It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see there’s long (or always) been a connection between spirituality and the outdoors. Recall Buddha sitting under a sacred fig tree until enlightenment struck. Think of Moses suddenly having the ability to part the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites could escape slavery. Remember how Jesus disappeared into the wilderness for 40 days following his baptism. And so on and so on … Or, if you’re not so inclined toward organized religion, go back to Thoreau, who chose a relatively secular bout of quiet at Walden Pond.
We Sure Footers have long been excited about facilitating outdoors experiences for faith groups and our Quaker Camping Trip was the first: a one-night adventure that brought together 11 adventurous Quakers from around Georgia for community-building, river-exploration, reflection, worship, and – of course- s’mores.
This adventure also included another first: a three-generation family of campers: Leszlie, her children T.J. and Eli, and her parents Denny and Elaine. For a long stretch on our first day, all three generations spent time floating in the Chatooga River, enjoying the view of the Dick’s Creek waterfall downstream and the forest upstream. Most crossed the river to South Carolina. And at one point, T.J. and Eli joined other adventurers – Bert, Merrick and Mary – in conquering a giant rock outcrop in the middle of the river.
That night before dinner we sat around cutting vegetables, toasting buttered bread over the fire, and getting to know one another. Cathi – a seasoned Girl Scout leader and outdoorswoman – got to relax and let the Sure Foot guides worry about meals and the forecast of rain. Eleven-year-old Merrick has gone on Sure Foot trips with her school, and this time was able to proudly show her mom – a first-timer with Sure Foot – the proper way to set up the tent and arrange gear. Karen and Bert were celebrating Karen’s recent retirement from her job. Before we ate, we circled up and each named something we were grateful for that the day had brought. Among the things listed: the river swim, the fire started by T.J., Eli and Merrick, and the sunny weather.
That night, the rain was kind enough to wait for us to fall asleep before it started – and then kept going. Inside the tents the raindrops echo, making even a drizzle sound like a downpour! But – as luck would have it – the rain stopped in time for breakfast, coffee and cocoa. And then – just as we were gathering under our group tarp for Sunday morning worship – it started again. And then – just as we were finishing – it stopped again. A few of us got a morning swim in, many of us – including Bert and Karen – took a hike — and by the time we packed up, most of our gear was dry and all of us felt accomplished. A swim to South Carolina! A worship-full weekend in the woods! New friends! Truly, it was a joyous weekend.
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