A Not-So-Typical Group

Featured Program: Ancient Pathways

There is no “typical” group at Deer Hill. They are as unique and interesting as the individuals who join our journeys. Every program is different and Deer Hill strives to create a diverse and balanced mix of participants of the same age. Here’s a great group from our recent Ancient Pathways adventure:


Hayat Ahmed from Boston, Boston International School, Grade Completed: 10

About Hayat (from her application): Originally from Ethiopia, Hayat grew up watching Ethiopia’s famous distance runners, and came to Deer Hill eager to test her fitness against the mountains of Colorado. She has a crazy sense of humor and makes friends easily. She is not a strong swimmer.

Hayat wrote in her program evaluation:  “I learned a lot of things that I had never done before. My safety was good because my leaders helped me with everything. The most meaningful experience for me was climbing a mountain. I will remember my leaders, how nice they are, and how many friends I made.” Hayat rated Ancient Pathways for fun: 4/5

MattMatthew Aranow, from Lincoln, MA, Lincoln Sudbury High School, Grade Completed: 9

About Matthew: Matthew has quite a lot of backcountry and camping experience, and is a boy scout. He is on the track team and plays soccer, runs, bikes and plays some football. He has been on trips in Yosemite and in the Southwest before. He is into video games!

Matthew wrote: Deer Hill was really wonderful. I loved the mountains. I think that I had the most fun there… I loved my service project and could really relate to our hosts. The work was fun and I liked the place. I will remember all of our trips and all of the people I met. I think our group was really awesome, and this trip couldn’t have gone any better. Rating for fun: 5/5

MiaMaria “Mia” Burkhalter, St Louis, MO, Crossroads College Prep School, Grade Completed: 11

About Mia: Mia returned for her fourth Deer Hill experience this year. She has lots of experience with the Deer Hill way, and wouldn’t go anywhere else! She is a keen soccer and volleyball player, and loves going to alternative music gigs.

Mia wrote: “I had a great time with my entire group as well as the leaders. The mountains were the most meaningful aspect because the whole group bonded extremely well. It felt very safe and a very friendly environment to be in. Service was fabulous. Our hosts were very nice and helped us out a great deal. They allowed us into their society and were pleased to have us there and receive our help. I don’t know how it could have been better. This was the best trip ever by far! I love Deer Hill!” Rating for fun: 5/5

TaylorTaylor Connors, Boston, MA, Academy of the Pacific Rim, Grade Completed: 10

About Taylor: Taylor has limited backcountry and hiking experience, however she does do yoga, rides bikes and is a strong swimmer. She is really involved in the arts at school: drawing, painting, and designing costumes for plays. She is on the International Human Rights committee at school, and is the co-leader of the Go-Green club. She is up for an adventure and tries her hardest in everything she does.

From Taylor’s course evaluation: “This was a great group of people and the experience was really enjoyable. River and service were so fun, but the mountains really brought us close together. I loved the service project. Not only were we able to help a Navajo family, but also we had a ton of fun while doing it. We got to paint a house, build a sheep shelter, and shear sheep! I learned a lot about history, culture and nature on this trip, but I also learned a lot about myself. This was a great program, the best summer camp I’ve ever been to.” Rating for fun: 5/5

BradleyBradley Estrella, Brooklyn, NY,  Urban Planning School, Grade Completed: 10

About Bradley: Bradley grew up in the city and hasn’t spent much time outside of it, and has very little backcountry experience. He does play lots of sports including basketball, football, baseball, volleyball and tennis. Bradley describes himself as smart, funny, outgoing, athletic, persistent, caring, considerate, responsible, and eager to try new things. Bradley looks after his little brother and doesn’t have that much time for himself, but he is learning some Spanish.

Bradley wrote: “This was a challenging experience, but a great one. The meeting we had every night (Circle) was really important to me. It helped me to think deeper about a lot of things. Everything I did here was a learning experience, and I have never seen better safety procedures. It was a great feeling to participate in making other people’s lives better while at service. This was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life!” Rating for fun: 5/5

MatthewAndrew Janes, Bahamas, Mary Albury High, Grade Completed: 9

About Andrew: Andrew is a very competent and confident outdoors person, who has done some climbing and mountaineering in South America with his father. Living in the Bahamas, by the ocean, he is very keen on swimming and especially sailing. He is more familiar with boats than cars.

Andrew wrote: “My leaders were great, I really bonded with them, and they were always looking out for us. I have experienced many of the activities on this course before, but nothing so amazing. On service, I really felt like I got to our hosts well. My two favorite aspects of the trip: how close we got to each other; and climbing to the top of the peak and looking down the mountain and seeing what I had accomplished.” Rating for fun: 5/5

dustinDustin Groesbeck, Tiburon, CA, Redwood High School, Grade Completed: 10

About Dustin: Dustin describes herself as a pretty easy-going girl who enjoys the outdoors. She is friendly to everyone and tries not to judge people when she first meets them. She loves to laugh and make others laugh. She has some camping, hiking, rafting and rock climbing experience, and went on an outdoor trip to Canada a couple years ago. She plays basketball, soccer and captains her school softball team, and enjoys leading the girls she plays with. Dustin is part of National Charity League, performing charity work around the country with her mother.

Dustin wrote: “My experience here was AMAZING! I will definitely remember the people – I absolutely loved my group. Everyone was upbeat and got along, plus the leaders would goof off with us. I thought the service project was very enlightening. It really opened my eyes to how the Navajo live. The river (and the food!) were my favorite parts of the trip. The mountain section was the most meaningful part of the trip. Everything was a challenge because I hadn’t done it before, but I accomplished it all. It really felt like we were the only people in the world and we all got really close. I was put out of my comfort zone at times but that was a good thing. I loved it here – it really felt like one big family.” Rating for fun: 5/5

DanielaDaniela, San Anselmo, CA, Marin Catholic, Grade Completed: 10

About Daniela: Daniela’s older brother and sister both attended Deer Hill. She has been camping a few times, and loves exploring the forest and beaches of her home. She loves the water, and has been sailing in the San Juan Islands, in the Sea of Cortez, in the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. She says of herself, “I may not look athletic, but I am a fast runner”, and runs on the cross-country team and in track. She is 50% Columbian, and is a very open person who really enjoys meeting new people and experienced different cultures. She considers herself a good group worker and collaborator. She loves a challenge and is excited about developing these skills at Deer Hill and learning more about herself.

Daniela wrote: “I had a lot of fun! It was “fantastico!” There were times in the mountains where I wanted to turn around but I kept pushing myself. The peak ascent was incredibly meaningful to me. It was really important to my growth as a person. Plus I really felt the bond our group had formed as we all helped one another achieve our goal. On the service project, it was amazing to see traditions hundreds of years old survive and thrive today in our own country. It was great because I could see how I was helping, and I had fun doing it. On this program I’ve learned to believe in myself. I’ll cherish the friendships I’ve made and even though we’re all from different corners of the USA I know these bonds will last a lifetime.” Rating for fun: 5/5

GavinGavin Christoph Pouquette, Park City, UT, Park City High, Grade Completed: 10

About Gavin: Gavin describes himself as a “desert rat”, and especially loves hiking in the Moab region of Utah. He loves the river, too, but has only done day trips prior to Deer Hill. He skis in the wintertime and plays golf in the summer, and is a pretty serious guitar player. He is looking forward to seeing Colorado, and learning more about Arizona and his home state of Utah.

From Gavin’s course evaluation: “The most meaningful experience of the trip for me was climbing the peak. The service project was awesome! I would do this course again if I could.” Rating for fun: 5/5

TravisTravis Randall, Plano, TX, The Shelton School, Grade Completed: 10

About Travis: Travis has some backcountry experience. He loves the outdoors and enjoys camping, swimming and hiking. He is really interested in ancient and tribal religions and Native American myths. He finds Native American culture fascinating and is thinking about studying it in college.

Travis wrote: “My most meaningful experience on this trip was helping Grandma Charley during our service project in the Navajo Nation. I would love to come back and do more service work with Deer Hill. It felt so awesome to be helping this nice old lady. I will really remember the friendships and bonds we forged as a group. I LOVED IT! I had a really exciting experience, and I thought the leaders were amazing!” Rating for fun: 5/5

CharlieCharlie White, Lincoln, MA, Lawrence Academy, Grade Completed: 9

About Charlie: Charlie has a considerable amount of experience in the backcountry. At his summer camp in upstate New York he has gone on numerous overnight canoe and hiking trips in the Adirondack Mountains, and spent two weeks at an eco-lodge in a Panamanian rainforest. He plays soccer, baseball, football and runs cross-country, as well as ski racing. Despite living in Massachusetts, he is an “all New York sport fan”. He especially enjoys watching movies and acting. He’s excited to be a part of Deer Hill this summer.

Charlie wrote: “Coming to Deer Hill has been one of the best experiences in my life. I got a chance to see the majestic San Juan Mountains, climb the peaks, and help Grandma Charley and her friends. Climbing a peak gave me a lot of confidence in myself. The service project gave me a chance to work just to feel good about it. I felt very safe throughout the expedition. The leaders showed responsibility and knowledge in safety procedures. I will always remember the friends I made and the sights that I saw.” Rating for fun: 5/5