A very popular camp activity at Elk Creek Ranch is our work program. We have always believed that a ranch experience without some ranch work is as unrewarding as it is artificial. The work itself ranges from the normal chores of a ranch operation to ambitious building projects and horse training. The common and continuing tasks include mending old and building new fences, maintaining tack, repairing corrals, irrigating the pastures, and feeding the horses.
Each summer, we also tackle at least one extensive building project. In recent years we have completed the construction of a new log cabin, a barn, several porches, and an extension on our Dining Hall. Indeed, our entire "Hoss Palace"- including barn, tack house, hay shed, corrals, and stalls has been built by ranch groups over the past fifty years.
We also have an ongoing horse-training program that starts with new foals learning to lead and to trust the human hand, and ends with four-year-old horses graduating to the trail. In a very tangible way, the Ranch as it now exists has grown and taken shape through the work of all the past Ranchers.
In addition to introducing the ranchers to manual skills and to challenging them with extensive projects, the ranch work is designed to foster an appreciation of our primitive surroundings. Many of our projects utilize poles and logs from the forest and planks and boards we mill on location. Although our approach to the work projects is time-consuming, it does promote an awareness of our pioneering past and a concern for our environmental future. As recognition for each Rancher's work contribution to Elk Creek, we refund up to $100 of tuition to each Rancher each session. For many, the check is a first "paycheck," one of those important coming of age moments.