Wilderness Trackers 2017

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Day 1

Good Evening Camp Courageous,

Wilderness Trackers is off to a great start. We have had a lot of hype from all of our Trackers about how they have been looking forward to this camping excursion. And the energy is high!! Which is awesome!! They look forward to this trip every year.

Check-in began at noon and thanks to Sharon Roller everything went smooth. All the Trackers had arrived and we were off getting ready to leave.

We packed up all our supplies, which took a couple of hours. But that’s okay, because we need to make sure we have everything for this camping experience.

Once we were done packing up the bus with the supplies, we made our way to Lake Todd so we could get some practice canoeing in. We went over our hand positions and made sure everyone was comfortable canoeing.

After our practice we hopped on the bus and made our yo Backbone State Park. When we arrived, we were greeted by a lady who mentioned that we would be visited by some friendly cows. I didn’t believe it at first l, but then s few minutes after we arrived 5 black cows mooed and greeted us. They couldn’t stay long, so Jackie and I shooed the cows back to there farm.

That’s a first for Trackers! We then began building up camp site and started dinner. We made a delicious beef nachos, with veggies, brown rice, and grapes. We then had popcorn balls for dessert. Hmmmm they were delicious.

In the mean time while everyone was eating we had quite a few visitors. One who is interested in traveling who is a camp host. Her fellow camp host, who asked questions about the cows. Finally, Steve Francis, the father of Tyler Francis who came to camp earlier this summer. Well Steve is the owner of the farm that is connected to Backbone, so it was his cows that got loose. He round most of them up, but he still had some missing. Well, it turns out that Tyler his son is housemates with one of our Trackers John Larkin! So as soon as they saw each other they shouted for joy! It was a great surprise.

After our meals, we got ready for bed and now resting away. There is a possible chance of rain late tonight, so I will be keeping an eye on the weather and plan accordingly.

Have a great night everyone and we will speak again tomorrow night.


The Trackers

Day 2


Good Evening Camp Courageous,

Our day started at 12:30am. I heard the sound of thunder in the distance and I noticed it was getting close. So after awhile looking at the radar, I noticed the storm was getting close to us. So we got everyone in the bus so we could take cover. We then made our way to the storm shelter and parked right outsides. Our area was not calling for severe weather, The storm was moving slow, we got a lot of rain and lighting. We had more rain then anyone else. With all the lighting, we made sure we took shelter. After the storm was over, we drove back to our camp sight around 430am, and finally got to sleep.

A lot of the traveler’s woke up early and others slept a little longer. Which was fine since we stayed up so late. This morning and into lunch we had the opportunity to visit with Brad Davis the owner of Pizza Ranch in Monticello. But before we went to his place, our goal was to get the bus out of the grass. When I dropped off the Trackers I parked forward instead backwards! So the bus got stuck. After awhile of trying, we got some help and the wonderful DNR helped us out! It was an adventure and the traveler’s loved teasing me about it! Before we got the bus out, I noticed the left tire on the yellow trailer was flat! So thank you to Craig Lampe for coming and switching out the trailer so we could continue our Trackers adventure.

So once all this crazy stuff went away it was time to head to Brad Davis place, where he was waiting for us to start our creativity! Brad’s Hobby is to build things out of wood. So he taught the group how to make top spinners. They were pretty cool and each tracker had a chance to make one! A BIG thank you goes out to Brad for hosting us and helping our Trackers experience this.

His wife and family also made us hotdogs and lemonade, it hit the spot. After we mingled for awhile, we hopped back on the bus and made our way back to backbone.

When we got back we rested on our tarps and worked on our Solo Journals. These journals help us relax and write how we are feeling and how Trackers are going! The Trackers enjoyed this.

Before we knew it; it was time for dinner, so Elizabeth Peck and her group made some Chicken Fajita tacos, grapes and for dessert a blueberry Clobber with ice cream. It was delicious. After dinner we played cards and continued to relax.

Since we had such a late night it was good for us to come back and get some rest. The Trackers appreciated it. Tomorrow we say farewell to Backbone and say hello to Pikes Peak, a new campground experience. It should be a great place. Stay tuned for more Tracker fun!

The Trackers

Day 3


Good Evening Camp Courageous,

The Trackers group had a wild time today! After we woke up from a quite night under the stars, we had a delicious potatoes and egg breakfast with fresh strawberries and blueberries. While the food was being prepared we tore down our campsite so we could depart towards Pikes Peak Campground. Before we left for Pikes Peak we needed to have a canoe wars experience!

After breakfast, the travelers hiked through the woods down to the boat dock. We saw some animal tracks along the way! It was a great 30 minute hike! We hiked up and down hills and along the lake. The travelers used their new walking sticks, which helped us navigate those hills.

When we arrived at our canoe entry level location. We took down our canoes and began our canoe adventure! As we began another year of canoe wars, we split up into teams. Melissa, Carolyn, and Jackie’s group were a team and Audra, Elizabeth, and my group were a team. We started splashing each other and getting each other as wet as we could. Before we knew it, we had a tip over!! Elizabeth, Tom, and Michael paddled so fast that they gently bumped into Carolyn, John, and Nathan’s canoe!! They tip the canoe and were in the water. We quickly but smoothly rescued them from the the water. They grabbed onto Elizabeth canoe and went straight to the dock. We got them out of the water, tipped the water out of the canoe and they got back in the canoe. Before we knew it we were at it again, but this time canoe races!! The groups raced to one end of the lake and returned to the starting point. It was an awesome time! It was then time to get out, we had a peanut butter sandwich lunch with grapes, pretzels, celery, and carrots. It was a great meal after a fun lake journey.

Before we knew it, it was time to head to Pikes Peak. We drove an hour to North Eastern Iowa to spend the next couple of nights. Once we arrived, we set up camp and started dinner. In the mean time Elizabeth started her activity of water filters! The Trackers took plastic water bottles, sand, and items on the ground to create a water filter. They took mud water and put it through the sand and the water came out clear. Bartek and Michael had the clearest water! Way to go guys!! It was a successful activity.

Audra then announced that dinner was ready, so we had a very delicious cucumber, tomato, and mozzarella salad with a two bean chili! Way to go Audra with the meals today, they were delicious!

While we were eating we noticed a sound coming from the distance and it was thunder! A storm developed and we found ourselves in the shelter.

While we were in the shelter, the groups sang a few songs (Pizza Hut, Let it Go and the cup song), played a couple rounds of black magic and chatted about favorite movies and Tracker activities.

We are now just waiting for the rain to pass and then we will be back in our tents sleeping!! Have a great night everyone! Hopefully this will be the end of the storms tonight!

The Trackers!

Day 4


Good Evening Camp Courageous,

Some years we have droughts, cool, relaxing, and stormy Trackers! This year is one of those years that we are experiencing storms. But that’s all in the experience of TRACKERS!! We expect the unexpected and we work through it figuring out what we need to do to stay safe and still have a blast.

This morning we slept in, since we got back to the campsite around 330am. Our tents were not broken and no water inside! These tents are amazing!! They were donated by Thiesens and they are working great!! Actually a lot of items and tools that we have been using this week, Thiesens donated! Thank you!!

We woke up between 9 and 10 and had brunch! We had a mix of turkey and ham sandwiches along with some grapes, chips, , Caramel apples, blueberries and carrots. It was a great mix of our leftover items.

I have always said, when it rains, there is always something good that comes out of it. This storm brought cooler weather. As the rest of the state was experiencing Heat Advisory we weren’t. It was such a beautiful day. So what did we do today, we hiked for two miles on the bluffs of Pikes Peak and it was an amazing hike. We took a ton of pictures, we hiked to Crows Nest, beautiful Bridal Veil falls, and Hickory Ridge Mounds. It was such a great hike! Along the way we picked up some rocks so we could use them for our next activity, rock painting. During our walk Jackie and Elizabeth used their skills that they were taught by Jeanne Muellerleile to teach us about some poison ivy and some edible plants, we tried wood sorrel, garlic mustard, and wild ginger. It was awesome to have this information to teach our Trackers.

We continued our walk and made our way back to our campsite. We stopped by the restrooms and two guests were waiting for us. A HUGE wolf spider and a long snake! The snake left pretty quickly but the spider stuck around.

When we got back to our campsite, we had watermelon and granola bars for a snack and started our rock painting. The Trackers made Hawkeye rocks, cyclone rocks, panthers, Star Wars and they signed their rocks. It was a great activity! Thanks Audra!!

Before we knew it, it was time to cook dinner, so we made chicken foil wrap meals. This included marinated chicken, potatoes, carrots and peppers. Some of them even had mushrooms. Before we completed cooking the meal, another storm was approaching. So the Trackers and some of the staff made their way to the shelter while three of the staff finished the meals. And sure enough right before the storm started they finished the meals. We really enjoyed are chicken meals and then started our dessert fruit pudgy pies!! Our shelter had a fire place, so we used our wood to make our dessert!

We had great conversation and just enjoyed each other’s company as we waited for the storm to pass.

The weather cleared up right before 8pm. We are now clear for the night and the temperature feels so good! It will be a great night sleeping underneath the stars! Have a great night everyone!

The Trackers!

Day 5

Good Evening Camp Courageous,

We had such a great night!! The stars were shining brightly and the trackers were sound a sleep. We woke up around 8am and packed up our campsite. Jackie DeFranco made a very delicious breakfast. That she tried for the first time. It was roasted bell peppers, cut into circles, and an over-easy egg cooked in the middle, served with cooked ham and toast. It was very delicious and the trackers loved it. We finished our meal and cleaned up our site and made our way to Spook Cave.

Spook Cave, has been our list of activities this whole week and we hadn’t had a chance to head over. The trackers were asking about it all week, so we decided to surprise them with a quick visit. If you have never been to Spook Cave, then I highly recommend a visit to McGregor, IA. The owner welcomed us with open arms and set up our tour right away. We had two great tour guides and they showed us a good time on the tour. Spook Cave is a natural cave that is explored by boat. It was a good time.

Once we were done, we did a little shopping and had a quick lunch. It was yummy too! After lunch, we made our way back to Monticello, where we performed our last activity. Canoeing the Mighty Maquoketa River. Thank you Jeanne and Wayno for coming by, so Jeanne could take the bus to Pictured Rocks for us. The canoe ride was amazing. We didn’t make any stops, we just enjoyed the ride and of course splashed each other. It was so beautiful with the temperature right on par. The canoe ride took us about 2 1/2 hours. It was too quick. When we arrived at Pictured Rocks, we packed up our gear and made our way back to camp.

When we arrived, it was time to clean. We completely cleaned the bus and canoe trailer. You would never know that we took the bus on trackers. We then separated our gear and made our way to Prime campsite. Jackie began dinner, roasted chicken zucchini! It was delicious. We also had left over watermelon and a banana Nutella Croissant for dessert. The travelers tore, it, up!!

We had such a great week! So many fun adventures and so many great meals! The trackers really enjoyed this week and it was great to have them on this camping vacation! Tomorrow the travelers get picked up at 10am.

Have a great night everyone and an awesome weekend.

The Trackers!


2 Responses

  1. Robert and Liz Mcillan says:

    Tom really enjoyed all the activities as he talked most of Friday,Saturday and Sunday about everything they did, even going to shelters for safety.

  2. Sandy McAvan says:

    This was a great blog and I know Jeff had a wonderful week. I hope he remembers how to make some of those meals for us. I know it was a great experience for all. Thank you.