Sand dunes and desert science in Utah

The Second Grade heads West to a landscape that feels exotic and refreshing after a winter in Aspen: the red rock desert surrounding Moab, Utah, a.k.a. “Nature’s Disneyland.” The children are camping, hiking, and bouldering in an environment that is new to most of them. We spend the first night at our campsite exploring the nearby area, with learning activities and games after dinner. Weather permitting, we sleep out under the stars! The second day is an all-day hike with a picnic lunch on the trail. Children learn about the geology and animals of this fascinating environment. On our last morning, we do a bit more exploring, break camp, and head home, stopping for lunch along the way. 

Mountain-town families know — after the ski season is over and the lifts close, it’s time for a trip to the desert. Camping and hiking in the iconic landscape near Moab, the Second Graders experience this annual rite of spring in the West. Children of this age love scrambling around big rocks and up smooth inclines, and the balance they develop comes in handy the coming fall when they try rock climbing.

Sample packing list

In a duffel
• warm hat for evening
• rain gear (waterproof pants AND jacket with hood)
• warm jacket
• shirt for hiking (not cotton; tech or smartwool-type fabrics are best)
• fleece pants for around camp
• fleece jacket or pullover
• shorts
• gloves or mittens
• underwear
• socks (2 pair)
• 1 pair sneakers
• 1 pair Teva/Keen-type water sandals (no flip-flops)

In a small daypack
• 1 lunch
• 2 days of snacks
• 1-qt. wide-mouthed water bottle (Nalgene-style, full)
• hat with visor (very important for the sun)
• sunglasses
• sunscreen
• lip protection with SPF
• bathing suit & small towel
• sleeping bag with waterproof stuff sack (not a compression sack; a heavy-duty garbage bag is easier for the children to stuff)
• non-inflatable sleeping pad (best are the ridged foam kind that don’t need to be inflated)
• toothbrush & travel-size toothpaste
• comb
• headlamp or small flashlight (NO other electronics, please)

Complete instructions and staffing lists arrive via ParentSquare shortly before each trip. At least one certified Wilderness First Responder accompanies every expedition. NOLS Risk Services of the National Outdoor Leadership School has recently completed a comprehensive analysis of policies and procedures for the Outdoor Education program at Aspen Country Day School. This program operates under special use permit from the USDA Forest Service, White River National Forest.