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.
It was life or death! At first I was questioning if I should go on the trip or not. A week in the woods with bears, no showers, and no bathrooms; no thank you! But I signed the papers anyway. I am so glad that I did. This trip was so fun and life changing. You learn many very important life lessons. Sacrifices will be made because you must learn that your actions effect the whole group and the environment. You’ ll learn teamwork and you’ll have many many choices to make and have to learn leadership.
We were sitting and eating our burgers and this raccoon comes out of the woods. Jai was the first to see it in the bushes. When she pointed it out the raccoon was still in the bushes. Because of that I thought it was a rabbit, that was until it walked out. Rabbits don’t wear masks or have black gloves. When everyone saw it my sister said, bye raccoon! But that did not work. It took a minute for someone to scare it off. Then he came back and I had to run away again. After that he ran back into the jewel weed and into the woods. I have to admit he was kind of cute.
Camptown is such a great experience because the trip helps you get out of your comfort zone, work with others, and get to know each other. Maybe your unsure about something or you think you can’t do it, well at the end I ended jumping off the rock like twice and I’m afraid of heights and I kept on wanting to jump off again. It was so much fun. You also learn about survival skills and what pioneers went through. I also realized that you have so little on your back and some people don’t appreciate what they have and complain while others have nothing. Lead, believe, and appreciate what you have around. This is what I think this trip has taught me.
I have had the pleasure of teaching this group of middle schoolers for the past two years. In these two years, I’ve gone on two Camptown overnight field trips. The first being thier 7th grade 1-night trip to Shades State Park, an the final trip being the 8th grade 5 day backpacking trip through the Big South Fork. It is greatly due to these trips that my students are the cooperative, determined and respectful individuals that they are today, and it has been exciting to see how much our students have grown in their ability to compromise, work together, and challenge themselves. It is for these experiences with Camptown that our students are transforming into mature and dependable young adults.