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Your Tentative Rio Grande Itinerary

Hello Rio Grande Semester (RGS) students! We’d like to present to you all your Fall 2020 tentative RGS itinerary! Before we jump into the details of the places we’ll be visiting we feel it’s important to tell you a little about how we came about this itinerary and how it will have to be flexible given the world we currently live in.

Given the fact that the COVID pandemic is still on the rise here in the US we’ve had to adapt our itinerary to have less “urban” or “community” time than originally planned. We’ll have to limit interactions outside of our pod and when we have guest speakers or work with partner organizations we will maintain strict social distancing protocols, wear masks, and practice proper hygiene. We’ve also spoken to our hosts about our COVID policies and the need for flexibility. We’ll continue to monitor the areas we’re visiting and may have to change our itinerary depending on changes in public health, weather or other factors. During our orientation and in your pre-course phone call with an instructor we will discuss this more and answer any questions you may have. So without further ado here it is!

Orientation: September 15-19 Fraser, CO

After picking you up from the airport or meeting you at the Dragons office in Boulder we’ll make our way up to Fraser, which is about 1.5 hours away. Here we’ll be based in a large house on 6+ acres of land where we will hold our orientation as we form our family pod. We’ll get to know one another, learn about the places we’ll be visiting and do some hiking in the beautiful Winter Park area.

Guest Speakers Series and Trek Prep: September 19-22 Ward & Boulder, CO

After receiving our COVID test results we will transition to Ward and Boulder where we will be meeting with guest speakers that will introduce themes around immigrant and indigenous rights. We’ll also be gearing up for our first trek in the La Garita Mountains of the Rio Grande National Forest.

Rio Grande National Forest Trek: September 23-27 

Deep in the La Garita Mountains near the headwaters of the Rio Grande we’ll embark on a multi day trek. You’ll be carrying your tent, sleeping gear, spare warm clothes and group gear/food but will be able to leave a lot of your non-trekking gear back in a secure location. This trek is designed to be moderately challenging but more so it will be an opportunity to get out into nature, learn some backcountry skills and get to know each other better. We’ll talk about this more in our packing recommendations yak but it may be quite cold in this area at the end of September. Fall in Colorado is famous for being 75 and sunny one day, and then dropping a couple inches of snow the next, and back to 75 again the next day. So pack for all weather conditions.

Recharge Days: September 28-29 Buena Vista, CO

After nearly a week camping in the scenic and rugged mountains, we’ll head to a private location outside the town of Buena Vista to recharge, do laundry, and get a hot shower before we gear back up for our next adventure at Mission Wolf.

Mission Wolf: September 30-Oct 9 near Westcliffe, CO

Mission Wolf is a place that has been near and dear to many Dragons instructors’ hearts for many years. At Mission Wolf the staff and volunteers run a sanctuary for wolves and wolf/dog hybrids that have been mistreated/injured or are otherwise unable to return to the wild. They work with local ranchers and communities to educate people about the importance of wolves within local ecosystems. At Mission Wolf we will be camping on the 200 acre property and teaming up with their staff to learn about wolf ecology and behavior, environmental sustainability, community service and so, so much more. Much like horses, wolves are hyper attuned to our emotions, so we’ll spend these ~10 days connecting with the wolves and ourselves, as well as continuing to explore course themes through daily lessons and activities.

Recharge Days: October 10-12 South Fork, CO

Leaving our human and canine friends we’ll head southwest to the mountain town of South Fork where we’ll stay directly on the Rio Grande river. We’ll have a few days to recharge and do laundry before venturing out again more remote locales. During this time, we can explore some trails and connect with contacts working in relevant fields in nearby Alamosa.

Great Sand Dunes National Park: October 12-15

We’ll camp inside the park with stunning views of the giant sand dunes and embark on day hikes in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, returning to our same campsite each night. As an official International Dark Sky Park the Great Sand Dunes National Park has some of the most impressive stargazing you may have ever experienced, especially from atop a mountain of sand.

Midcourse: October 16-18 Del Norte, CO

Midcourse is a time to slow down, reflect on the first half of our course and set intentions for the second half. We’ll celebrate this transition in a secluded retreat home in beautiful Del Norte near the course of the Rio Grande flow.

Wild Rivers Camping: October 19 & 20 Questa, NM

Crossing into New Mexico from Colorado our first stop will be where the Red River and the Rio Grande merge outside of Questa. This campsite provides some dramatic views as it’s nestled against the rim of an 800ft canyon overlooking the two rivers rushing below. We can hike down into the canyon as well as visit the nearby Chevron Molybdenum Mine to learn about the destructive impact of mines.

Freshies Farm: October 21-November 3 Velarde, NM

Farmer Chris Bassett and his family run a certified organic fruit farm about an hour outside of Taos located directly on the Rio Grande. We’ll use Freshies Farm as a home base while we explore concepts of permaculture, natural building, immigrant labor rights, land/water rights, Native American history and current affairs and many other topics. We’ll spend the majority of our time on the farm but will make many day trips to explore nearby natural wonders and meet with guest speakers related to course themes and the interests of the group.

Rio Grande River Trip: November 4-6

After following the Rio Grande for over a month and half we’ll finally get out on it and traverse it by boat. We’ll spend 3 days in rafts and kayaks making our way down the river, camping along the riverbank and getting out to explore the natural world around us.

Student Expedition Phase: November 7-19 

In this final section of the course, the students will work alongside the instructor team and our friends in New Mexico and Texas to co-design a safe, rewarding and educational 2 week expedition. Perhaps the group will be interested in exploring the unique landscapes of New Mexico, floating the Rio Grande through Big Bend Park in Texas, responsibly and safely connecting with guest speakers and organizations in the area, or one of many other exciting excursions. Some of the available options will depend on where things are trending with COVID considerations, but the students can expect to be responsible for the majority of the planning and execution of these final 1-2 weeks. If that makes you nervous, don’t worry! This is a goal we’ll be working towards and planning for throughout the semester as a team.

Transference November 20-23 El Paso, TX

We wrap up our course in the outskirts of El Paso on the US/Mexico border. Transference is a time to reflect back on what we learned over the course, prepare for returning back home and to celebrate the time we spent together. Students will depart out of El Paso on November 23rd.