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Wild at Heart with John Eldredge

Monday, July 8, 2013 4:49
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Wild at Heart Boot CampRansomed Heart is a ministry devoted to helping people discover the heart of God, recover their own heart in his love, and learn to live in his Kingdom.

In order for a man to get his heart back, he’s got to take a journey.  One that involves risk, danger, and a point of no return.

Wild at Heart Boot Camp, lead by John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart, and the Wild at Heart Team, is a four-day quest into the recovery of the masculine soul.

Through teaching sessions that go deep into the message of Wild at Heart, guided times of personal reflection, and optional adventures, Boot Camp is more than a retreat – it is an expedition of the heart.  You will never be the same.

For more information and scheduled events, visit Ransomed Heart Wild At Heart Boot Camp

What to Know

I’ve been blessed to attend Wild at Heart on my own and a second time as part of a group.  My first time, alone, is a special time in my life I will never forget.  The opportunity to shed my prideful need to pose in front of others allowed me to experience God in new ways.  Yes, it was difficult to step out on my own, since this was also my first men’s event of any kind.  When I returned to Wild at Heart as part of a group I had the opportunity to commune with other believers as well as carve out time to be alone with God.  Whether you strike out on your own or come with a band of brothers, take the leap.  You won’t regret it.

Registering for Wild at Heart

Wild at Heart is not an arena gathering of men but, an outdoor setting where men can experience God and the message can sink in.  Demand outweighs the size and frequency of Wild at Heart events.  So rather than a first come first serve ticket purchase, Ransomed Heart uses a lottery system to give individuals and groups an equal opportunity to attend.

The lottery for each event opens up a few months prior to the event.  You can enter the lottery for an event without obligation. If confirmed to attend, you then register and pay the applicable fee.

Cost of the Event

  • Wild at Heart Colorado fees are typically $450
  • Wild at Heart Hawaii fees were $425

Fees include accommodations, meals, teaching, and event supplies.  Fees do not include transportation to and from the event.

Attendees will have opportunity to participate in other fee based activities, usually off campus, during free time.


Wild at Heart is held in a variety of locations from Colorado to Hawaii.  Recent WAH Colorado events have been held at the Crooked Creek Ranch, a Young Life facility outside of Fraser, Colorado, near the Winter Park Resort ski area.

Getting There

For Wild at Heart events in Colorado, there is a roundtrip shuttle option that is the safest bet to arrive on-time and in one piece.  Drivers unfamiliar with mountain or snow driving should consider the shuttle.  For those that do drive, allow extra time if snowing.  See the event website for directions and alternate transportation options.

When traveling to Wild at Heart in March, my party arrived in Denver Wednesday evening and loaded up the rental to make our way to Winter Park where we planned to stay the night in order to get a day of skiing in Thursday before heading over to Crooked Creek.  The snow began to fall as we made our way into the mountains on I-70.  The weight of car piled with man-stuff coupled with the slower snow speeds were no match for the steep inclines.  I felt as though we were the “engine that could” making our way up and around the roads.  By the time we turned off onto Highway 40 toward Berthoud Pass, the snowfall was heavy.  The sign said 24 miles.  I joked that we should take it slow and that is was fine if it took us an hour.  It did, and then some.  We drove those 24 miles going 10 to 15 miles per hour and only went faster where snow plows had cleared the way.  The next day I met a man who, despite being experienced driving in snow, had an accident while crossing the pass just an hour or so behind us.  Thank God he was ok, the car was not. Lesson learned, seriously consider the shuttle if snowing and take it slow however you go.


Crooked Creek Ranch, like other Young Life campuses, offers dormitory accommodations.  Buildings contain several large sleeping quarters with bunk beds that sleep 10 to 12.  Attendees are provided bedding, sheets, blanket, and pillow.  You may want to get to your room as early as possible to pick out a bottom bunk.

There is no turn down service, no chocolate on the pillow, now ultra euro foam top mattress, no cone of silence to tune out snoring.  No, this is Wild at Heart where I’ve experienced the best rest of my life.


Knowing the accommodations are dormitory style, you’ll no doubt want to know what’s the deal with bathrooms. Well, the stalls have doors and the showers have curtains and there are plenty of sinks.  There’ll be plenty of hot water so there’s no need to fight for the first shower.

You’ll be provided a towel, but no toiletries. Again, this isn’t the Marriott with Orange Ginger Bath and Body Works shampoos and conditioners.  Bring your own shampoo and soap and count on someone needing to borrow your soap since few remember to bring any (to be read as, I forgot my soap and had to use hand soap from the sink area).


You’ll be hard pressed to eat better anywhere (my mouth is watering just remembering the good eats).  Dinners are outstanding with hearty breakfasts providing a great start for the day.  Lunches are less heavy but still hit the spot.  Meals are served family style with healthy portions available for all. That being said, please be mindful of the other guests at the table when serving yourself to ensure another isn’t getting firsts when the seconds arrive.

Coffee machines are conveniently located to provide round the clock free caffeine fix.  For a buck or two, coolers of water and sports drinks are located just inside the dining hall.

After the last session each day, a snack bar with very reasonable prices is open for those with late munchies and cappuccino or smoothie cravings.

If you are prone to crashing due to medical condition or just being a big boy, I suggest grabbing an extra piece of fruit or bread when available, usually at breakfast.

Wild at Heart meals are served in a massive dining hall adorned with deer racks and natural woods that conjures up for me visions of the mead hall in Beowulf.  The large open hall can be intimidating if on your own.  While not as painful as waiting to be picked on the playground, don’t get discouraged.  Find the first open seat and strike up a conversation.  You’re likely to find others in the same boat.  If attending with a group, be on the lookout for individuals who are hoping for an invitation to join you. I’ve found that when I’ve dined with strangers, I’ve walked away wondering if they were actually angels sent for the sole purpose of ministering to me over a meal.


Wild at Heart sessions are held in a theatre style room that has tiered seating so that there are no bad seats.  Those familiar with Young Life may wonder whether the club room has chairs; the answer is yes.  Chairs aren’t the most comfortable but your butt is not in them so long as to be noticeable.  Instead, sessions are to the point, impactful, and preparing you for silent time on your own.

Restrooms are located at the back left and right of the room and downstairs accessible from the right side middle of the room.

Exit doors are in the back and middle sides of the room.  For me, sitting near an exit is more important than being front row center.  When there is free, quiet time, I like to get out the door and down a trail or to a bridge or overlook to pray and commune with God.

What to Wear

Dress in comfortable layers.  In sessions, the temperature is comfortable enough for short sleeves even during the winter.  Step outside and you’ll likely need a jacket.

Pack for changes in temperature knowing that you could see rain, sleet, or snow depending on the season. Fleece is often enough to get around unless you will be outdoors for longer periods.  A water proof or water repellent jacket is recommended to ensure you keep the damp out.

Jeans and cargo pants are as common as camos and khakis. If you plan on venturing near the snow you may want to bring ski pants or similar water repellent pants.

Attendees wear all kinds of shoes from boots and running shoes to flip flops. During sessions and meal times, pretty much any shoe will do.  But anywhere not paved is likely to be either snow, ice, or mud depending on the season, so put some thought into what will work for you.  I personally recommend a pair of hiking boots and something more comfortable as a backup and to travel in.

Bring one more set of clothes to change into than you think you’ll need, just in case.

I love to hike and would wake up early each morning to hike as far as I could on a trail then return for a shower and breakfast.  My hikes were a great time of peace where God could reveal to me in the quiet of our walk. My first trip to Crooked Creek was in the spring, first of May.  The snow was melting and the creek babbling.  I could hike the southern ridge leading from camp, but the northern ridge on the other side of the creek was snow covered knee deep.  I was excited on my second trip in March to see that snowmobiles had packed the north side snow allowing me to hike new trails.  I left one early morning and hiked 30 minutes out to the end of the property turned and looked back across the creek to the trails I’d hiked on my previous trip.  I decided to wade through the snow to the other side to take the familiar southern route back to camp.  What I didn’t know is that the southern trail did not benefit from the snowmobile snow pack.  I navigated through waist deep, snow covered aspens. Slid or rolled down hills, to make up ground.  Nearly two hours later, I made it back to camp, soaked head to toe from snow and sweat.  Poor, wild hearted decision on my part or providence, I learned a lot about myself and God during my journey back.  My advice to you, stay on the path and bring an extra set of clothes, just in case.

Local Activities

The Friday and Saturday afternoons of Boot Camp include a few hours for attendees to get wild.

The Boot Camp staff will likely have snowshoes available for rent for just a few bucks.  I had my first ever snowshoeing experience at Crooked Creek.  Snowshoers tend to love or hate snowshoeing.  If you’ve never been, you owe it to yourself to try it out.  You’ll be able to trek where only the animals go, sit besides creeks and streams, and view scenery others only see in pictures.  If you do snowshoe, dress in layers; you can work up a sweat snowshoeing.

A short drive from camp, other diversions include snow tubing and snowmobiling.

I joined a group sliding in intertubes down a local hill.  We raced one another downhill and began a game that resembled human curling.

Another afternoon, we went to a local snowmobile outfitter where we reached speeds near 60 mph as we traversed the Arapaho National Forest.

Other Activities

When planning your trip, if you plan to take in other attractions, do so on the front end of the trip rather than the end.  When Wild at Heart wraps up you’ll want to let it sink in without distraction or busyness.

Crooked Creek is just minutes from the Winter Park ski area, a fine mountain with plenty of cruising acres and bumps.

Further down the road is Arapahoe Basin (A-Basin) and other Summit County ski areas.  If hoping to fit in an early or late season ski, A-Basin may be your only option as it is normally open from October to June.

Few things awaken my spirit like skiing.  My first year of attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp I watched the weather hopeful that a late snow would enable me to ski prior to my Boot Camp which began May 1.  I woke up Thursday morning around 3 am eastern time to catch my flight west.  Touching down in Denver around 9am, skies were blue with no sign of the forecasted rains.  I grabbed a rental car and raced to A-Basin, the highest skiable terrain in North America.  After a bite to eat and ski rentals, I was on my up the mountain. But a few runs later I began to get a headache and noticed that my heart was racing, not something I’d ever experienced when skiing.  I stopped at the Black Mountain Lodge for a Gatorade and happened to bump into an A-Basin employee from my home town. I told him about my journey from 1,000 feet to 11,000 feet and he looked at me like I’d lost my mind.  “Do you not get altitude sick,” he asked.  Then it hit me that for the first time in my life, I was experiencing the dreaded altitude sickness.  I rested for a while at the lodge kicked back in an adirondack chair enjoying the beautiful view from their famous sundeck. A few more runs and I was on my way to the ski patrol’s medical hut for advice.  “Get off the mountain” they told me, “as fast as you can.”  I have no regrets for my wild heart but would advise travelers to arrive Tuesday or Wednesday to acclimate to the altitude if hoping to ski prior to the start of Boot Camp.

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