A blaze is a marker along the trail identifying the trail you are on. It is usually a shaped and color marker painted on a tree, rock, or post. On the Appalachian Trail the white rectangle is the blaze you want to follow. The North Country Trail primary blazes are light blue rectangles, the Pacific Crest Trail uses an emblem usually affixed to a post along the trail, and the John Muir Trail in the Big South Fork in Tennessee uses a blue silhouette of John Muir. Some trails like the Shining Rock Wilderness have no blazes or signage at all. In this wilderness area you are warned before entering to have a map and compass and the knowledge to use them. Blazes are typically spread apart far enough that you don’t see one blaze from the other. The actual distance will vary. Some areas are over blazed resulting in sign pollution. On the AT some blazes can be a mile apart. When you run across a double blaze it is a warning to pay attention. It may indicate a route change, an incoming side trail or other situation that requires you to be especially alert to changes in direction. Along the AT there are several marked and unmarked trails that cross the big trail and many times it is difficult to determine which trail is which. In a 4 mile section near Mt Rogers, you will cross an orange, blue, and red blazed trail, or even unmarked spur trails. If you are not paying attention it is not hard to find yourself on the wrong trail. If we think about it, life is a lot like following a trail. We can be merrily walking along and somehow we get distracted and find ourselves on the wrong trail. We may have made a bad decision or maybe we just were not paying attention and missed our double blaze. Maybe we were uninformed and did not know what blaze to follow in the first place. Sometimes we realize our mistake soon and get back on the right trail and sometimes we could wander down the wrong trail for years. It is like that for many of our youth today. They don’t have a positive adult role model in their life to show them the blazes, or they are pressured at school to ignore the double blaze and take the spur trail because it looks more exciting or maybe just because everyone else is taking it. It takes courage and a good support system to grow up today. I don’t envy today’s parents. Blazes of the past are no longer considered relevant or even passed down from parent to child. This is where Camptown helps youth to find the right path. Chris was one of our students from our Pathfinders program. Our Pathfinders program is our program for youth that have gotten themselves into the juvenile justice system. Our program focuses on first time offenders, status offenders, or CHINS (Children in Need of Services). The objective or our program is to keep them from returning to the justice system. Chris got into trouble by having alcohol at school. He was pressured by one of his “friends” into having a little fun. On our Pathfinders program we met with this group of 6 boys for 5 weeks before our trip. During this time we get to know them, get them ready for their adventure, and teach some specific life skills such as reaching a consensus and working together as a team. During our trip on the Appalachian Trail, Chris was our leader of the day. He was reluctant at first but seemed to enjoy the experience and the group responded well. After the trip, we invite the youth to join our Youth Leader Program. Chris jumped at the chance. We got to spend the next two years with Chris as a Youth Leader and he stayed away from the juvenile justice system. I ran into him a few years later and he told me he was going to college and studying law enforcement. Camptown was able to provide Chris with some direction in a time in his life he was having difficulty finding his way. It is stories like this that energize me. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to bring these programs to youth like Chris. Everyone can make a difference!
Last month we hosted an Indiana Youth Institute lunch at our CRUX facility. We had 45 youth workers in attendance who were there to hear the speaker talk about the importance of Grit. What is grit the speaker asked? It is good old fashioned hard work and determination. His presentation was based on the book and research of Carol Dweck. The book is Mindset: Teaching a growth mindset. What Carol and her research team found was that grit had more to do with success than IQ, economic status, or education. While the research was mostly targeted at post-secondary education, it could be applied to any area of success. As I was listening to the presentation, I was thinking to myself this is what Camptown does! We help develop grit in our participants. Things like Confidence, Teamwork, Leadership, and Respect. These are the key impacts of what our participants walk away with at Camptown. For example last year 93% of our participants reported growth in their leadership skills, 97% reported improved teamwork skills, 95% reported improved confidence, and 95% reported a better respect for their peers. In addition, 75% reported that they had been moderately or greatly physically challenged during their Camptown adventure. This grit development also comes through the testimonials our students write; I learned I am a leader, I can do more than I thought, I can do anything I put my mind to, I learned to be more confident in myself, I learned I can be very helpful, this trip is really hard, I learned to be more patient, One thing I would do different is my attitude, I learned I control my actions better. So how does Camptown develop grit into our participants? We use the outdoors as our classroom. Here students are taken out of their comfort zone, away from the pressures of home and school, and outside their norm in an unfamiliar surrounding and environment. Ideas and attitudes formed through these direct experiences are a greater influence on choices and behaviors in the future than those formed through indirect experiences. The intensity of a wilderness experience creates an ideal environment to influence attitude formation and to teach these skills. All of these skills are essential for learning how to thrive with life no matter what the circumstance. Last year Camptown served 2,953 unduplicated youth, of those 71% came from impoverished homes, 85% came from urban Marion County and Camptown provided financial assistance to 88% of our participants. Imagine a world where our children grow up confident, respectful, cooperative, and willing to step up and take a leadership role. That is what we at Camptown are striving for. We appreciate all of your support. Thank you for joining us in our mission to lead youth to a better path.
Wonders of the World:
I was watching a NetFlix documentary on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. At 2,717 feet it is the tallest building in the world. At rental rates up to $4,000 a square foot it is also the most expense. The exterior is covered with 1,870,000 sq. ft. of anti-glare glass to help shield the desert sun. The building is so tall that the exterior temperature at the top of the building is 11° cooler than at its base. The building is comprised of the Armani Hotel, residential and corporate suites, restaurants, and a sky observation deck. There are 57 elevators and 8 escalators in the building with the fastest elevator rising and descending at up to 33 ft./sec. As I marveled at this engineering wonder, I thought of all that would go into the design and construction of such a wonder. I am amazed at the skill and expertise that went into its creation. Everything from the architects, engineers, steel workers, and laborers. Then I got to thinking of how this wonder of man is nothing compared to the wonders created by God. Wonders like the Grand Canyon, the mud pots, and geysers of Yellowstone, the hoodoos in Bryce Canon, Crater Lake, Half Dome in Yellowstone, the giant Sequoias and Redwoods, Niagara falls, Mammoth Cave, the Blue Ridge Mountains and I could go on. The wilderness is where I feel closest to God. I think it is because I am amidst His creation. Not a second or third generation, but directly from his hands. “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16 It is this direct connection with God that makes the wilderness so powerful. You cannot go anywhere else and find this connection. You cannot go into the wilderness without coming out changed. In a recent post on one of the group sites I am a member of, a young women posted that she took her first solo camping trip in the wilderness. In her comments she wrote of a peace she has never felt before. That peace is being in the midst of our creator. This is what makes the wilderness such a great environment for what we do. To change, you have to look at things differently. Taking inner city teens into the wilderness is certainly giving them the opportunity to see things differently. Away from the pressures of home, noise and familiarity of the city, they start to experience the wonder of the wilderness. They are more open to new ideas and ways of looking at things. They rely on one another and begin to appreciate each other. This year we have several wilderness adventures already planned.
I will close with John Muir’s challenge to us all, “keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear away.”
Tyrek is a young man on one of our recent backpacking adventures. Tyrek struggled through the first couple of days as he adjusted to his new outdoor surroundings. He and his teammates were well out of their comfort zones but beginning to embrace their challenge. Our second to last morning, Tyrek was volunteered as our Leader of the Day. He would be responsible for his teammate’s well-being, their route, and their morale. Nervously, he accepted the challenge. Tyrek’s first action after receiving his briefing, was to grab his water bottle and precede to the stream – leaving camp in disarray and the group without direction. The Camptown staff leader followed Tyrek to the stream and told him, “today is going to be the hardest day yet for any of our leaders. You not only have to help your group through the woods, but we will be in the van in a few hours and your role doesn’t end there. You must get your group set up at the campground and make sure everyone is fed and bathed.” He was then asked to take notice of camp. He noticed that camp was disorderly and that he had put his own need for water above the group’s need for leadership. Tyrek battled through the rest of the day with his very smelly group. You see, all week he had been longing and talking about a shower. More so than the others in the group. Rain put our group a few hours behind schedule, but we finally made it to the campground. Tents were set up, dinner was made, bags were unpacked, and showers were taken… and the mess left behind resembled a Kansas trailer park after a tornado! It was at this point that Tyrek’s leadership really came through. The 9 other people in his group had gone off to take care of their needs (showers, etc) but Tyrek remained behind to take care of camp. He had not showered or changed his clothes in four days, yet he remained behind to put the group’s needs above his own. He sacrificed his own comfort to clean up camp and get “bear proof” before sundown. Tyrek grew on his day as Leader of the Day. Most importantly, Tyrek was recognized and praised by his group for his leadership – this young man became a walking example for his peers.
The Camptown Core is your opportunity to join a group of like-minded individuals who want to ensure that programs like Camptown’s continue. On average, it takes $150 to introduce a young person the the outdoors through an overnight camping trip. That cost rises to $500 per student on one of our week-long backpacking trips. With your annual commitment to give $20, $50, $100, or $200 per month, you be making trips like this possible for children in need. In addition, as a CORE member you will:
- have access to the most exciting and impactful outdoor volunteer opportunities in the world!
- have the opportunity to gain Board/Committee experience
- receive invitations to exclusive community and fundraising events
- and make a difference in a meaningful way!