A Day in the Life of the North Valley

by | Oct 2, 2019

Photo by Matt, our staff team practicing the helium stick initiative in preparation

A turtle pokes its head above the water in curiosity as over a hundred giggling children enter the Bachechi Open Space for a day of teambuilding and outdoor exploration.  Through the Cottonwoods, across the arroyos and acequias of the Rio Grande, and past the fruitful orchards of the North Valley, we hiked and learned about our surroundings.  Our day began with a gigantic circle of middle schoolers and the ultimate human-train version of rock, paper, scissors.  Fans cheered on the final two contenders in a head-to-head matchup which capped off a 100-person playoff bracket.  The epic championship was followed by small-group, team-oriented challenges and nature observations among the pecan groves, duck ponds, arboretum, and cottonwood courtyard of the Bernalillo County Bachechi Open Space.   Ducks gathered their young as students embarked across wooden boardwalks over the Bachechi ponds to attempt to lower the infamous helium stick to the ground.  The activity requires cooperation as a group, as the stick seemed to endlessly rise higher up into the air.  Lizards scurried across the desert sand as we travelled to the pecan grove for an activity that involved flipping a tarp that everybody stood on, without anyone getting off.  The activity involved problem solving, discussion, debate, and compromise in order to achieve the group goal.  Birds sang high overhead in the Cottonwood canopy as students guided one another blindfolded through a maze of obstacles laid on the ground by their peers.  The goal of these activities was to build teamwork and friendship among the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.  Upon completion of the anticipated outcomes, Cottonwood Gulch staff facilitated discussion on what worked well and what did not, and the challenge level was increased for another round.  All remaining free time was filled by the laughter of children hiding among the myriad bushes, trees, and other nooks and crannies of the Bachechi for the ever-popular and timeless game of hide-and-go-seek.  Lunch was filled with delightful conversation among the groups and sharing of the day’s activities, and reinforcement of a leave-no-trace policy that staffers at “The Gulch” live by.  The day was capped off with another gigantic circle of kids making some positive vibrations during a game of Beatmaker, where a conductor (the ‘Beatmaker’) leads the rest of the group in a symphony of hand-based percussions while the ‘Guesser’ must figure out who the Beatmaker is.  We wound down the raucous jam and laughter with a reflection on everyone’s favorite activity of the day.  As we hiked back to school along the arroyos and acequias, and past the orchards and groves of Los Ranchos del Norte, we pondered about the changes we had seen since morning.  Monsoon clouds rolled in overhead, shedding new light and revealing vivid colors of flowing water, plants swaying in the breeze, and abundant rocks that dotted our path.  Newly flooded fields awaited harvest, goats and llamas were set free to pasture, and fences glowed with a brand new layer of paint.  A memorable journey through a day in the life of the North Valley. 


Brad Jeffrey is a “rock doctor” with a Ph.D. in Geology from the University of New Mexico. He grew up
exploring the rivers, lakes, and forests of his native state of Wisconsin, before embarking on the deserts,
mountains, and canyons of the Land of Enchantment and the Southwest. Early in the morning and late
into the evening, you will hear the sounds of his guitar, or see him pondering a rock or panoramic vista
while contemplating a new puzzle piece of Earth’s story.