So much about this trip had the possibility of disaster: the forecast was for rain, the school was coordinating with parents, so I had not met or talked to any families, I met many of the students for the first time that day, only 4 out of 13 students brought proper raingear to school, and traffic was so bad that we returned to school several hours late, hungry and wet.
From the moment we left the bus to the time we returned to it, this day hike was lovely, scenic, adventurous, and fun. Though some students were frustrated by the rain (several kids wore jeans) and some of the girls worried about their hair, while we were hiking and playing in the river, I saw nothing but smiles and laughter. It’s amazing how joy can surface in the midst of a damp, mucky day!
Our group was 13 middle school students from Kingfisher Academy, their homeroom teacher and me (their Outdoors Education teacher). Though this school has a long history of outdoors programs, this was the first wilderness day hike for some of the kids.
We began our hike by fording a creek. The moment we opened the bus doors, the kids scattered out and were across the shin-deep creek barefoot or in water shoes before I could even take out the camera. And the rain immediately began falling on us.
You may ask: How does someone lead a day hike in the rain when 9 kids don’t have rain gear? Well, I anticipated this and actually brought nine (lucky guess on the number) rain jackets and fleeces. This at least kept everyone insulated, if not dry.
Some kids were more adventurous than others, but in the end, all of us waded across the river to a large rock ledge in the center. We braved rapids and deep areas. Standing on the ledge watching the students explore, their teacher remarked to me that this type of exploration is what creates environmentalists. By playing in nature, we truly learn to love and not destroy it.
Though it stopped raining while we ate lunch and played in the Chattooga, the rain started back in full once we recommenced hiking. Though the forest acted as somewhat of a canopy, we got soggier and soggier. At our next stop along the river, several kids and I “swam to South Carolina” (across the river), but the rain and a “snake” scare (I’m quite confident there was no snake, as the water was too cool for a coldblooded animal) convinced us to hike back to the bus.
Because I allowed the students to explore and laugh and play rather than hustle them from stop to stop, we reached the bus 20 minutes after I hoped we would. Then the rain picked up – as did the traffic. As a result, we reached school harried and worried (late for evening activities and frustrated by traffic and uncomfortable). Luckily, I had photos to look back at and remember how enjoyable the time in the woods was. I’m glad to get to share some of these photos with you now. And I can’t wait to be in the woods without rain!