I just completed one of the most enjoyable wilderness trips that I’ve led in awhile. The participants were not all experts in the woods and half the folks hadn’t followed the gear list fully. However, everyone was upbeat, open to new experiences, friendly, and focused on building community–the internal gear list that really matters!
This group of 11 YouthPride members and volunteers spent two days and one night next to the Chattooga River at the border of Georgia and South Carolina. In fact, several of us swam to South Carolina on Sunday afternoon. Though I’ve taken many groups to this location, we had by far the best weather this weekend. Sunny and highs in the 80s. The river was much higher than I’ve ever seen it, and Dicks Creek Falls was roaring.
After setting up camp on Saturday, we all went down to the falls, to relax, eat lunch, and have a group meeting. But the water was so loud that we just waded around, sunbathed (or burned, as in one or two folks’ case), tried to swim upstream, and sat in the coldest whirlpool ever! What a nice way to spend an afternoon.
The evening was particularly meaningful. We broke up into several “teams” — one group worked on renovating rebuilding an overused fire ring, another group collected firewood and sorted it into sizes, and a third group chopped vegetables and prepared dinner. The pasta was delicious, and then we lit the fire. That night the group talked until 1am about all sorts of personal and emotional topics. It reminded me that the wilderness is a beautiful place to built community and connect with others. After spending the day working with each other, we had a safe space to stare at the fire and talk about deep ideas. I think shared work leads to community, but conversation and deep, non-judgemental listening cements the community’s bond. Our camping trip provided all of this.
The next day, we played “get to know you” games, laying around on sleeping pads and laughing. Finally, many of us went on a day hike to a different section of the Chattooga. Then four of us swam upstream, lounged on rocks in the sun, then floated back to the rest of the group.
The big excitement happened on the way back from the river, when C “face-planted” while weaving through a fallen tree. Ankle-sprain and bloody nose, but hopefully no permanent damage! Here’s a photo:
When we returned to camp, G and J had virtually completed lunch preparations! What a treat!
I felt like all the participants learned a lot about living in the woods and the group came together as a true community. I look forward to the next time YouthPride goes with me on a trip!