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A Cohesive Community of Friends

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Our newest group of LITers (members of our Leadership in Training expedition) arrived last Sunday. In just over a week, we have held many dance parties, exchanged numerous friendship bracelets, and kept busy with a week chock-full of “staff”-training and leadership lessons. Most importantly, through all of the hikes, climbs, and games of Munchkin, we have formed a cohesive community of friends.

On Sunday, our LITs moved into their tarps, hugged Mom and Dad goodbye, and geared up for a busy four weeks. With a mix of GRP veterans and never-been-to-campers in this LIT group, we spent most of the day getting to know each other and GRP base camp. After a reverent–albeit rainy–Upper Council Fire, our LITs woke up Monday morning ready to dig into the meat of our program: staff training week.

Rather than stay on base camp, we hiked out Monday morning to one of GRP’s newest shelters, Clyde Lyde, for a change of scenery. We spent our time setting intentions for our time together as a group. One of the aspects which sets LIT apart from our other expeditions is how much agency we give the participants in designing their program. While we have many fun activities and trips planned for them, much of the schedule is flexible according to what they want to prioritize and focus on over their expedition. Building on our discussion about our intentions for the program, we had the participants create a group contract and cabin contracts–outlining their expectations for each other and themselves in our shared living and learning spaces.

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Over the course of the next few days, we spent our time split between staff training–learning how to be a good counselor, camp ethics, communication, and conflict resolution skills–and letting our participants get to better know the Preserve. On Tuesday morning, the LITers got to go on their first Mentor Hikes of the session, allowing them to explore hidden waterfalls, deep caves, and the beautiful balds. They topped off the day by helping facilitate one of GRP’s most iconic evening programs: Predator Prey.

Serving as a sort of bridge between being a camper and a staff member, our LIT program gives our participants the opportunity to work and bond with a cabin, without the pressure of living with and leading those campers 24/7. On Thursday, we paired each of our LITs with their cabins. While we eat breakfast together every day as a group, the LITs get to spend lunch and dinner with their cabin group, helping to solidify the bonds with their campers in a low-pressure environment.

The past few days have been especially special for our LIT group. While all of the Session 4 campers embarked on campout, our group stayed on base camp, marking the first time that any of the LITers had seen camp without campers (think: tranquility). On Saturday, we did tie dye, had an LIT-only movie night, and got Thai food as a special surprise. On Sunday, we woke up with the sun so that we could make it to Bear Rock–one of the Preserve’s best climbing spots. Having all been belay-certified the day before, we took turns belaying each other on three different routes across the rock. After a hot hike back to base camp, some of us jumped in the lake before we headed to the farm for dinner–a delicious medley of vegetables and herbs that we picked ourselves and roasted over a fire.

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While we took most of the weekend to relax, Monday was all about planning for the rest of the program. After we cleaned up the lodge, we got together as a group to talk about our upcoming backpacking trip and plan our route and our supplies. The group decided on a route that will take us to some of the Preserve’s best spots and also showcase its diverse ecosystems–Long Rock, Upper Bald, Uncle’s Falls, and Hemlock field.

Finally, we spent some time brainstorming our service project: our way to give back to the community and land that have given us so much. As of now, the group plans to work on a species map of the Upper Bald ecosystem as well as work on invasive species removal in the area.

The LITs have a busy upcoming week. We will be embarking on more mentor hikes, assisting with more activities and Group Learning Projects (GLPs), and leaving for our backpacking trip during the session break. Look out for more news (and pictures!) soon.

Story by Abby Edwards with photos by Samantha Keebler & Brandon S. Marshall