Surviving (and thriving) a class camping trip to Mesa Verde National Park

The main reason we switched Hadley to her new Waldorf charter school was for their experiential, arts-based education. The week before school started, we received an email from her new teacher announcing the first class field trip in early-October would be a three-day camping trip to Mesa Verde National Park.

[Insert Haddie's squeal of delight here. OK, if we're really being honest I did it, too. Hence the reason I signed up to chaperone.]

Spruce Tree House

I had only been to Mesa Verde briefly many years ago when I was writing about the Four Corners region (see the article here). With some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in a world, the 81-square mile national park in southwestern Colorado features more than 4,000 archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan people.

In third grade speak: “This is soooooo cool.”

It had the makings of a disaster: 23 kids, a 7.5-hour drive and many children were away from their parents for the first time or were camping newbies. But it was one of my most enjoyable camping trips ever. Not only were the kids angels but 12 incredibly capable parent chaperones took three days off work to accompany the class.

Getting There is Half the Fun

Remember the 7.5-hour drive? That’s not counting gas stops and a lunch break so we spent a good portion of our day in the car. Before you start feeling sorry for me, it was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever done in Colorado and the fall colors were at their peak. In the wintertime, Wolf Creek Pass outside of Pagosa Springs is treacherous. In the fall? A different story.

Durango, Colo.

View from car window from Mesa Verde

But still, after a long drive like that you have to wonder is this going to be worth it? That, and more.


We stayed at Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde, which has single and group camping sites. The first item of business was helping the kids set up camp. Hadley was assigned to a tent with five other girls and my co-parent Christine and I helped them set-up, after which there was plenty of time to explore, eat, snuggle up for storytime and eat some more.

If there’s a tree, Haddie will climb it

The party grove. I was never invited. #shocker

Tent mates at breakfast


Bustling camp

I scored and set-up my tent in a cossetted site tucked away in the trees.

Christine made the mistake of pitching her tent mere feet away from the girls so guess who they went to all night long for their needs? “Don’t worry,” I assured her. “I’ll take care of them on our second night.”

They miraculously slept straight through. [Insert evil, relieved cackle here]

For once, luck was on my side.

Stay tuned tomorrow for our adventures in Mesa Verde National Park, including scaling a 30-foot ladder. Go here to read that post.

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