So a couple weeks ago, I left for Jr. High camp. Came back for a weekend and went back to camp for Sr. High week. Our network of churches in our area of Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota utilizes a great facility in the Black Hills of SD called Kamp Kinship for our summer camps. It’s a nice retreat center that is a far cry from the spartan cabins of my youth at camp in the mountains near Lander, but I was able to recapture a bit of my camping tradition that the students really got a lot out of…
At Lander, we always took a hike up to a peak called Candy Mountain (at least that’s what we all called it). I always loved that hike and looked forward to it every year. The Black Hills are nice, but there really wasn’t a summit close enough to the camp to be suitable for this type of event. The camp does have a tradition of making some kind of excursion off campus though each year… usually into town for putt-putt, a water park, go karts… stuff like that.
I kind of figure kids can do those things anytime, so this year I wanted to do something a little bit different. I was the dean for Jr. High week, so I had the ability to make that happen. (Why they put someone in charge who’s only been with the group for one camp season is beyond me, but they did!) The theme of the week was “Be still and know that I am God.” so something out in a peaceful natural setting seemed appropriate. We ended up taking a hike along a path that followed a creek up to a swimming hole. (Probably not appropriate for church camp, but the hole was called Devil’s Bathtub. I’m pretty sure some of the kids peed in it just for the symbolic spiritual significance!)
With 98 of us, that was no small deal. I had been assured, though, that it was a pretty easy trail… I passed that assurance on to our students. Note to self ~ don’t trust Ryan’s childhood memories! The trail crossed the creek (sans bridges) more times than our Jr. High boys’ voices cracked during the week!
Sidenote: a student with cerebral palsey didn’t really want to go on the hike, but I promised him he could do it. We’d help him as much as he needed. If the trail was too tough for him, we’d do whatever we needed to get him through… Nice, reassuring things. His response: “No it’s not that… I’m just LAZY!” He made it to the destination and had a blast in the process – just like everyone else!
I wasn’t sure how this choice of hiking over water slides or go karts was going to go over, but the kids loved it. (And it turned out there was a bit of a rock water slide anyway!)