End with a Bang

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Being a camp counselor is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and even in the midst of exhaustion, I stand behind that statement.  Often I get asked if I enjoy what I do, and I can honestly say yes.  Having the opportunity to share something I am passionate about, makes me even more passionate about it.  But there is a totally different reward in instructing, and that is the moment my campers accomplish something they didn’t think they could do.

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to take a decent sized group on a day hike that I was not entirely familiar with.  It was going to be a chance for me to scout a trail for future hikes.  The trail turned out to be slightly more challenging then my co-instructor and I had anticipated, making it a relatively difficult ~6-mile hike.  The girls slipped on rocks, they sunk their tennis shoes into several inches of mud, they braved thorny bushes that lined the trail.

I’ve been on hikes that are challenging and every step I take I just want to stop, turn around, and go back to a more comfortable place; hikes that I truly feel in my heart that I will not be able to finish.  As we continued down into the valley, and I cheerfully pointed up at the gigantic mountain towering above us, I feared that this might be that hike for some of these girls.

Instead, they sang camp songs and helped each other through the puddles.  They played “Marco, Polo” with a passing group until they screamed in glea.   They laughed, talked in weird accents, and listened diligently as I pointed out things along the trail.

5 and a half hours into a hike that was supposed to take us 4 hours at most, we summited Tennent Mountain, and their faces told me the hike was definitely worth it.  Quietly we walked along the ridge, trudging towards Black Balsam – an equally impressive peak.  Our trip was coming to an end, but at the moment they were embracing the beauty around them.

This was the last trip for some of these girls, it will not be the last time I take that trip.  On the van ride back we reflected as a group, and they impressed me with their answers.  As they slept, I silently reflected on how important it was to end that trip on the peak. The girls in my group reminded me how important perseverance is, their collective attitudes at the end was inspiring.

Backpacking can be challenging both physically and mentally, but even when your socks are so wet you can ring them out, you must always find the good and end with a bang.

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Beyond the Comfort Zone

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Hey there,

Let me introduce myself a little bit, and give you an idea of what is going on here.  I am a 20-something-year-old who has absolutely nothing in her life figured out.  I am pulled in multiple directions like every other 20-something year old.  I maintain my home, sustain my dogs, barely make it through my college classes, and struggle through work.  My very supportive significant other likes to remind me that the cause of my death will most likely be a stroke from stress… he’s not wrong.  Most of the stress in my life is caused by my incessant need to make sure everything is okay.

The outdoors has always had a calming effect on me, allowing me to briefly forget that I live in a panic most of the time.  Star maps, late spring blossoms, the cool, crisp fall colors; they all bring me a deep peace that brings me back to my naturally collected self.  Mountains are my weak spot, the methodical sound of feet on the trail is soothing to me.  The softness of a pine forest, the bare, windblown peaks, the change in vegetation when rising in elevation, the warmth from the sun and the quick brisk air that can blow in at any moment.  I can taste pure happiness at 4000+ ft in elevation, that we so adequately refer to as God’s country.

As a young adult, I fought so hard to get out of the mountains, sick of the small town that I grew up in, sick of the lack of opportunity, sick of being in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Abandoning home, I landed in a flat, sandy, wet place that averaged 20 degrees warmer on any given day.  Desperately trying to convince myself that this is where I wanted to be, all along yearning to be back in the crisp, fresh air of the mountains.  They call to me, inside I know that they will always be home to me, no matter what mountains they may be, I will always live in the sky.

Giving up backpacking was the start of my downfall.  When I stopped exploring, I stopped finding happiness and beauty around me.  Slowly working to get that back, already I am feeling joy in small things again.  I still struggle with negativity, but I am fighting back.

The largest step in my self-progression was to decide to be a backpacking instructor at a summer camp.  Sharing my joy, and instructing others, has allowed me to reopen the love I have for the outdoors.  This opportunity is something that, as cliched as it seems, will save my childish dreams and my sense of adventure.

Join me in my journey to find my wanderlust again! And maybe also learn some really cool things about backpacking 😀

-K