Everyone is eager to begin their first backpack. The Blue Ridge Explorer 2 team is essentially out of communication (instructors can reach our directors in an emergency), and this is a good thing. The focus for the next few days is building a community, having fun, witnessing incredible scenery, and learning and improving outdoor skills.
Before the first backpack, we break our community into three smaller groups as they prepare. This group experience solidifies friendships and builds confidence as the students face appropriate challenges in the outdoors. While hiking with a pack is not always easy, we embellish this section with games and conversations, helping students build resiliency in a group of supportive peers. We make the camping aspect of the trip so fun that they come home with a new appreciation of how enjoyable backpacking can be.
By the end of the trip, we hope their trip community will begin to feel like a second family. We hope that after the “hardship” of backpacking and carrying everything they need for three days on their shoulders, a return to a front country campsite where they are reunited with their duffel bag, take a hot shower, and meet back with the big group almost feels like returning to a second home. This is the perfect time to build substantive relationships with their instructors and form the foundation for true friendships with their peers.
We look forward to checking in after the first backpack!