All night, on the eve of this trip, I worried. But why? The students had been more well-prepared with their gear than most groups I work with. The kids were excited about the trip. I know and trust their teacher, who was my co-leader. The rain was going to hold off until the second day of our trip. I had checked and double-checked all group gear and we had plentyof good food packed. Why was I stressed? My only answer is that this was to be the first of four overnight trips with Kingfisher students this year and I wanted to get things off on the right foot. And, as you’ll read below, we did! I just need to be more like Buddha (as my wife likes to say), and stop worrying!
Though skies were gray when we left school, by the time we reached Gainesville, the clouds had broken. Our spirits lifted, and my heart beat faster with excitement. When we entered the woods, soft sunlight filtered through the leaves, and brought a glow to the world which, for several days prior, had been gloomy and wet.
One of my favorite things about each trip is adjusting participants’ backpacks. With just a few flips of my fingers, I can transform a backpack that hangs off your back or pinches your shoulders and readjust the weight so the proper 70% rides
on your hips and 30% is on your shoulders. The difference is amazing. I am able to see the fear in hikers’ eyes (“How will I ever carry this weight?”) change to confidence (“Wow, this isn’t so bad–I can do this!”). The key is a tight hip-belt. If you’ve been on a trip with me, you know I love tightening your hip-belt. The first time I pull the belt, participants say, “That’s too tight!” But they quickly realize that the weight on their back feels significantly lighter. Then they ask me to tighten it more.
After some pack adjustments, we walked the 1/2 mile to camp. I wasn’t sure how directive I’d need to be about camp tasks, but before I had dropped my pack, the kids had already started pitching their tents. Afterwards setting up camp, we brought our lunch to the waterfall and enjoyed cheese & summer sausage sandwiches, nutella, and peanut butter. Several kids waded in the cold water and dried themselves in the warm sun. And several of us climbed up the rocks of the waterfall to the very top, where we had an amazing view! In the end EVERY participant made it to the top of the falls.
We spent much of the afternoon building our fire. The wood was all wet from the previous days’ rain, but we decided to use only a lighter and materials we could find in the forest. As a team and with a lot of leadership from one young man, we did it. The fire never grew to a large size because of the damp wood. No one spent the huge amount of energy needed to tend it, but nevertheless, we were able to roast marshmallows that night.
I was pleased with so much about this group: they hung the rope and food bags on their own; I was not the only storyteller – three students told ghost stories; they efficiently cleaned their dishes without a fuss; and we completed a short night-hike without head lamps or flashlights!
There were frustrations, too. We had to tell the kids to be quiet over and over that night. Then, everyone awoke before the sun came up. I’m sure we all could have used more sleep.
Maybe there was some reason for rising early–it began raining around 4 am. We stayed dry in our tents and were able to eat breakfast under the big green tarp, but when it’s raining, dampness prevails. As a result, the second day was not as enjoyable as the first. Still, we had some adventures. Our group explored a hiking trail that became a game trail that became a bushwhack. We climbed through a small cave. We found and ate wild muscadine grapes. We even took a 30-minute walk in Dicks Creek!
Though we were all chilly and soaked by the time we reached the bus, we were satisfied to be a hard-core, adventurous group of campers. Then we drove home, dreaming of hot showers and clean clothes.
In the end, this trip proved that I had nothing to worry about. This group of 10 and 11 year-olds were naturals in the woods and I look forward to our next trip together.
To view more photos of our trip, visit the Sure Foot Adventures Facebook page.