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Local kids let loose at 4-H overnight camp

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By Corinne Westeman

Whether they were soaring to new heights in the treetops, swimming to new depths or exploring uncharted territory, youngsters were channeling their inner superheroes as they went on new adventures across the Denver metro area.

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“I’ve never been camping before. ... I live in the suburbs, so there aren’t a lot of places to explore in my neighborhood,” Mackenzie McDowell, 12, of Littleton said.

Seventeen youth from Clear Creek, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties participated in the annual 4-H Mountain to Metro Overnight Adventure Camp, which ran June 26-28. The camp is for 10- to 12-year-olds, and this year’s theme was superheroes.

“You learn a lot at the camps, and you’re getting to spend time with other kids and get exposure to being away from home,” said 11-year-old Lilian Stabig of Lakewood.

In years past, participants have camped overnight in the mountain area, either in Clear Creek or Gilpin County, and then camped a second night somewhere in the Denver metro area.

However, this year, the group stayed both nights at Bear Creek Lake Park, as it worked out better for the logistics, said Chris Crouse, one of the organizers, who’s with Clear Creek County’s 4-H program.

Thus, organizers scheduled most of the activities in or around Bear Creek Lake Park, including archery, yoga, swimming and nature hikes.

On Wednesday, the youngsters completed a ropes course at Genesee Park. And, on Thursday, the group ventured to the American Legion Post in Lakewood, where it cleaned, repaired and readied things for Fourth of July celebrations, Crouse said.

This year also marked Jeffco’s second year participating, as its 4-H program doesn’t have overnight camps, Jeffco 4-H agent Barbie Garnett said.

For some of the campers, the adventures were a new experience.

Ezekiel Ikesakes, 10, of Georgetown was among the camp’s first-time participants, and he said he was enjoying making new friends. Last week’s heat wave made things a little difficult, he said, but it was still worth it.

Meanwhile, 11-year-old Baleigh Gordon of Idaho Springs was undaunted, as she had attended last year’s camp. She said she preferred last year’s camp schedule and activities because the group did more things that seemed to last longer.

Still, she was enjoying Wednesday’s outing to the ropes course, saying, “I like it because you can get scared and no one will judge you.”

Because participating kids are only between the ages 10-12, Clear Creek’s 4-H doesn’t have overnight camps for older youth, Crouse said.

“I haven’t had a lot of interest from older kids, so I’m focusing on this age group,” she said.

That said, the statewide 4-H program does offer overnight outings and camps for older kids, according to Crouse and Garnett.

Baleigh, at least, said she’s planning to participate in the Mountain to Metro camp next year because not only is it a fun experience, but it’s also an important way for youngsters like her to gain or practice outdoor skills.

“Come (to the camp) every single year you can because it’s amazing,” Baleigh said.