YouthPride camping trips have always been some of my favorites because they have drawn interesting, upbeat participants, and my co-leader of these trips (Tana H.) is someone I enjoy spending time with. However, after Tana had a major surgery in the spring, I feared that I’d not be leading any more YouthPride trips. Without a partner within YouthPride, it’s hard to pull off something as “off-the-beaten-path” as a camping trip.
Miraculously (and really, not surprisingly, knowing Tana), there she was, just a couple months after surgery, ready to go to the woods! And though only one previous participant was able to come, the trip filled up several days ahead of time. We left the YouthPride building on Saturday morning with excitement and only a little anticipation of the gray skies above us.
As we drove north, the skies darkened and we saw the tell-tale sign of rain – oncoming cars with headlights on in the daytime. Finally, just north of Gainesville, the clouds opened up and the rain came down in torrents. Hoping the weather would move on in the next hour, we continued driving. But unfortunately, it was still pouring when we arrived in Clayton.
Our spirits were still high and the temperature still warm, so we hunkered down under a pavilion in the Warwoman Dell recreation area. I’ve always loved the name “Warwoman.” On one trip we led with Counterpane School, two students even made up a song about a warwoman. Anyway, I don’t know the true story about why the area is called Warwoman (there is a road, a creek, and a dell), but from what I’ve read, the original Warwoman was either Nancy Ward (a Cherokee Beloved Woman) or Nancy Hart (an Anglo leader of a Patriot band in Revolutionary War times). Both of these women’s stories are well worth reading!
Notice that this blog entry has been more about getting to the woods than being in them? Well, it continues…
We finally left Warwoman Dell around 3:00 pm after telling stories, laughing, and lying on picnic tables for a couple hours. It was still raining, but we were tired of waiting around, so we drove to Sandy Ford Road. The road is called that because there is a ford across Dicks Creek that we usually drive through before reaching the parking area. When we arrived at the ford, the creek was swollen from all the rain and there was a black Dodge Avenger stuck in the ford. We pulled in and parked and watched as a local gentleman with a truck helped pull the muscle car out of the water.
Still raining, our group decided to take a day hike to the waterfall and then decide (based on the rain) whether or not to go home or set up camp. Once we entered the woods and I relinquished my anxiety about the weather, the skies cleared. Happily, we pitched camp and even started a fire with the soggy wood.
Though we had a nice nice eating, talking, and roasting marshmallows around the fire that evening, everyone was tired and excited about swimming in the Chattooga River the next morning.
And that’s precisely what we did! Not everyone was a confident enough swimmer to make it to South Carolina, but we all spent time lounging along the riverbank, soaking in the suns’ rays that were so absent the day before, and marveling in the beauty that surrounded us.
This camping trip showed us how nature can seamlessly unveil a beautiful day after a dreary one. Though our trip was a success in terms of enjoyment and adventure, it also taught the lesson that after the strongest storm comes the most beautiful sunset.