The History Of Sonlight Camp

Winston Marugg knew he had one thing he wanted to do with his life: take kids into the mountains. In the early 1970’s he guided groups into the Pecos wilderness of New Mexico, up Truchas Peak and along trails by Beatty’s cabin. A few years later, when directing a camp in northern Colorado, he started a program for that camp to take kids into the Indian Peaks wilderness and beyond. In 1979, with trail miles under his boots, and the persistent desire to get kids into the wilderness, he and his wife Mary started Sonlight Adventures, Inc. An independent, non-profit backpack program for high school kids. The vast San Juan wilderness was the setting, with miles of trails and unlimited peaks.

On land purchased in 1982, the lodge was built, intended to be a base for the high country adventures, a staging area for all the trips. This humble vision was interrupted by God, when a persistent youth pastor visited and announced that the lodge was the ideal setting for a youth ski trip. That first winter 13 youth groups were hosted and the ski-lodge-for-youth-groups was solidly in place.

With the capacity for great dreams, the programs and property slowly took shape. Kent Lauser, a retired postal worker and life long friend, taught the skill of mixing mortar and block laying. Each May for over 20 years an old fashioned barn raising was held and in one weekend a building from foundation to roof could be raised. All labor was volunteer, friends and family willing to hammer spikes and heft the logs.

Entering our 39th season, the backpack program continues. The wilderness has changed in it’s own way but is ever the same. Youth ski groups have filled the lodge for 30 years and heaven only knows how much hot chocolate has been enjoyed around the woodstove. The summer camp program evolved from local kids requesting a place for camp and in 2018 over 500 children will spend a week or more of their summer at Sonlight. It is in the capacity to dream and a willingness to follow that dream that has inspired so many to pour their creative ideas and passion into the programs and facility that exist at Sonlight Camp today.

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