One of the highlights of the Monster Slayers program was the trip to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Hidden away in a canyon and surrounded by incredible landscapes painted by Georgia O’Keeffe, Ghost Ranch is a camp where people come to get in touch with nature and expand their comfort zones.

After a five hour bus ride filled with laughter, snack food, music, and excitement, the Monster Slayers participants arrived at Ghost Ranch and settled into their cabins. After dinner, the students were led in some unique team building activities. A circular rope was placed on the ground, and the students were challenged to all fit inside. It took several tries, but eventually they figured out that with some people crunched in the center, others could stand around the perimeter with someone sitting on their shoulders. When the leader made the circle even smaller, some participants did not think it was possible to fit. However, one particularly innovative student came up with a solution and the challenge was met once again.

The next morning, students completed a low ropes challenge course. This prepared them for the high ropes course that would take place the next day. When given the task to get everyone through a large spider web set up between two trees without touching the web, students learned the importance of teamwork, communication, and persistence. The stronger students climbed through the larger sections of the web and then helped lift the others through the higher, smaller sections. The task was not completed perfectly, but during the reflection afterward, students voiced what they learned from it and in what way it expanded their comfort zones.

Comfort zones were stretched to the maximum the next day when the students participated in a high ropes challenge course. Twenty feet in the air were two ropes to walk across like a balance beam, a bouldering wall to climb, a wobbly, wooden bridge to cross, and a giant ladder to climb up in pairs. Each student set their own goals for completing the ropes course, as some breached their comfort zone by just climbing a few steps up the ladder while others comfort zones were pushed by completing the course blindfolded. As each person secured their harness and climbed the ropes, others stood below shouting words of encouragement. Once people became more comfortable with the high ropes, a competition was started to see who could complete each obstacle the fastest.

Besides teambuilding activities and challenge courses, students were able to ride horses, make pottery, hike, swim, and learn archery and yoga. Some students discovered new passions and talents at Ghost Ranch as they used a pottery wheel, shot a bow and arrow, or tried yoga for the first time. One student really expanded his comfort zone and tried something new when he decided to perform live music for the first time by playing his guitar at a talent show with an audience of over 100 people.

On the fourth of July, the Monster Slayers loaded onto a bus and headed to Taos, New Mexico to go white water rafting in the Rio Grande river. Each group of four or five students had a rafting guide who instructed them on how and when to paddle in order to navigate the rocks and rapids. The gorge was beautiful and students were able to spot eagles, sheep, goats, hot springs, abandoned cars, and other sites as they rafted down the river.

The trip to Ghost Ranch ended with a group hike to Chimney Rock. Some students sprinted up the steep hills while others who had never hiked before pushed themselves to make it to the top. Once the summit was reached, they enjoyed the awe-inspiring view of the canyons and rocks below and a group picture was taken. Then, students gathered in a talking circle. Talking circles were held each day of the program as a way for people to express their thoughts and feelings. A special stone was passed around, and each student shared what they learned during their time at Ghost Ranch.

The trip to Ghost Ranch had its challenges, but everyone involved with the Monster Slayers program, students, mentors, and school faculty and staff, enjoyed the trip, expanded their comfort zone, and learned things such as leadership skills and resiliency that will help them overcome any challenges they face in the future.

By Zoe