The month of December can be a treacherous one at Red Cliff Ascent.  It is often the first month of truly wintry weather and the stress of being away from family and friends during the holidays can take its toll on staff and students alike.  While we can’t control the weather we do like to show a little Christmas Spirit by holding a “shin-dig” at our Outpost facility.

The Christmas festivities start off on December 24th when our support staff make an evening visit to each group with hot chocolate and candy canes.  This year the night skies were clear of snow, but the temperature dropped into the low teens and single digits.  Having a hot cup of peppermint and chocolate, along with the chance to sing some Christmas Carols around a juniper and pine campfire, made the night a little more special and helped the cold air bite just a little bit less.

The morning of the 25th was an early one for everyone involved in the making of a wilderness Christmas.  This year Leslie Bishop, our Director of Human Resources, brought her family out to the field to serve breakfast to the staff and students.  The Bishops woke up early, ignored the presents under the tree, and drove the 90 minutes to Outpost to help our backup driver, Shadow, and myself create a Christmas breakfast that would be special for all of our students.

As the students hiked towards Outpost our staff and volunteers diced up mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers, they crumbled bacon, fried hash browns, and stirred up gallons of hot chocolate.  By 9:30AM, when all the groups arrived, there was a a decorated juniper tree, a stack of six Dutch ovens, and a roaring fire to greet them.  

Breakfast was a heaping serving of “mountain man breakfast” for everyone involved; fluffy eggs, bacon, potatoes, and vegetables topped off with melted cheese and salsa.  Orange juice and hot chocolate washed it all down.  And then we got started on the presents!

The weeks before Christmas our office turns into a miniature North Pole as presents arrive from all over for our students.  Parents are asked to limit their gift-giving to items that will prove useful in the wilderness; light fleece jackets, gloves, mittens, beanies, and scarves are all popular gifts.  

The unwrapping of presents and trying on of new gear is always exciting, but the most touching part of the day for me is listening to students read over the letters from their family and talk about how much the notes of love and cheer mean to them.  

As I snap photos of the students for our Parent Portal I can’t help but think of all the families that are attending to their holiday traditions, but are missing an important member.  This absence is never easy and it is certainly felt by our students and staff.  Still, there is a knowledge that all of us involved in this celebration are here for a reason and out at Outpost there is a happy spirit.   by Ryan Hill, Weekend Director

To see a video of our Thanksgiving celebration, visit