Carson, 12, is pushing his bike up a hill, past four rows of sculpted dirt jumps. Knowing he has had no lunch, I ask if he’s hungry.”I’m really hungry,” he says, “but I don’t want to miss anything,” and turns away.This is camp, on a parcel in Arapahoe National Forest. I went to camp myself, for five summers, including Girl Scout camp and one that I gradually realized, to my surprise, was church camp.But what kind of parent takes her children to huck camp? Well, one whose children sometimes ride bikes eight hours a day, who dog the local dirt park. Who jump, and should probably learn proper techniques.Nearby is what looks like a stubby, pointless, dry dock. Higher up and among the trees is a crazy aerial pier, Escher-like, another horizontal “Ladder” leading nowhere. “My kids aren’t going off that, are they?” I ask.”No,” Andy Miller, director of the Huck Forest Bike Camp, near Winter Park, assures me. “It’s not even finished.”His high-school-age son, Skyler, to the kids’ delight, is burning out a nest of wasps from the middle of the “four-cross” course, for simultaneous racing. Andy’s college-age son, Forest, is an instructor, as is Forest’s fellow mountain-bike-racer Cody Wilderman.Below, a handful of kids takes turns popping like popcorn over strings of dirt jumps – set in beginner, intermediate, expert and pro lines – while Forest advises.Seven boys are here for the weekend, sleeping in the three-story High Lonesome Hut that Andy built as a ski lodge.My younger son, Roy, 10, hikes his bike past me, his bangs spiky with sweat under his helmet. He doesn’t want to eat anything either, though he consents to drink some water. Quickly.On the hillside are also a berm track and a “rhythm section” – tight rollers for practicing pumping. Forest and his race buddies have built all the courses over the last three years.Carson, below, tells someone, “Man, I cased it.” Casing, I learn, means a wheel hitting the wrong side of a landing. Forest tells my son Teddy, 12, not to “boost” his jumps, but to “suck up” height with his body to stay lower.Many times, Forest, Cody and Skyler fire off several jumps, and then suddenly pull swift U-turns, stopping. They trudge back up. If anything is wrong, they say – if they’ve overshot a jump – they won’t do the next one.”That’s when you get injuries,” Forest says.The kids do U-turns.Cody is trying the first jump on the pro course, one he has not done since injuring his arm in a race. The jump must be six feet tall. The gap between the drop-in and the lip is so deep he can’t see the upcoming landing. “That thing’s a hole,” says Forest.Cody descends, but turns around.”You had it,” Skyler and Forest tell him.Cody replies, in an impressive Australian accent, “Aw, it’s really hard, mate.” He starts again, stops.”That’s it,” they say calmly: speed and line are correct, and his wheels aren’t washing out. He starts; turns.”Everything was perfect so I stopped,” Skyler teases.Cody finally says, “I’m going to do some other things for a while.””Cody’s getting aggro,” Madison, 12, observes in amusement.I have hiked the 2.5 miles into the camp while dropping off three campers, and, before leaving, walk along the monstrous “Jigum Poof” course to check out the hut. Jigum Poof contains 40-foot jumps across gaps. It is fortunately closed and, better yet, overgrown.On Sunday the boys will return home alight with all they’ve learned about form, cornering, and jumping, and tales of how a teasing Cody hefted Madison’s bike high into a tree, meanwhile, Teddy hid Cody’s behind a dirt mound. “Hi, mate,” they tell us.For now, I wait around but Cody never does the jump today, and that is probably the best teaching of all.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com
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