After a long nine months sitting at a school desk, teenagers are ready to head outside and enjoy summer vacation. Many have jobs, but there’s more to summer than work.
What to do for fun in Southwest Colorado?
A common complaint heard from Durango teenagers is that there isn’t much to do here that isn’t accompanied with a cost. So either by choice or for lack of anything better, that prompts many of them to head outdoors, the Herald learned in a series of interviews around town and at local hangouts.
A typical break from work means spending time with friends either hiking, floating the Animas River or doing some sort of adrenaline-boosting activity, said Haley Clarke, 16, who works at Serious Texas Bar-B-Q.
“My friends and I are really outdoor-oriented, so that’s how we like to spend our days off,” Clarke said.
Like many, Clarke frequents Bakers Bridge with friends for a relaxing day or heads to Cascade Falls when seeking an adrenaline rush.
Henry Ryan, 15, spends spring breaks and a few weeks each summer at his family’s vacation home on Missionary Ridge. Ryan, from Dallas, enjoys the outdoor thrills of the Durango area. He enjoys Bakers Bridge and spends time on the river fly-fishing with his father.
Ryan, interviewed after he rode up to Bakers Bridge on a bicycle, said he frequents Durango Mountain Resort for all of “the great trails back on the mountain.”
And not to get these action-starved teenagers in trouble, but legally, Bakers Bridge is good only for crossing. Dan Bender, a spokesman with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, said jumping off the bridge is not permitted and the area is patrolled when possible.
Bri Peterson, 16, daughter of Robert Peterson and Lisa Hess, spends summers at Wilderness Trails Ranch north of Bayfield. Peterson, currently a ranch crew supervisor, has been employed at the dude ranch for four years.
“I spend 95 percent of my time at the ranch,” Peterson said. “We’re all like a family. It’s a lot of fun.”
Peterson and her co-workers ride horses when they aren’t on the clock, and she also goes camping with friends in the Hermosa area.
Some teens make use of the summer by diving into personal passions.
Aiyana Anderson, 18, recently graduated from Animas High School and has been spending her days off designing and making clothes that she plans to sell in the future. Anderson takes full advantage of her days off, cooking fresh summer meals for her family and friends and exploring her land out in the country. She plans to float down the Animas River when the water warms up.
Brooke Bucclwich, 13, daughter of Jon and Cindy Bucclwich, has a strong interest in theater and the arts and has been participating in summer theater at Durango Arts Center since she was 6 years old.
Raeden Shanks, 15, daughter of Robert and Nancy Shanks, will be a sophomore at Durango High School in the fall.
Shanks trains for soccer during the summer and attends at least one of the optional training sessions with her team each week. Shanks also trains on her own, going trail running up to the Fort Lewis College campus, helping to build endurance, and occasionally lifting weights.
When not training, Shanks heads to the Animas River or takes her dogs to Durango Dog Park.
Though she can admit that Durango may not have a wealth of summer activities that don’t require a love for the outdoors, it isn’t a bother.
“I think all of the opportunities outdoors makes up for it,” she said.
Teens could be making use of free time and adding to their education, but there is a lack of motivation for this.
There is the option for high school students to take summer classes at Fort Lewis College through the concurrent enrollment, if desired, but the college doesn’t see that happening too often. This summer, only one student is enrolled for a summer session, said Andy Burns, FLC’s director of admission and advising.
The lack of enrollment likely stems from financial constraints because, unlike during the academic year, school districts aren’t obligated to pay for summer classes, Burns said.
For students with an eye on college, taking a course at FLC can add a lot to their admission application. They can differentiate themselves if they are successful in those classes, and it helps prepare high school students for their future college careers, Burns said.
Durango Community Recreation Center is another common place for teens to gather. Veronica Henrich, 15, walks to the rec center to meet friends midmorning. They then hit the Animas River Trail and head into town.
In the late afternoons and evenings, Main Avenue downtown is a place where many teens gather to frequent burger and pizza joints and see what’s happening. It’s a conclusion to another typical, and hopefully fulfilling, Southwest Colorado day.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Emily Griffin, a summer intern at The Durango Herald, is a Fort Lewis College student.