On every adventure, there are ups and downs, twists and turns. One moment you’re lugging a massive backpack, bulging at the seams, filled with everything from food, to cooking gear and extra clothes for whatever unknown force of weather might come your way. Next thing you know, you wearily open your eyes in the middle of the night, awoken by sudden, tiny flashes of light–that’s right, you pitched your tent in Hemlock Field and you’re surrounded by thousands of fireflies. Sometimes you set up your food storage bag, only to find it later, being raided by some masked vigilantes–also known, in these parts, as raccoons. Other times, you manage to hike for three hours, set up camp immediately upon arrival to your location and have the next few hours to literally play in the Green River. Like I said, ups and downs. These experiences make each Campout unique.
This weekend, campers, counselors, and mentors set off from the back field after a hectic hour of packing packs, dividing food, and inventing never-before-seen methods of strapping sleeping bags to packs. Soon enough, long lines of campers and staff wound their way onto any number of trails, waving goodbye to those still standing in the back field.
We were departing for our first Campout of the summer, where campers hike out to a number of campsites, explore the Preserve, learn outdoor skills, and practice Leave No Trace ethics. The weekend is a busy one, full of lengthy hikes, firewood gathering, tarp assembly, and cooking for a crowd. There are always tasks to be done: purifying water, hanging the bear bag, starting the fire, or digging a sump hole, to name a few. Setting up camp is a process that needs all hands on deck, and the weekend is, for many campers, the most challenging of the session.
But these challenges also lead to some of the most marked growth of the few weeks these campers are here. Campout is, for many children, a setting like no other, and its emphasis on teamwork is undeniable. Over the weekend, children get a chance to push themselves, both mentally and physically, often achieving something they thought they couldn’t do. For some, this means finishing a hike that may have at first felt impossible, while for others, it is simply spending the night in the woods, without the perceived security of a cabin.
Watching children grow over this weekend is a process full of gratification, and we at the Preserve are so encouraged by the way our campers embrace this adventure, push through difficulties, and, yes, surprise us with their grit, determination, cooperation, and patience. And it is a strong reminder of what this place is for: growth, community, and communion with the natural world. And during the points of greatest challenge, our campers show the greatest capacity to learn, to persevere, and to become stronger leaders and community members.
Story by Brandon S. Marshall & Katherine Poore with Photos by Brandon S. Marshall