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The Great Outdoors

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Campout teaches us many things. Campout brings us closer to nature. Campout lets us cook and eat amazing food. Campout has us complete satisfying challenges. Campout gives us a powerful sense of gratitude for shelter, running water, and electricity. Campout gives us stories - both true stories of bravery and comedies and tragedies, and also fictional ones of epic heroes and hilarity and intensity and growth.

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During campout, we live in the backyards of the snakes, the wild turkeys, the bears, the deer, the lizards, the turtles, raccoons, the foxes, the bobcats, the river otters, the bees, and the songbirds. We sleep in open-air tarps. They may appear daunting at first, but they keep you dry and safe from the elements. More importantly, it makes us closer to the land that we sleep upon, that we live with and for. We remind ourselves at sleep and in dreams to take care of this world and its beauty, the life it gives us, the dreams it gives us when we sleep on its massive self. Some of us might take down the top tarp to gaze at the stars, feast on the constellations and galaxies that illuminate the great dark. On the Earth, we feel safe and comfortable from the wonders and terrors in those places, those beacons of light millions of years away, and the same ground we rested upon thousands of years ago.

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On Campout, we eat like royalty! Naan pizzas, s’mores, sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches, and pesto pasta fill our bellies with delight, alongside plenty of proteins and vitamins after intense hikes, and countless games of Mafia and crazy conversations.

Those hikes and cooking the food are only some challenges that we face while on campout. Other challenges include making new friends, healing and mending friendships, tying knots, setting up tarps and taking them down, learning to sleep in the woods and directly under the stars, and making fires.

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Campout makes us appreciate what we do and do not have. When we triumphantly return to base camp, covered in dirt and sweat and joy, we feel gratitude for the simplest things. Showers, once a hindrance to getting into bed, is now a joyous cleanser. Sinks become things we see in our peripheral vision to things we see with wide eyes. Beds stop being comfortable and transform into sinking sand of sweet dreams and smiles. Above all, we feel thankful that we have these things regularly; we feel inspired to make sure that others who don’t have these luxuries of electricity and shelter and running water can get them.

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There are so many stories from Campout. There are stories of bravery, like when some of us could get a seriously sprained ankle or even a broken bone, but continue the journey the best we can, demonstrating awesome fortitude. There are comedies, like how in the middle of the night, people sleeping four or even five spaces apart somehow swap positions, one person wakes up next to a tree, another wakes up outside of the art, and someone else wakes up with Uno cards stuck to their forehead. There are tragedies, like how some of us might have to miss some Campout because of an injury, or because of sickness. We also tell stories to each other. We tell each other ghost stories, legends, myths, or original tales we have created around a fire of our own creation, crackling with delight at the joy around us.

There is so much joy before, during, and after campout. There is so much joy.

Story by Noah Gerhardt with photos by Samantha Keebler & Brandon S. Marshall