The 20 children gathered around the picnic tables at John J. Sherman Youth Camp listened intently while East Elementary School third-grade teacher Adrian Burch set the ground rules.
"Up here we're respectful to the adults, to each other, and the land," she said.
The children wore ponchos, jackets and floppy hats, but they were oblivious to the rain that fell lightly all morning.
These 58 youngsters, broken into three groups for easier handling, made the trek to Sherman Youth Camp on Friday morning, just as every third-grader in Craig has done for a dozen years.
Here they learned campfire safety and cooking tips, and listen to speakers from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Craig Hotshots, Colorado State Parks and Colorado State University extension office.
They listened to a "mountain man" tell them about life in the wilderness in the 1800s, and they took archery lessons from professional hunters.
"I've been coming up for six years now," Burch said. "The kids love it. They start talking about camp around the end of the second grade. And they keep it up for the whole summer."
Burch said that when the kids were notified that rain might cancel the trip to camp, they almost had tears in their eyes. The day was saved on Friday with armloads of trash bags that the teachers cut holes in to form ponchos for the children.
The first group has reached the campfire pit, where they are met by CSU extension office Director Elisa Shackelton
"Would you rather be here, or in the classroom?" Shackelton asked.
"Here!" came the unanimous reply.
Shackelton explained that while fire can be very dangerous, it also can be a lifesaver in the woods. The children threw out answers as to what good a fire can provide.
"For warmth. For cooking. For light to see by and to scare off wild animals." the children offered. "And for fun."
Eight-year-old Drew King informed the crowd that he carries his cap pistol to scare off animals when he camps.
"They want to share experiences they had camping with their families," Shackelton said. "They pick up a lot when camping. That's why it's important for parents to be good role models."
Learning to carry a whistle and not to hide from rescuers when lost are important lessons that Shackelton taught the students.
She shows them how and where to build a fire, and ways to put the fire out before leaving the area.
"We don't want them to be afraid of fire, but we want them to respect it," Shackelton said.
"There are a lot of burns each year on children by the campfire."
The children had nine different sections of instruction throughout the day.
They had a barbecue dinner in the evening, complete with singing around the campfire.
It was nearly dark when the bus pulled out of Camp Sherman and headed down the hill toward town. This year, the rain cut the trip short.
Even so, the third-grade adventure into the woods will be something that stays in their memories for many years, say those who have made the trip.
"It's an experience they need. Some kids never get up into the mountains to camp," Burch said.
"The ones that do get to show off their knowledge of camping and practice it up here."
Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or firstname.lastname@example.org.