What a weekend. These boys were pushed hard, none having yet experienced the mental and physical challenge of all-day elevation hikes carrying a pack. I was very impressed with the way they pushed themselves and each other mentally and physically.
The first day just a short introduction, we hiked just a mile back to camp site #1. Intermediate Adventurers are just delving into the rigors of back country hiking and camping, so the camp gear is pre-staged keeping their packs to a manageable weight for the trip. Giving ourselves a good two hours to set up camp, the boys got to set up their own tents, build, start and manage the campfire, and learn about camp hygiene and maintenance. We ended with a foil pack dinner of hot dogs, corn and roasted potatoes.
Having extra time before bed, we hiked around the bend to the balance course, a sturdy course of boards laid and secured to short cedar stumps. The first challenge of the session, the group was asked to line up on the board at one end of the course.
Their challenge without touching the ground or surrounding trees, was to make it as a team to the other end of the 30-foot course in the opposite order than they'd started. Performing it twice, they dropped their time from the initial 2 minutes and 42 seconds dramatically to just 36 seconds. Loving their competitive natures, I laughed when they asked if that was a record.
The next day surely tested the group, mentally and physically. Full of outdoor adventuring-themed challenges, the group spent the day learning about testing their physical capabilities, wilderness survival, back country etiquette, orienteering, and swinging on and climbing the rope swing. By mid-afternoon, their faces reflected exhaustion and we shifted the agenda to include a fun walk out to the lake to skip some rocks. This seemed to pick up the moods enough to make it up our last big hill to camp site #2.
Camp set up was vastly improved and more efficient than on night #1 as we discussed lessons learned and the boys took the lead. I can plan all the adventures and challenges in the world to teach vital lessons, but sometimes mother nature and God take the cake. Earlier in the day there had been a rock, paper, scissors match to pick tents. The team that won picked the larger, waterproof/weatherproof tent. It is a double layer, very sturdy tent with an overhang entrance, quite the tent hotel, but it has a slight drawback in that there are no windows, only two small vents.
With the temperature still a muggy 85 degrees, this team decided they preferred the single layer, pop up tent which had to larger screened entrances which allowed more airflow. With only a pop-up rainstorm in the forecast at 2 am, calling for less than .03 inches, I let them make the call knowing that we could pull the rain tarp over it if needed. Somewhere in the night, the forecast changed, as it often does, and I woke up to heavier rain than expected. Scrambling to tent #1, I pulled the rain fly over it and pounded stakes in before turning my attention to the pop-up tent. Quickly pulling the larger rain tarp over the tent, I also staked that. Alas, it was too late, for rain had fallen in the open screen doors and at the edges of the tarp collecting under and inside the tent. The boys had awoken, and I was worried they would be terrified. My heart swelled when the youngest adventurer at 8 years old just looked at me and said:
"It's okay, I love thunderstorms."
I continue to be as inspired and educated by my adventurers as I hope they are by the adventure. The next morning, as we pulled out wet gear to hang and dry, the same young adventurer came to me and said with wisdom beyond his years:
"You know, I think we should have stuck with our first choice of tents."
Thankful that this crew got to learn those consequences in the warm weather, I agreed that it had been a tough choice, but that it was a good lesson to learn. We packed up after polishing off our foil pack breakfast burritos, cleaning up camp and set off for the last day.
Heading out to the lake again, we learned about building homemade water filters, saw a young copperhead snake, and followed some wildlife tracks before heading up to our last team challenge of the trip.
This last challenge pulled together all the skills and lessons the group had learned and put them on the clock. They got two minutes to discuss and plan before having just five minutes to build a survival camp in a cold weather environment that would have to support the four of them for an entire week before their rescue crew would arrive.
At the end of that seven minutes, they were asked to evaluate their camp, explain their reasoning, and asked what each of them would change about their decisions or actions. The group agreed that being under pressure of time constraints was one of the most difficult things of the trip. Critical thinking, testing our limits and growing our perspectives is what it's all about.
As we hiked back to our launching point, I smiled at the requests for 'one last challenge'. This session, while full of lessons learned for all of us, will go into the success column. Thank you to the first Intermediate Adventurers and their parents for trusting me and the process!