, erosion, mudslides and debris flow.

Sky Ranch truly is a garden in the midst of the devastation of the High Park fire (no wonder the bears want to be there).  Standing on the deck of the lodge, you would never there was a fire so close to our property.  As you drive through the burn area please drive cautiously and stay alert for firefighters, distracted drivers, rocks, mudslides or debris on the roads.  Please continue to pray for all those affected by the fires or any of the violent weather across the country.


Brad Abbott

GREETINGS FROM SKY RANCH LUTHERAN CAMP!!! After almost three weeks of being away, it feels great to send greetings and to share the joyful stories of campers up at Sky Ranch.

To get camp ready for our campers arrival yesterday was a group effort. With the help of most of the seasonal staff, along with a great group of volunteers, Saturday was a tremendously productive work day, completing three full pages of projects, including trail work around the lodge and camp area, repairing and replacing doors destroyed by our bear visitors, and a full clean up of all of camp. Thank you to everyone for working so hard to make our return to summer camp at Sky  Ranch possible.

It is with great joy that we welcome almost 90 campers and adult guests for our 5th week of programming. It will be a busy week, with 1 -3 graders for Round up, 4 – 5 graders for Homesteaders, 6 – 8 graders for Mountaineers, and a 25 person Leave a Trace group from Wisconsin working on a new woodshed, raised garden bed, and painting benches and the Nature Center. After being gone, what a great way to get back into the swing of things.

As we settle back into Sky Ranch, we continue to give thanks for the many, many expressions of Everyday Grace that were constantly showered upon us over the last weeks. We say thank you to the outpouring of support from local businesses, congregations, and friends of camp to feed, house, and provide for our staff. We say thank you to Highlands Presbyterian Camp for giving us a space to have camp away from camp. We say thank you to the many people around the country who held our staff and our campers in prayer.

I also want to say a special word of thanks to the many ELCA Outdoor Ministry sites around the country who have written notes of support and prayer, who have sent care packages to help keep morale up, and who have taken special offerings on the behalf of Sky Ranch to help cover the costs of evacuation and running camp at a different camp. I think outdoor ministries are one of the most important resources that our church has to encourage faith formation, self esteem, and Christian community for our youth and families. It is wonderful to know what gracious, loving, and generous partners in ministry we have.

Finally, a special thanks also goes to Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, our sister camp in the Rocky Mountain Synod. Rainbow Trail experienced their own evacuation due to fire last summer and was quick with support and empathy. Not only did they send a care package full of treats for the staff, they also invited Sky Ranch staff members for a week of backpacking during last week when all of our programming was canceled (pictures below).

For now, the sounds of morning worship are echoing off the hills. Soon there will be laughter and excitement as groups do low ropes, arts and crafts, and candle making. The sounds of camp are filling the air . . . it is good to be home.

– Andy

[nggallery id=33]

After 19 days of evacuation, this Saturday (June 30), we were finally allowed back into camp. Upon arrival, our celebrations were cut short by the discovery that a pair of bears had been calling the lodge home in our absence. While the mess and smell was indeed overwhelming, we got right down to business to figure out what needed to happen to have camp ready for campers for this Sunday, July 8th.

On Tuesday, we hosted a work day to begin the process of cleaning up the mess that our bear friend left behind. In one day, with the help of some seasonal staff and volunteers from Colorado Iron and Metal (who also hauled all the trash away at the end of the day), we were able to make quite a dent in the clean up:

  • We used a steam cleaner on the couches, rugs, door mats, as well as the all the rooms with carpet.
  • We cleaned all the trash out of the main floor and downstairs and mopped all the floors three times.
  • We power washed all the tables and serving surfaces from the dining room and hospitality areas.
  • We picked up most of the trash spread throughout the forest.
  • We cleaned out the trash shed and power washed it.
  • We cleaned out the fridge and pantry and threw away all the food that was destroyed or expired.
  • We made a good first step in cleaning the kitchen, though we will go over this again before we start using it.
  • We hauled away two full dump trailers full of trash and garbage.

When we left on Tuesday, we felt like we had a good jump on the cleaning and that with a good work weekend, we would be set and ready for campers. What’s more, after a conversation with Chad and the Division of Wildlife, we felt we had a good handle on how to deal with our bear friends. We understood that they would probably be back in the area, but we had some ways to discourage them from feeling too comfortable, including a pepper spray trap set up near the trash shed (which we planned to leave up until campers arrived).

With that, we all agreed to take a day off for July 4th and return to camp Thursday to prepare for the work weekend and continue the job of getting camp ready.

Arriving at camp today, we discovered that the bear(s) had in fact returned. The bears forced open a window (all the doors were locked). They got into the little remaining food left in the kitchen (mostly popcorn and spices). They ripped a door off of a stove. They tore up a couch. And finally, they pushed the preparation island in the kitchen, causing a waterline to the prep sink to break.  The entire floor of the kitchen and some of the serving / hospitality area were completely flooded, with water flowing down into the basement of the Maintenance (Electrical) Room and Boys and Girls Restrooms. All of the dry wall in these rooms was completely saturated and dripping.

Once again, not the return to camp that we had in mind, to say the least.

None-the-less, we continue steadfastly on. We are cleaning up the water and the food in the kitchen. We have cut water to the lodge and we will repair the pipe. We are in touch with the insurance company about options for cleaning up the kitchen and downstairs rooms. We hope to have a professional restoration / cleaning company up this evening.

We are still planning on hosting a work weekend July 6 – 8 prepare camp for campers and guests on July 8.  And we are still planning on having camp at Sky Ranch starting July 8.

As we prepare for campers to arrive, we have had thorough conversation with Chad from the Division of Wildlife about the steps that we can take to keep our campers and guests safe.  This primarily involves the “reeducation” of the bear–teaching the bear that Sky Ranch is NOT a source of food nor a comfortable place to hang out. This process includes the trap that has already been set up (and will remain active until campers arrive) as well as the use of a paintball gun deterrent. We all believe that as Sky Ranch is crowded with noisy staff and guests, the bear will be less likely to want to hang around. If the bear does continue to be a nusience, we have a list of excelated steps we can take.

As for our campers and staff, there will be some education as well. Chad (Division of Wildlife) will be at Sky Ranch on Monday to meet with the staff and offer some common sense suggestions. Generally, many of the steps we will take are already standard protocol:

  • Being vigilant to pick up trash from outside containers on a daily basis (so that trash isn’t left out over night), especially around the lodge in the campground
  • Not leaving food outside, in vehicles, or in buildings other than the lodge and backpack center (that have secured storage)
  • Staying in groups of 3 or more when walking around camp, especially at night
  • Additionally, for the time being:
    •  All meals will be cooked and served in the lodge (both due to bear activity and fire bans)
    • There will be nightly patrols around the lodge to insure that the bear is not lingering and will be chased off as needed

With Chad’s help, we feel confident that Sky Ranch is a safe place for our campers, our guests, and our staff. Now we just have a little more cleaning up to do to welcome people on Sunday.

If there are any questions about our programs or our plans, please email me or call our office at 970-493-5258. And please continue to keep our staff and our campers in your prayers as we take this weekend to prepare for another great week of ministry!

– Andy

Here are some photos from the Tuesday work day.

[nggallery id=32]


Planning Beyond the Bears

Since our return to Sky Ranch and our unexpected bear guests, there has been a lot of interest in how Sky Ranch is doing. Last night in Denver carried a story about our bear squatters (above). has two additional pages for the Sky Ranch Bear Scare – one with a full article and one with a photo gallery.

After all the excitement of having bears living in our lodge has subsided, the reality is that there is a lot of cleaning to do. While we are working with our insurance company and a cleaning company to look at our options, at this point, there isn’t enough financial coverage to have everything professionally cleaned. We are planning on taking a group of seasonal staff to camp on Tuesday to help pitch in with the effort (after all, it is why they get paid $30 a day). From there we will put plans in place for a work weekend, July 6-8.

Tentatively, we would like people to arrive after lunch on Friday (or earlier if you come with your own lunch) and plan on staying until after breakfast on Sunday. We will get started on Friday afternoon and make a big effort on Saturday. Tasks include cleaning up the lodge, picking up trash around camp, fixing trails, fire mitigation, and some of the maintenance projects that we haven’t been able to get done while not being at camp.

If you would like to help with the work weekend, please call our office at 970-493-5258 or email Andy. Once we have an idea of how many volunteers we will have, we will contact you with more specifics on any tools to bring or projects to expect to be working on.

From there we look forward to Sunday and the start of week #5 programming . . . at Sky Ranch!!

– Andy