And it's time. We leave for Europe tomorrow and most of the adventurers have been signed up for over a year! We hope you'll follow our stories as these boys write a new chapter in their lives. Photos and updates will be posted on Facebook with a link to the full set of photos on our Flickr site. We start in London, arriving Monday morning. It might be Tuesday or so before the first photos appear.
Click to the check out the Flickr site.
So folks are asking? What do we plan for 2019. I love it when people plan ahead. We'll tease you with this photo, but just know we'll be spending two weeks in mid July 2019 somewhere great! We were last here in 2014.
Last night I was fortunate to be in the audience in Tryon at a concert by the Kruger Brothers. If you’ve never heard of them, or never heard them…you should check them out. http://krugerbrothers.com
The brothers are two Swiss-born musicians accompanied by an American guy and their music is is a blend of Americana roots music, a little bluegrass, folk, and even classical. Doc Watson was one of their inspirations and in fact the brothers settled in Wilkesboro, North Carolina to be near Doc and his musical influences.
And so how does this relate to how an MTA experience can turn boys into storytellers?
Well Jens and Uwe Kruger talked last night of their early musical experiences and how part of that was busking as young kids and teenagers on the streets in Western and Eastern Europe.
And that reminded me of a MindStretch Europe trip in 2009. We were exploring the streets and canals of Amsterdam and happened upon a string duo. It so happened that one of our adventurers was a 12-year-old who had recently started to learn the mandolin. As things would happen, Mark Gilbert was soon handed over the mandolin from one of the street musicians and the other European musician accompanied Mark for a number or two.
I’m guessing Mark no longer plays the mandolin, but I’m guessing he still remembers his entertaining me, his fellow travelers, and absolute strangers as he played on a canal bridge in Amsterdam.
And that’s one more chapter in turning boys into storytellers.
We hope you’ll be interested in being part of your own story this coming summer.
Read about the opportunities available this summer.
Switzerland – Turning Boys Into Storytellers
In just about nine months we’ll be trekking around Europe – our sixth trip across the Atlantic.
You can check out info right here: http://www.mindstretchadventures.com/europe-by-eurail-2018.html
So this little report is just to relate how one day can be so memorable…even in a trip of many days.
This is about an adventure we had one day during our 2015 trip and it was so grand we’re repeating this set of activities this coming June. While based in Bern, Switzerland a couple of years ago we took a day trip to the alpine village of Grindelwald, Switzerland. We reached this village in the Alps via a special scenic train. During our Europe trips prior to 2015 just getting to the village was our goal and it was absolutely perfect right there. Lots of shops, cafes, and incredible scenery and then that scenic train ride back to Bern.
But we expanded that day during our 2015 and added something entirely new and the boys and leaders this coming summer will get their opportunity to do the same. From Grindelwald we took a gondola several stations up the mountain where the views and the weather changed. It was gorgeous and it was cold. We had lunch up there in the elements and this was just the start of our day. From the station at “First” we started our descent back to the village. So if the gondola ride up wasn’t fun enough, it gets better on the way down. Boys took a zip-line down the first leg of the journey. From there they had a short hike to the next station, and from there they took scooters the rest of the way. Boys had the option of skipping an activity if they weren’t comfortable with the “high adventure” part of this day, but of course most were 100% on board.
It was an all-day day trip from Bern and we loved it. And, I can’t wait to be back. In fact, three boys will be comig back on the 2018 version for their second Europe experience. There “could” still be a spot or two if you know something who needs some amazing storytelling adventures in his life.
And that’s how boys become storytellers on a MindStretch Travel Adventures trip.
MTA – Turning Boys into Storytellers
With this post, we’re starting to feature memorable moments in MTA history. Some will be from trips just finished and others could be from trips long since relegated to the history books but still remembered by MTA boys and leaders.
So with this new feature, I’m starting with an amazing feat accomplished by a group of boys this past July while out in the Colorado Rockies. This trip was our sixth or seventh out to this area and we’ve always admired the beauty of Pike’s Peak. And for the past few trips we’ve always seen this cleared path going straight up and partway to the top of that mountain. But that’s as far as we’ve gotten. This year leader Don Silleman did some research and found out it was now a foot trail called the Manitou Incline. He also found out it is one of the hardest uphill climbs anywhere and especially around in these parts of the Rockies.
The trail, while just at a mile long, goes what seems to be straight up. The facts are scary enough but thinking of hiking up it should scare off most would-be hikers. The trail gains over 2,000 feet in less than one mile with an average grade of 45% (about a 24 degree angle) and in some places the grade is as steep as 68% or nearly a 34 degree angle). The trail is the remains of a former narrow gauge funicular railway.
Don offered the challenge to the kids. He explained the difficulties, what they would need to pack, and explained they would have to be up by 5:30 in order to get onto the first shuttle. A bunch of boys seemed excited about the opportunity and the challenge including a few that we personally didn’t feel would be able to make the trip. Mr. Y even showed a couple of videos to some boys just so they knew what they would be faced with. We figured by the time they got to bed most would either forget about it or decide to sleep in the next morning.
What a shock when 15 boys excited, if not sleepily, made their way outside the motel that fateful morning to try the first-ever Manitou Incline attempt by MTA campers. And they made it. All of them! What an accomplishment that I’ll never forget and I wasn’t even on the trip. I’m sure this is a story these boys will be telling the rest of their lives.
Find out about this year’s opportunities at: www.MindStretchAdventures.com and become your own storyteller.
What an adventure we had in the Colorado Rockies. For the second year boys didn’t have their electronics with them and for five days they didn’t even have TVs. It was refreshing. One night we had three bats in the commons room of our lodge at Snow Mountain Ranch. The entertainment of watching and helping the maintenance staff trap the bats caused one boy to say, “This is better than TV.”
We did tons of activities during our two weeks. A few of the highlights included taking in a professional baseball game, touring places such as the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, the US Olympic Training Center, the Air Force Academy, a goldmine (1,000 feet below the surface of the earth), hiking the Manitou Incline (just about the steepest hike one could imagine and 15 of our boys chose to conquer it), taking the cog railroad to the top of Pike’s Peak. Boys tackled a high ropes adventure course, a climbing tower, and a zip-line. Many boys went on a horseback trail ride, some went fishing, some went canoeing, some tried out archery…and the list continues.
It was a wonderful trip that will give these boys a lifetime of memories.
If you missed the activities, you can check out our daily blog and photo albums at:
We’ve been home from our North Carolina Mountains adventure for nearly a week. I’ve spent a lot of this time putting stuff away from that trip and getting things ready for the next one. A special thing I’ve managed to do is take a look several times at all of the trip photos. They can’t help but remind me of the wonderful time we had.
This was an amazingly well behaved and fun-loving group, not that I was expecting anything else. The boys earned several treats thanks to compliments they received. And yes I know I still owe them some of those treats. It was one of the youngest groups we’ve ever had with over half the boys being ten years old. Of course, that means the other half ranged from 11 to nearly 15.
We were busy. It’s amazing how much we found to do not far from home. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the backdrop for several of our adventures. One memorable hike was up to Clingmans Dome where we were encased in clouds and couldn’t see 50 feet in front of us. But who can’t forget how cold it was trying to eat lunch up there before taking the hike. We had had a temperature drop of nearly twenty degrees in just the few minutes drive up the mountain.
Some of the kids saw elk on three different occasions and everyone saw them at twice. Some kids got a glimpse of a coyote. They all saw wild turkey and groundhogs and other assorted creatures including a flock of chickens at the historic farm at the visitor center at GSMNP.
I think even the boys were somewhat moved by the retelling in drama of the life of the Cherokee and their removal along the Trail of Tears at “Unto these Hills.” And the next day we got to visit a living Indian Village and learn even more. Several of our boys even joined in a Native American dance.
We had a few firsts on this trip. One of those was taking the boys into a bank so they could cash their ten or twenty dollar bills for ones (for the vending machines). But for me the most memorable “first” was participating in the Junior National Park Ranger training and being sworn in by a real-life ranger. The “older set” of 13 year olds on up earned their “Not-So-Junior” patch and certificate. And that included me - fulfilling a life-long dream of becoming a national park ranger.
And of course, the boys will long remember the ropes course and zip-line and whitewater rafting at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the bowling tournament, the horseback trail ride in the Smokies…and more.
If you missed our adventures while they unfolded, you can check out the daily photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstretch/albums
And of course, stay tuned for our second trip, which gets underway on July 8.
During my first year of my travel camp program in 1978 I experienced the enjoyment of participating in a National Park ranger-led program for the first time. And it was way back then that I imagined how cool that would be to serve as a National Park Ranger. Well, years passed, decades passed…and it was never going to happen. But then I thought with retirement all but here, perhaps I could be a volunteer “ranger” at a nearby park like the Carl Sandburg Home or Cowpens National Battlefield site.
And now my dream has been fulfilled. Just this past week, when out adventuring with 22 kids in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I had the honor of having the title of “Not-So-Junior Ranger” bestowed upon me by Ranger Savannah and Ranger Mark (no, not this Mark). And I have the certificate and the patch to prove it!
It all happened while the MindStretch Travel Adventures boys were earning their “Junior Park Ranger” certificate and badge that I found out “not-so-junior” people (anyone 13 or over) could also get involved and become “rangers.” And so, there you have it. A life-long dream fulfilled.
Our first adventure is already on day number three. The only issue we're having and it's a "personal" problem is low wi-fi speed in the hotel. Uploading photos takes forever, so instead of keeping a daily blog...check out our photos and blog notes on our Flickr site.
You could also read the blog notes on our MindStretch Travel Adventures page on Facebook which will link you to the album from that day's photos. But for all the photos...Flickr is where you want to be! You can click on each photo for an enlarged image and a simple caption.
Click to go to Flickr now!
I never imagined that when I started taking kids on travel trips in 1978 that I would still be taking trips today! It has been a great ride and I'm looking forward to more.