Nature & Exploration
Our Nature Exploration programs are designed for college & university alumni groups, nature center members, and families. Six-day programs will introduce you to all four Life Zones found in Colorado, including the rich diversity of Colorado’s plant and animal life, geology, and landforms. Shorter programs can be customized to your liking and are filled with fun and adventure. There are also a variety of optional activities such as fossil digging, dipping your own candle, fishing, special, little-known hikes on the ranch, mountain biking. Evening activities include discussions and slide shows on specific natural history topics that are lead by our residential naturalists. We can take an evening van ride to find the Pikes Peak herd of Elk, mule deer, porcupine, and other wildlife. We also offer inventive games for children, and our large observatory for an astronomy session. Please explore our website for a tentative agenda and a detailed description of some of the day’s activities and hikes that we have available for you.
Meet some of our Naturalists
Bud Wobus (B.A. Washington University; M.A. Harvard; Ph.D., Stanford). Bud is Professor of Geosciences at Williams College in Massachusetts, where he has taught for over 40 years. His specialties are the petrology and geochemistry of igneous rocks (especially granites and explosive volcanics) and the regional geology of Colorado and New Mexico, centered on the Pikes Peak region. He was an adjunct with the U.S. Geological Survey for 16 years doing fieldwork in the Southern Rockies, and is author or co-author of numerous geological maps and reports based on that work. He has continued to study the geology of this region with his students largely through the research programs of the Keck Geology Consortium, which he helped to found in 1986. He has led many trips for Williams College alumni through their Travel-Study program, including 25 week-long field seminars at The Nature Place beginning in 1981, as well as numerous longer trips on 4 continents. He got his start in Geology as a camper at Big Spring in 1954, and has been associated with Sanborn Camps/COEC ever since, currently as a Board member.
Chuck Olmsted: (B.A., Earlham College, M.S., University of Oklahoma, Ph.D., University of Colorado) Chuck is a retired Professor and Coordinator of the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Chuck's expertise is in the plants of Colorado, and their interaction with the physical environment. He is active with the Colorado Wildlife Federation, and with the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, and is currently a Regional Director to the National Wildlife Federation. Chuck has been our plant specialist on staff for over 25 years.
Sam Johnson (B.S. Dominican College, M.S., University of Colorado) Sam has been involved at The Colorado Springs School for over 20 years as a math and science teacher, Dean, and Head of Upper School. He spent five summers teaching field ecology at Oxebow College in Michigan. He is an expert on the moths and butterflies of the Colorado region. Sam is an ecologist who also has a passion for singing, song writing and storytelling. Sam has been our General Ecologist and expert on Lepidoptera for over 7 years.
Rob Jolly wears many hats as Director of The Nature Place, one being a staff naturalist. Rob canoed extensively in Canada and backpacked in various western states while growing up. He has a B.A. in Geology, taught at the acclaimed High Trails Outdoor Education Center, and at Big Spring boys' camp before becoming the Director of The Nature Place. Living on the property year around since 1987 gives him unique perspectives of the local surroundings. He helped create the innovative team and leadership development programs that utilize an understanding of natural, human, and economic systems. Telemark skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing, and sailing provide enjoyment when away from work. He continues to study the geologic history of the Pikes Peak region, and loves to share his knowledge about the natural history of central Colorado and providing astronomy workshops for groups at our observatory.
"Not only is this a beautiful facility, with GREAT FOOD, the best we have seen in 10 years, but you are kind, loving, supportive people. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
"Thank you for a wonderful setting for our program. The food was great, our rooms were clean, everything ran smoothly and everyone was friendly. You are all appreciated."
“This is the most life-transforming event I have encountered in 30 years around the globe. Participants come hoping to sharpen their technical skills; they leave inspired to become a better person. What better place to discover what really matters? The atmosphere is enchanting, the peaks are breathtaking, and then something magical happens.”
“The purpose of our workshops was to develop and cement relationships. We were able to do this because of the isolation from social distraction, the relaxed atmosphere, and the comfortable, well-planned programs and meeting areas."
“I was extremely impressed by the performance of the entire staff and have truly never received such prompt and courteous attention at a conference. The facilities were beautiful, the food terrific, all in a setting that was breathtaking. I have received glowing remarks from everyone who participated. Morale is up 200%!."
"Our Chief Officers just attended a 3 day leadership training and development program at The Nature Place. The program was nothing short of outstanding. I recommend the Insights Discovery System, the high ropes challenge course, and going to the observatory, although every activity we participated in was fun and educational. The staff was very service oriented and fun to be around..."
“Our week in the Rockies simply wouldn’t have been nearly as successful anywhere other than The Nature Place. We can’t rave enough about your hospitality (and food!), and the facilities were even better than we thought possible."
“Compared to other training programs that I have attended, I can honestly say that this is one program that I felt was totally worth my time and that was building my abilities from the moment we started until the very end. It was the toughest training program I’ve been to and yet somehow I felt very comfortable with the atmosphere at all times. I would like to congratulate you on the quality of instructors that..."
“I never knew how good it feels to be treated like ‘Queen For the Day’ for 4 days in a row! Thank you!”
“The Nature Place turned out to be so perfect. And to think I had worried a bit after making my decision last fall—was it ‘spectacular’ enough to satisfy?’ What we enjoyed of course in this lovely setting was more simple than spectacular… Plus, an unbelievably gifted staff to help us see and appreciate more fully the beauty around us (and helping us climb those gorgeous Witcher rocks). Add to that the..."
“The High Rope Course was a moving and memorable experience for me. I am now more open to stretching myself and am working on creating a safe environment to challenge and try new things with my team at work.”
“This program provided me with an enriching experience that is beyond compare. Our facilitator was superb, he challenged but didn’t force. It was an awesome experience to help me think beyond the norm from now on.”
“The orienteering course was absolutely energizing for me. I now have a clear understanding of the differences and likenesses between me, and others. My patience has grown as I now take time to discover where others are on the ‘map’. This was a very powerful training for me. Rich in benefits.”
“On behalf of the M---- M------- staff, I would like to thank you for facilitating such an amazing team-building experience for us… I feel extremely confident in saying that our experience at The Nature Place proved rewarding, both personally and professionally. We all learned something about ourselves as educators and collaborators. This learning experience for the staff will most certainly have a positive..."
“I am now willing to take on more responsibilities at work that were outside of my comfort zone before.”
“Having done the team challenges I am more able to be creative with my team, and to think critically.”
“My perception about being successful has changed. The Nature Place program with Insights Discovery helped me understand how to overcome the fear that I had of the ‘sticking points’ that exist in our team. I am much more confident and skillful now in getting past these challenging points."
“Leaders cannot command commitment; they can only inspire it. What may begin as “my” vision emerges as “our” vision."
“I just wanted to thank you for another great family reunion at The Nature Place. Your staff was great – I’d say the best yet. Shelley was the best. The facility and grounds looked great, and you’ve obviously made some additions and improvements. Though we never seem to get everything done that we plan, I left wondering how I could have squeezed any more into any day! The Nature Place, you, and your staff..."
“After jumping off a pole and walking across cables with the team's support, I now know that if I put my mind to something, I can and will accomplish it. I also learned that I am a cheerleader at heart and am able to encourage others. This is an area where I lacked confidence previously.”
“My sincere appreciation for the team building experience The Nature Place provided for my group and their families. The facilities are top notch and the location is truly magnificent. I know that the benefits gained during our time spent at The Nature Place will be long lasting."
“I have continued to live and relive portions of the experience over the past month and I continue to be impressed with the change wrought in my own life just because I have ‘been to the mountain top.’ Of all the seminars I have been to in my lifetime, this event will always stand out as one of the most memorable and significant.”
"Please accept my appreciation for the exceptional services provided by you and your staff in support of Forces Command. The Nature Place is the ideal site for this exciting and meaningful event, for it provides the optimum atmosphere for focusing on the important topic of character and leadership development. The comfortable quarters, delicious food and gorgeous setting only serve..."
“I’m more reflective and confident when my leadership is sought. I react differently now to situations. And I just know that I have been transformed as a leader."
“Our program really emphasized teamwork within our leadership team and I certainly got that. I have more confidence and my relationship with the other members is now very strong, and we started as strangers.”
“The challenge activities you planned were perfect. Your facilitators did an excellent job connecting with our work environment and the way they made the experience like our real life enhanced the takeaways for us. We will be back.”
“The S------- family would like to express our appreciation to you and the entire staff for making our reunion such a success. To entertain and meet the needs of a group whose ages range from two months to seventy-five years is no small task and you were able to pull it off to perfection. The meals, accommodations, and variety of activities were outstanding, but the most important contributing factor..."
“Rob, Thank you for all that you and your terrific team do to make Next Level look good. Wow, can you believe we did TWO weeklong programs with you this year? My colleagues and I are grateful to call you teammates. And we do not use that term lightly."
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