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We all wish that we could just drop what we’re doing and venture into the wilderness. Today, our entire camp did just that. For this year’s Session 3 campout, we have 100 seasoned campers leading the way into the great beyond of the Preserve. There will be rain, oh, there will be rain.

This morning, however, we all enjoyed a sunshiny start while our campers and staff gathered in the back field to pack up cooking gear, food and shelter supplies. We have a saying here, that it always rains on campout. Less than an hour after our campers departed for their various camping locations, the storm clouds rolled on in. For now, it’s already dark out, thanks to thick, grey clouds. The rain has stopped–a good sign. Maybe, with a whole bunch of luck, the storms surrounding the region will glide right on past the Preserve and our campers will get to have a dry night in the woods. This is very, very hopeful thinking, but in the log run, it doesn’t really matter. The happy, excited faces of our campers, before they set out, were full of the purist joy.

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As we all stuffed our packs full of the necessities, there wasn’t the look of anxiety that I sometimes see before the expedition into the wild. Even the group hiking all the way out to the Chicken Shelter(someone said 5 miles–I’ll have to double check on that) seemed genuinely amped just to be going on campout. For so many of our campers, this session, specifically, they all know what it means to get to sleep outdoors in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It can be magical, if only you set your mind to believing it will be. The hike can be hard, grueling even, but there is a reward that awaits those who’re willing to put in the effort.

Each of our campout shelters are different, and each has it’s own unique charm. The time spent on the trail is so valuable in the creation of the next generation of backpackers and outdoors-people, in general. So much can be learned in the two days that our campers will be out in a pristine forest, unmatched in it’s natural beauty. Until the return to base camp, we’ll be hoping for good weather, but prepared for the worst, with smiles on our faces.

Story by Brandon S. Marshall with Photos by Brandon S. Marshall & Samantha J. Keebler