It’s El Ranchito Time!

By June 12, 2019 Conservation

Campers will be returning to Shield Ranch in just a few days and we are busy preparing for our 13th year of El Ranchito. Here are a few highlights from the spring season that we would love to share with you.

In April we celebrated 80 years of stewardship on Shield Ranch. Guests included family, friends, past and present staff, and neighbors and partners who have special connections to the Ranch. El Ranchito staff, some having spent as many as 12 summers camping at El Ranchito, gathered at the Conservation Corps campsite beneath the familiar pecan tree. They led groups on hikes along their favorite trails around camp and shared their stories of time spent on the land.

On an unusually cold weekend in March, 10 El Ranchito families gathered with the nonprofit, Families in Nature, to camp and play at Muleshoe Bend Park. Everyone especially enjoyed gathering in circles around the fire as well as an amazing potluck, an epic game of kick-ball, bird watching, fishing, and kayaking.

Our third summer expedition for 18 to 22-year-olds brings a new collaboration with the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. The Texas Rivers Expedition is a six-day, five-night traveling camp and service learning journey connecting young adults to academic, career, and recreational experiences on Central Texas’s special waterways. Participants will explore Barton Creek, the Blanco River, Whirlpool Cave, Westcave Preserve, Blue Hole, the San Marcos River, and Spring Lake while connecting with peers who are also curious about sustainability and conservation. The trip will culminate with two special adventures: kayaking a 6 mile stretch of the San Marcos River and snorkeling at the headwaters of the river in Spring Lake. Registration is still open! 

Community Connection and Registration Highlights

Our connections in the community continue to deepen and, as a result, Registration Coordinator Nancy Zepeda was able to reach even more potential camper families at El Buen Samaritano and People’s Community Clinic and open opportunities for El Ranchito families to benefit from their services as well. Nancy continues to make the registration process steady and supportive for busy families. Overall, 63% of campers attending El Ranchito are returning and 95% of Conservation Corps’ 10th-12th graders are returning to El Ranchito camp! Our incredibly fun and generous medical team includes Medical Director Dr. Brian Temple and Camp Nurse Becca Harkleroad. They provided 32 free physicals for campers at the Outdoor Kids event at El Buen Samaritano!

2019 Outdoor Educators Workshop: Mindfulness in Nature

In early May, a group of outdoor educators gathered for a day retreat at the Conservation Corp Campsite. Participants included El Ranchito Staff, nonprofit partners and teachers from AISD. Research shows that practicing mindfulness can bring about deep and meaningful experiences. Rob Dussler, chief education officer at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, led the workshop where participants learned hands on practices for mindfulness in teaching and learning outdoors. We are thrilled to have Rob collaborating with us to co-lead the Texas Rivers Expedition this summer.

A design team led by Andersson-Wise architects and Ten Eyck landscape architects is hard at work evolving plans for our new permanent facilities for camp. Campers had an opportunity to join the design process and help shape the future of the campsite. The new facilities will provide a fun, safe, and sustainable home for camp while keeping our forever commitment to a nature immersion experience. The new site will also provide year-round programming opportunities for non-profits, community groups, and other partners to convene in and experience nature. A fundraising campaign will launch soon. To get involved or to help connect us to donors, contact Christy Muse. We’ll be revealing site plans and drawings later this summer!

Thank you for cheering us on for a happy and safe 2019 camp season. We appreciate your support and could not do this without our many friends and partners.

May your summer be filled with meaningful outdoor adventures!