Courageous Travels: Wilderness Trackers

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Day 1

Good Evening Trackers,

The time has come once again!! The Wilderness Trackers are out and about in Eastern Iowa. This week at two different campsites. Backbone State Park and Swiss Valley campground.

We have a lot of fun things planned for this week and already it’s a blast with all the trackers that are attending the trip.

We began the trip with checkin at nursing. Thanks to Sharon for coming in at 11am to get her things ready for 13 trackers coming to camp. Our trackers include, Bartek, Tom M., Tom K., Tim, Harrison, Ken, Carmen, Zane, Michael, Pan, Dan, Randy, and Aaron. What a fantastic group of individuals! They all hit it off right away and you can still hear them talking and laughing as they get settled in bed. Before we get to that part, let’s start at the beginning.

As I mentioned, checkin went very well. The majority of the trackers brought their Meds in, so it was a lot of work, getting them counted in and making sure everything is getting accomplished.

After checkin the groups made their way to the nursing classroom. Here they unpacked their gear and repacked making sure everyone had what they needed for the week. The tracker counselors that helped them included Terry Meyers, Audra Kraemer, Kody Grafkjen, Melissa McGill, Charlotte Graham, and Rolando Morales. They were supper pumped to meet their group and start helping them.

As soon as they were done with packing. Rolando gave a speech to the trackers and welcomed all that were new to Wilderness Trackers. We usually do a chant, cheer, loud grunting and pounding the walking sticks.

Once the introductions were complete, I gave jobs to everyone and the groups got to work. We loaded what was needed for the week onto Emmy. There are a lot of supplies for the week, so it took time and everything fit.

Before we knew it, we are out on the road heading towards Backbone State Park. We first made a stop in Greeley Iowa to see where Charlotte lives and say hi to her husband. Afterwords we made our way to backbone where we found our campsite at South Lake Campground. We stay that the youth sites and make our selves at home. The park ranger knows our group was coming so we came by and said hi to the group. His daughter Rachel will be coming to camp during Fair week.

When we arrived we started to make up our campsite. We worked together to move picnic tables, set up tarps, tents, a fire, prepare food, and set up our Canopies. There was great teamwork from everyone.

The dinner we made with the help of The group, was beef nachos (beef, broccoli, peppers, cheese, corn, and chips) don’t forget the salsa! And for desert was S’more nachos! Both meals were delicious! We had many helpers, Pan helped get the fire going, Harrison helped set up the tables, and Ken helped wash dishes afterwords. The rest of he group hung out and enjoyed each other’s company.

While the dinner was prepping, Audra planned the evening activity, which was journal making. Each person had the opportunity to make their own journal and talk about their experience throughout the day. It’s a great time to reflect and remember all the fun they are having.

After we ate dinner, we cleaned up and before we knew it; it was time to get ready for bed!

Wow, what a fun day and Memorable one. It is going to be a great week, with some great trackers. Stay tuned to more fun tomorrow!

Check our the Travel Facebook page

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To see all the fun we are having?


The Travel Team

Day 2

Good Evening Tracker Fans,

The Wilderness Trackers slept through the night! We haven’t had a calm tracker night in a long time and it was amazing! We actually got sleep on the wonderful hard ground!

We all awoke around 6am. The birds started chirping and the sun was shining on our faces.

We all got ready and waited for breakfast to be fixed. Audra’s group (Bartek and Tom K) were in charge of all meals. So them along with other trackers helping, fixed up a delicious healthy breakfast. Homemade granola, strawberries and bananas, almonds and yogurt. So pretty much a yogurt parfait! It was super yummy!! It was all we needed to start the day!

After breakfast, we finished getting ready and made our way to Brad Davis and his family’s house. Brad and his wife are the owners of Pizza Ranch in  Manchester and Olwein. Brad use to own the pizza ranch in Monticello, so he had developed a relationship with Camp Courageous. Last year we went to his house and this year he welcomed us again!

Brad got his tools and one by one brought up our trackers and helped them build spinning tops. The trackers were super pumped to do this and couldn’t wait to make and color their own spinning tops. Tracker Pan shared with us that his father use to make these, but would use string to help spin the toppers. They use to compete to see who went the longest. It was cool that Pan shared that with us. One by one, starting with Birthday Boy Dan S. Dan turned 59 today and he was super excited that he got to spend it making toppers and having fun on trackers. All the trackers who weren’t present last year got to make them first and the rest followed behind.

The trackers sure had a great time making these spinners. If you have time, check out the Facebook page Courageous Travels to see the videos and pictures of everyone making these spinning toppers.

After we were all the done, we gratefully said our thanks you’s and took a group picture with Brad. We then made our way to the back yard where Brad made hotdogs and had chips waiting for us. They were delicious and the trackers gobbled them up.

Once we were done we made our way back to the front, to witness Brad playing catch with his dog, a German Shepard. It was very peaceful and whoever wanted to try, played catch with Brads dog.

Before we knew it, we said our thanks again and made our way back to the campsite at Backbone State Park. Some of the guys were still hungry, so we ate a little more.

After lunch we decided to rest for a bit. Some Trackers took a nap while others listened to music and just relaxed. This break was needed as the weather was warm and we were up early!

After our break, we grabbed our walking sticks and set out for a hike. The trail starts right behind our camp site so it was perfect. Zane had been looking forward to hiking so he was thrilled for the hike! We hiked about a mile through the woods down to the lake. During the hike, Ken spotted some deer and Aaron was pointing out animal tracks

Once we arrived at the lake, we started fishing! The Trackers took turns fishing from the dock and the bank. Harrison was the first to catch a fish!! Pan also caught a fish a few minutes later. We were on a roll! Michael caught a fish next then Harrison caught a second fish! Too bad all of the fish were too small to keep. We were hoping to get up some fish for dinner!

Everyone took a turn fishing and had a great time! We fished for about an hour before hiking back up to our camp site to get ready for dinner.

Once back at the camp site, we got a fire going and started preparing dinner. Tonight’s menu consisted of chicken and a vegetable stir fry. We sure worked up quite the appetite today and dinner was delicious!! For desert we made blueberry cobbler!

Because today was Dan’s birthday, we got some candles to put in the cobbler and some cookies and cream ice cream (Dan’s favorite) to celebrate! The whole group sang Happy Birthday to Dan!! Dan blew out the candles and we all cheered!!

Everyone enjoyed this special birthday treat!! What a great way to spend your birthday!! After dessert we cleaned up the camp site and got ready for bed. We had a fun filled day and we have to rest up for another fun day of camping tomorrow!! Stay tuned to hear all about day 3 of Trackers!!

Day 3

Good Evening Trackers,

The trackers had another great night under the stars. There was a little breeze, the moon was out, and the mother raccoon and her family had their feel of our scraps. They ran away shortly after, so no big deal. That’s living in the Wilderness!
This morning we had a delicious sausage and egg burrito with some fresh fruit. Made by Travel assistant Charlotte Graham. The Trackers ate them up! After breakfast we cleaned up and got ready for our canoeing trip on the lake.
Once the trackers were ready, they began their hike to the boat entrance. I drove the bus and canoes to the entrance and met the group on the path. I showed up to the group and Carmen was screaming “I haven’t showered!” She is so excited by this.
We arrived at the canoes and got ready for our adventure on the Lake. Or should I say Canoe Wars!! This is where teams join together to splash each other. So Terrys Group (Michael and Tom M) and my canoe which held (Carmen, Tom K, and Pan) teamed up against the Other groups!
Before we started we got use to the water and practicing our paddling techniques. We then started drumming on our canoes and we began CANOE WARS!!
Everyone was splashing and laughing. Until one of the canoes tipped over! Melissa’s canoe (Tim and Dan) went over board! So splashing stopped and we rescued the crew. It was pretty easy, we took them to the bank, they stood up and they were in their canoe in no time.
We stop canoe wars for a second, after being back on the lake, but the groups wanted to keep splashing. Melissa’s canoe was out for this battle, and the rest of us were trying to soak the other trackers. Until… Kody’s canoe tipped! He had Zane and Randy in it and where they tipped they could stand straight up. They got back into their canoe and it was time to head in. It was a great battle and the trackers kept on laughing throughout the whole battle. Even the ones who fell in. They said the water felt good too! It was another warm day.
After we all got the canoes out of the water and loaded them on the canoe trailer we made our way to the camp site and had lunch. We had turkey pitas with apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, ranch and cheese! Along with bananas. It was delicious!!

After lunch we finished packing up the bus and made our way to McGregor, Iowa to Spook Cave Campground. Spook Cave has been a big hit with the Travelers for years so everyone was looking forward to it.

Once we arrived we split into two groups. Bartek, Tom K., Aaron, Zane, Michael, Tom M., Audra, Kody and Terry were on the first boat tour.

The group hopped on a row boat and were off on a guided tour of a cave! The only way to explore this cave is by boat! What a fun way to explore! The cooler temps in the cave were very refreshing on this hot summer day!

The tour guide told us all about the gentleman who discovered the cave, the four types of species (bats, frogs, salamanders, and spiders) found in this cave. She also pointed out various fossils and stalagmites.

During the tour the guide also told us a spooky story of a guy named Joe Smiley. Joe was a maintenance worker and one day he didn’t come back out of the cave and all they could find were some hand prints and  a few bones! Ahhh!! The Trackers enjoyed the stories and jokes along the tour.

While the first group was doing the tour, Randy, Carmen, Tim, Dan, Pan, Harrison, Ken, Melissa and Charlotte checked out the gift shop. The Trackers got some great souvenirs before heading out for their tour. Once the first group returned from their tour they also checked out the gift shop.

Once all groups explored the cave, we hopped back on the bus and made our way to Dubuque. We are staying at Swiss Valley Campground for the next two nights. This is our first time staying at this campground and the Trackers are excited about checking out a new place!!

We found a perfect location for our group and started setting up camp. All of the Trackers wanted to sleep under the stars tonight so we set up some tarps and some canopies.

We then made a delicious dinner over the fire consisting of bacon wrapped brats, celery, apples and pretzels with fruit pound cake for dessert!

Once we had a fill of delicious food we got ready for bed and got some rest! We have a big day of exploring Swiss Valley tomorrow!

The Travel Team


Day 4

Good Evening Trackers,
As I sit with Terry, Audra, and Melissa by the fire looking up at the stars and sharing stories from this week and past Trackers. We can’t help but say that this is one of the best trackers since I’ve started. We have had weeks of droughts, rain all week, high winds, broken tents, etc. etc. but they still ended up being great weeks. This week was totally different. We have slept outside everyday from Sunday-Wednesday without even a worry about storms. The weather has been just right l, the food has been fantastic and the trackers are loving everyday of this trip. It’s been awesome. Tracker Zane even said “thank you for taking me on the best week of my life.” It was great to hear that.
Today was another fun day. The trackers woke up, ate a delicious French Toast breakfast with bacon. We then got ready for the biggest hike of our tracker experience. 5 miles!! That’s right, we hiked 5 miles straight.
We started our hike from our campground to a creek and through the state park. We ended up going over a bridge finding some activities that the park offered and made our way to the main road to see if there were any trails. We were heading towards Swiss Valley Nature Center.
There aren’t any trails leading towards the Nature Center. So Charlotte lead charades and Randy, Zane, and Aaron swung on the swings, while Kody, Ken, and I went to get the bus and more water. We picked up the group and made our way to the Nature Center.
The Nature center was a quick drive, so once we got there, we filled up with water and made our way on the Swiss valley trails. Big stream and rocky ridge. It was such a beautiful hike. The sun wasn’t beating down on us, so we were able to have tons of shade from the trees. While we hiked we spotted an old school house. They didn’t have any signs of how old it was, but we ended up going around the building looking inside.
We continued our hike up a huge hill, that slowed us down, but we made it through. We saw birds, squirrels, deer and even snakes. We stopped from time to time to get rest and we sang some songs on the way. One of the songs that came to mind was “Going on a squeegee hunt!” The trackers really enjoyed the hike even more when we sang songs.
Now I would like to continue talking positive about this hike, and a lot of it was. But there was definitely challenges and the trackers over came those challenges and cheered loudly when we returned back to the Nature Center. Some trackers needed extra push, sit or stop more often, and some who needed a small snack to keep going. They all did awesome and I’m so proud of them.
When we returned back to the Nature Center; we filled up with water and used restrooms. We decided to eat lunch at the campsite, so we hopped back on the bus and made our way to the campground.
For lunch we had turkey and ham wraps with chips. It was delicious!
After lunch, we had some down time to rest. Everyone took a little nap and it was much needed! After our nap, everyone was refreshed and ready to continue with the fun!
Audra led the Trackers in finding items in nature such as twigs, rocks, and leaves to decorate a wooden plaque.
The Trackers went hunting for their preferred nature items and then glued them on to the wooden plaque. The plaques turned out great!! We have such a creative group!
After this activity we put on our swim gear and headed to the creek which was right behind our campsite for some swimming! The water was cold and very refreshing after the warm temps today! We hiked through the creek to a nice little section of the creek where we splashed around and enjoyed the water! Tom K. had been looking forward to swimming all day and he loved our time in the creek! Some of the Trackers even exfoliated with the some mud! It was a great way to end our day!
After swimming, we made our way back to the campsite to prepare dinner. While dinner was cooking some of the Trackers played some games such as go fish and scrabble while others relaxed and enjoyed nature.
For dinner, we had delicious Hawaiian chicken kabobs and baked potatoes with sweet biscuits cooked in orange peels for dessert. We had a really nice evening relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.
After dinner we all got ready for bed and called it a night. We have one more day of Trackers and lots of fun to be had!! Stay tuned!!
The Travel Team


Day 5

Good Evening Trackers,

Our final full day of trackers and it was time to relax! We had a fun filled week with lots of hiking, canoeing, fishing, cooking, swimming and etc. Every night the trackers went to bed exhausted. So we decided to change it up and relax at Swiss Valley. Since we are in the Valley, with lots of shade, and a cool breeze going through, we definitely stayed until 6:30pm. We knew the rest of Eastern Iowa was going to be in the 90s, so we decided to stay, because we were in a great spot to stay cool and we sure did.
We woke up a little later this time, had a delicious omelet in a bag breakfast. Kody came up with the meals this today and we put ham, veggies, and eggs in a ziplock bag. Put it in the bowling water and it cooked the eggs, without melting the bag! It was awesome and very delicious. We even had pineapple for our side.
After breakfast, we cleaned up and the trackers worked on their journals. Books that they put together throughout the week to highlight what they did every day. Today they finished their final day of journaling. While they were journaling, Tom, Harrison, Terry, Melissa, and I were trying to brand the trackers walking sticks. But we did not have any luck. So instead, we made everyone S’mores! This was around 11am. Why not?!?! The trackers didn’t skip a beat. As soon as we said we are making S’mores, they jumped up from their seats and came over to roast their mallow.
During this time, we started prepping for lunch. We decided to use what we were having for dinner for lunch instead. We didn’t know how hot it would be around the time we cooked dinner, so we wanted to make sure we took care of dinner early. So Kody made us some pineapple chicken with veggies hobo dinners. We also had a variety of other items to go with it. As this was going on, some of us were cleaning out containers, moving things around the bus, and getting organized because we would be back to camp later and we didn’t not want to be up late cleaning everything out of the bus. So it was good to get started while everyone was either helping cook or relaxing.

Since today was the hottest day of the week after lunch, we put on our swimming gear and made our way to the creek. All of the Trackers took a dip in the creek!! The water was once again really refreshing!!

At the location where we were swimming there was a bank that you could jump from so we had to give it a try! Aaron, Tom M., Bartek, Harrison, Ken, Zane, Carmen, Michael and Dan jumped in!  Some Trackers chose to sit in the creek, some swam splashed around while other chose just to put their feet in. Fun was had by all! Carmen, first time traveler/tracker told us this week was “her best week ever”!!

After swimming we went back up to the campsite and had dessert! Yes, we had dessert before dinner! It’s Trackers! Anything goes! We made banana boats! We put bananas in foil and added chocolate chips, marshmallows, nuts, coconut and peanut butter and then put the in the fire to melt! They were delicious!

After dessert, we did some more cleaning, organizing and packing while dinner was being prepared. Today’s menu consisted of pizza wraps toasted over the fire along with carrots and celery.

Once everyone had their fill of pizza wraps we finished packing the bus and headed back to Camp Courageous. When we arrived at camp we unpacked all of our gear and deep cleaned everything and put away all of our supplies. The Trackers were a great help and we were done in no time!

We then took our sleeping bags and headed out to Prim campsite for our last night of camping. We set up our sleeping bags and built a fire. Harrison brought along something you can put in the fire to change the color of the flames. It was pretty neat. The Trackers gathered around the fire to watch all of the different colors!

We have had a long week so we all headed to bed shortly after. We had a wonderful weekend of camping and enjoying the beautiful outdoors!
The Travel Team



Day 6

Good Evening Trackers,

What an amazing week of Trackers!!! Wow! The tracker team and I were very impressed by the week. The weather was awesome. We slept out every night! It was great!

This morning we woke up at Prim campsite at camp and had a delicious scrabbled egg, blueberries and jelly toast! It was very good and hit the spot.

We then cleaned up our campsite, headed inside with all our gear and guess what? We went to shower!! The stench was about to be gone!! Yippee! The showers felt great!

The trackers took their time getting cleaned up and before we knew it, we were packing up all our laundry and gear and bringing them outside.

We then had one final ceremony before everyone departed. We gave gifts and journals to each tracker along with giving them Tribe animal names. We then gave the new tracker team members their names. It was a great ceremony and the trackers loved to cheer everyone one.

Before we knew it, all the trackers were getting picked up and they were gone in no time!

What an amazing week!! Thank you to our wonderful volunteers, Audra Kraemer and Terry Meyers. And Thank You to the awesome travel team members who stepped up as always.

Trackers 2018 is complete. It is time to plan for Trackers 2019!

Have a great weekend!

The Travel Team