Boulder Valley ICO Blog

Brune's Article on his Mission: Wolf Outing with Boulder Valley ICO

Monday, October 16 2017

Posted by Michael

This last summer we led an outing to Mission: Wolf with Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and his family. This is report on the experience. Kudos to Deb, Caroline, and Katie for making this happen.

There's more! Read the full post...

It's a long drive to the Beartooth Wilderness but worth it every time. The beauty, the solitude, the fishing all seem to be without end in this wonderland of flowers and crystal clear lakes. This time, we even treated ourselves to a bit of time in a hotspring on the return trip. 

A glorious escape from the oppressive heat of the lowlands, our group went fishing, hiking to an alpine lake, and butt-sledding down alpine snowfields. We had a bear visit our camp (and sample some of our food) and saw ptarmigan on our dayhike to Upper Diamond Lake. The Antolins win the prize for the fastest ICO hikers ever; even with fully-loaded packs, they were up to the lake in less than time than most day-hikers require, leaving us with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. Happily, Diamond Lake now seems to have a sizeable population of Cutthroat when in previous years Brook Trout were pretty much the only game in town. Thanks to Deb for organizing the trip and to Diane for helping with the food. Thanks also to Leslie, Laura, Hana, and Michael for filling out the ranks on this lovely jaunt to our local mountains.

Amazing day! Regardless of the cold weather and the rain; students had so much fun. Michael ran a great session on fly tying. Students were engaged.  The sun came out, and then we were able to try some Tenkara at the pond. Several students caught little fish and they were able to bring them home as evidence. We look forward to our next fishing adventure!

Introducing the New BVICO Gear Depot

Monday, March 06 2017

Posted by Michael

Thanks to the effort of many dedicated ICO volunteers, we have, in the span of two weekends, completely relocated our gear to Casey Middle School. The new space is heated, well-lit, has access to bathrooms, has meeting space, and provides a covered area to use when loading/unloading vehicles. With the help of District Superintendant, Dr. Messinger, and his staff, we turned lemons into lemonade, transforming displacement from Manhattan Middle School into a net gain for the program. We are also now located at a school that prioritizes the sort of opportunities that our program provides. It also happens to be the school in Boulder with the highest percentage of kids in our target demographic. Many thanks to Casey Principal, Justin McMillan, for welcoming us into the new space. Thanks, too, to Catherine Powers, our long-time recruiter at Casey, whose dogged work in support of our program paved the way for us to land gracefully in this new home.

The biggest single-day BVICO outing so far -- 51 people in all. And, amazingly, we made it back on time despite the crowds at the Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. Thanks to Eric for snagging the ingredients for the ever-popular snow ice cream. Thanks to Kuba, Kate, and Eric for helping to manage the belly sledding mayhem. And thanks to Hana, Leslie, and Lukas for helping with other logistics. Thank, too, to the folks at Environment for the Americas for rounding up such a great crowd, handling transportation and food, and making sure that things moved along smoothly. 

Trip Journal: Spooky Night Hike!

Friday, October 21 2016

Warmish weather for this time of year, a surplus of hot chocolate, and some seriously spooky stories combined to make this trip a lot of fun. It's awfully fun when the kids go totally silent in suspense during the story telling, and then pretend they weren't scared as we talk on the way back to the trailhead. Thanks to Grant and Michael for the spooky stories. Drew, Carmen, and Guy shuttled our lucky group of thirteen. And thanks to Carmen and Hana for snagging the munchies. 

Special thanks to Jim Hoffmeyer for letting us use his land and fishing access on the Tarryall for this lovely car-camping outing. And thanks to Jim, too, for a fabulous cowboy breakfast cooked over campfire. Deb and Michael rangled the cats on this relaxed and easy weekend outing.

Trip Journal: Abyss Lake 2016

Monday, September 05 2016

We hiked the short distance to camp along Scott Gomer Creek through a mixed forest of lodgepole and aspen and set up camp under threatening skies.  We had enough time to fish a bit and enjoy a dinner of salmon fajitas and a dessert of campfire-toasted marshmallows before a cool rain set in, sending everyone to their tents.  The next morning's chill was dissipated a bit by a campfire and a breakfast of french toast croissants washed down with hot chocolate, and then we headed up to a meadow another mile up the trail.  We fished the beaver pond and creek with little success, but also enjoyed the meadow and its fall colors and basked in the warm sun and even took a few naps.

Several of the girls caught the fishing bug and soon mastered the use of their Tenkara rods.  Zoe got the prize for the biggest fish, a nice 14-inch cuttbow caught in the beaver ponds just above camp.  By dinner time, we had a nice mess of trout, which we roasted over the campfire and shared all around.  A few of the girls even braved the cold waters of the creek to take a brief swim and then dry off in the afternoon sun. Elsa and Marie also participated in our photography academy, taking some really great photos posted here.

read more about Abyss Lake 2016

Squirmaids! Sometimes, the simplest trips are just magic. Tonight's fly fishing outing was all magic, from Sam's postulations about fishing lures part squirrel, part memaid to the very real fish we caught, to the lovely sunset. You know the ICO thing is going well when the kids want to throw just one more cast... and another... and another... until it's too dark to see anything but the silhouette of the mountains. Our new, braided lines did great, allowing the kids to get the lines out far in targetted, graceful casts by the end of the evening. It's also worth noting that the strategy of keeping the group size down worked really well; the kids got all of the guidance they needed to learn quickly and without frustration.

Volunteer Training for Boulder Valley ICO

Wednesday, August 17 2016

Posted by Michael

Boulder Valley ICO is an all-volunteer outreach program of the Sierra Club that provides free nature outings and wilderness adventures to youth from under-served communities in Boulder County and beyond. We will offer a volunteer training retreat for new and existing volunteers on November 12th & 13th at Cal-Wood Educational Center near Jamestown, Colorado (about 50 minutes from Boulder). The curriculum includes Outdoor Leadership Training 101 & 201, plus Child Abuse Recognition and Prevention. Volunteers may stay overnight at Cal-Wood or commute. Training will take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day. See below for a course outline. This training satisfies all of the in-class training requirements (except first aid) for Sierra Club Outings Leader Certification. 

This course is intended to train new and existing volunteers with Boulder Valley ICO to organize and lead outings in our program. If space is available, we will accept individuals who attend with the purpose of...

There's more! Read the full post...

We had great weather, great scenery, and outrageously good fishing on this week-long adventure in Wyoming. Thanks to Carmen Kuri for making the trip possible and to Hana for helping with food preparation. 

Our spring trip to Mission: Wolf was a success. We got a bit of rain and snow on the evening of our arrival but the weather was great for our full day at the facility. We helped set up and level some planters, moved some rocks, and did some weeding. And, of course, we met the wolves and played games at the campsite. Thanks to Mari for driving, Brian for helping us manage the kids, and Michael for preparing the food. 

Despite the cold, wet weather, we had fun and planted lots of trees to help restore the riparian habitat. The kids worked really hard! Thanks to Mariko for preparing lunch and Joni for scoring the hot chocolate and cookies. Thanks, too, to Synergy and volunteers from Boulder Open Space, who organized and led the balance of the event. 

After a big snow Friday and continued snow in the morning, we called an audible and opted to go to nearby Flagstaff Mountain rather than make the drive to Indian Peaks Wilderness.  A foot of untracked snow greeted us on the Tenderfoot Trail, a 2.5 mile loop that starts and ends at Realization Point.  The heavy snow made for slow going, but mostly sunny skies and calm winds made the walking comfortable.  We stopped for snacks on the Divide Overlook, and melted snow for hot chocolate and cookies.  After a quick snowball fight, we headed back up the west side of Flagstaff to the parking lot to end an excellent outing.

Trip Journal: Fly Tying Workshop (MS テ)

Saturday, February 13 2016

With some power recruiting by Patrick Eichelmann, this event was well attended. We learne to tie the Blue Poison Tung and the Ray Charles. We also got a demo of the vise-free kebari that we'll tie as a group next time.  

The inaugural event in our tenkara academy went extremely well. With expert instructors from Rocky Mountain Anglers and CU, the kids had no trouble learning how to make the San Juan worm and the sakasa kebari. Thanks is also due to the ICO volunteers who were students of fly tying, themselves, but who helped the kids sitting next to them work through the tricky spots in each of the patterns. It was great to see the kids get so excited about tying and fishing. The tenkara academy is off to a great start!

We had a full crew of 16 kids from Casey and Columbine who turned out for a day of snow play.  There was a bit of a breeze, but the weather was mostly sunny and fine.  We took the Sourdough Trail south for a mile and set up at Beaver Bog.  Backward snowshoe races were followed by a mighty effort at building a quinzhee while we melted snow for hot chocolate.  We ran out of time and had to return through snow flurries before we could complete the snow hut - maybe we can continue the work on our next outing!

Outdoor Leadership Training

Tuesday, December 08 2015

Posted by Michael

Great company, a great cabin, and great food made for a great time at the Outdoor Leadership Training (OLT 101 & 201) for local and ICO outings leaders.  Thanks to Chris, Michael, and Hana for logistics, content, and food. We're hoping to run another such training in the spring. Stay tuned.

Here's our library of photos:

Wyoming- We enjoyed perfect fall weather, a bright moonlit night and large burritos on our overnight mountain biking trip in Curt Gowdy State Park, Wyoming.  16 youth kept the 6 adults (including ICO volunteers Carmen, Dave and Erik) on their toes.  After a warmup ride on the mostly level Shoreline trail, the kids (perhaps unwisely) followed Dave up and down the challenging Granite Ridge trail.  There were no complaints, but several requests to do a less technical trail the next day, when we swaped technical for a big climb up the smooth Stone Temple Circuit.  Erik led a campfire discussion of the concepts of preservation and conservation, and the many of the kids revealed that they would like to preserve places like this for future generations.

Trip Journal: Fall colors dayhike

Saturday, September 19 2015

Golden Gate- After a late start due to missing p-slips, we headed up to Golden Gate Canyon State Park on a beautiful fall day.  Our intrepid crew became obsessed with finding the perfect hiking stick, and scoured the forest for them on our 2-mile hike up the Horseshoe Trail to Frazer Meadows.  Once there, we inspected the old cabin, had lunch, played a game of camoflage out in the meadow, found old ranch machinery, climbed rock outcroppings and in general enjoyed a classic fall day in the Colorado mountains.

The boys keep a sharp lookout from a strategic vantage point

Bonny the pack dog invites herself to lunch

read more about Fall colors dayhike

Trip Journal: Abyss Lake Backpacking

Monday, September 07 2015

We had a full crew of 8 intrepid hikers, many of them first-time backpackers, for our expedition into the Mt Evans Wilderness.  We hiked a couple of miles in pleasant weather up the Abyss Lake Trail until we came to our creekside campsite, at about 10,000 feet of elevation.  We got our tents pitched just in time to stay dry through an afternoon thunderstorm, then the campers fanned out through the forest to gather wood for our campfire.

A hearty meal of mac and cheese was followed by Smores for dessert.

After a breakfast of French Toast, we hiked up the valley through beautiful Aspen forests just beginning to turn from green to gold, crossing the creek in several places.  We came to a beaver pond surrounded by a marshy meadow, and got out our fly rods and began to fish.  Although the fishing was slow, the hikers discovered that there was plenty of fun to be had by taking off their shoes and sinking into the mud up to their knees.

An appetizer of freshly-grilled trout was followed by a dinner of red beans, rice and sausage

read more about Abyss Lake Backpacking

Eastern Colorado- We set out early on a sunny Saturday morning to explore one of Colorado's most interesting but least appreciated ecosystems - the shortgrass prairie.  Located about 40 miles east of Ft Collins, the Pawnee National Grasslands are a land of grass and sky, home to pronghorns, coyotes, migrating birds, 1 or 2 grasshoppers - and for this weekend, 11 campers from Casey Middle School and Creekside Elementary.  

We drove the backroads to our campsite near some prairie potholes, and the campers spilled out on to the prairie to examine some of the smallest inhabitants





The next task was

read more about Pawnee Grasslands overnight

Utah- The day of the trip started off wet in Boulder while a snowstorm raged in the foothills, closing I-70 and threatening to block our path to Utah.  Determined to find sunshine, we took the long route via Fairplay, Gunnison, Montrose, and little-known hamlets like Naturita, CO. 

Lovely weather made for a nice day of snowcave construction and snowball fights. The snowcave we built eventually became a snow-tunnel through which could crawl or slide. Thanks to Dave and Andrea for pinch-hitting on the driving. 

Trip Journal: Snowshoe Adventure

Saturday, January 31 2015

We had good weather (ie, no wind), and most importantly a great group of kids on this trip.  We snowshoed up and over a small hill about 1 mile to Beaver Bog in no time at all, and everyone had plenty of energy left for backward snowshoe races.


Ethan figured out that "don't fall down" is a better strategy than "go as fast as you can" and won handily.

The crew then turned their attention to building a quinzhee big enough for everyone to enjoy their snow ice cream together

read more about Snowshoe Adventure

We had rain but we had even more fun. The leaves were amazing and the crew even better. Thanks to Andrea and Brad for joining us and to Hana for helping us prepare the food.



It was quite an adventerous trip for several first-time backpackers.  We climbed over 2500 feet and hiked up Eccles pass twice (from both directions). We experienced rain, sun, glorious widflowers, and mosquitoes. We started a campfire in the rain and made s'mores!  If a trip like this doesn't hook kids on hiking and backpacking, I don't know what will.  Thanks to our great volunteers, Brian, Katie, and Allen, for making this trip go so well.

Participant Thanks

Tuesday, June 17 2014

Posted by Michael

Unsolicited thanks from some of our program participants. :-)

Organizational Name Change

Wednesday, June 11 2014

Posted by Michael

Our national directorate has been kicking around a change to the name of the organization, realizing that it has been a long time since our program has just served denizens of the inner city. There was very little consensus among the various ICO groups on what name would serve us best or, even, the key characteristics of a suitable name. The result of the national directorate's survey yielded a winner that will now become the official national name for the program: Inspiring Connections Outdoors. But... they were also at pains to explain that individual groups have the discretion to name themselves as they please. This approach leaves our group with a decision: to embrace the new national name or fashion a different name for our group. Stay tuned for more on this subject in the coming months. Mercifully, we have nothing compelling an immediate response to the national name change, so we can take the time to make a decision that will serve us best in the long-run.

Bird Safari at Walden Ponds

Sunday, May 11 2014

Posted by Michael

Our bird safari to Walden Ponds with kids from Creekside and Pioneer Elementary Schools was a success. We had good attendance by both kids and birds. We saw some cool migrants, like the white-faced ibis, and some interesting locals, like a baby osprey. Thanks to Mary Claire for organizing this one, and thanks to Andrea, Caroline, Hana, Ira and Michael for helping out on the trail as well as with driving.

Deb Rudy (Harrisburg ICO) Gets Profiled

Thursday, April 24 2014

Posted by Michael

The Sierra Club is making strides in recognizing the value of the Inner City Outings program. Former Chair of the ICO National Steering Committee is recognized in the current edition of The Planet, the Club's online newsletter. It's worth a quick visit to see what a life in ICO looks like. Click here for the article.