Monday morning our Chief 2’s (the oldest age group in camp) embarked on their 4 day hiking and river excursion. Accompanied by their counselors and guides from Higher Ground USA, Rome, GA, they’ll spend several days backpacking the Appalachian Trail in western North Carolina followed by a inflatable kayak trip down the Nantahala River. Their backpacks carried everything they would need for the next 4 days: sleeping bags, tents, bagels, summer sausage, pots, pans, and utensils, oatmeal, pasta, journal and Bible. That’s just to name a few. They’ll walk and talk, laugh and sing, and sometimes they’ll be tired and ready to give up. But they won’t because the community around them will pick them up. Backpacking is actually a pretty strong metaphor for a healthy life lived in community. We can’t wait to hear all the stories when they arrive back in camp Thursday night. By the way, we’ve heard nothing from the guides on the trip and no news is good news!
Yesterday we continued a new tradition begun in First Term for the 1st Year Chiefs (rising 9th graders). We have been wanting to find some new and special activity for them while the Chief 2’s are away on their trip.
Half the Chief 1’s embarked shortly after lunch for Little River Canyon yesterday and the other half today. If you are unfamiliar, the Canyon is one of the Southeast’s hidden treasures. The largest canyon east of the Mississippi, it is the culmination of Little River, the joining of east and west forks, before dumping into Weiss Lake near Gadsden, AL. The Canyon is just that - a deep crevasse, tree lined, and picturesque. Most folks first response upon glimpsing the Canyon from an overlook is that they can’t believe something this beautiful and vast exists in Alabama. The Little River Canyon Preserve is run by the National Park Service. Recently, in conjunction with Jacksonville State University, they have built a Little River Canyon Center near the rim of the Canyon.
The groups offloaded at Canyon Mouth Park, several miles below Little River Falls, off the southeast side of Lookout Mountain. Here the water is gentle with easy rapids every now and then. Each of us had a life jacket and an inner tube, plus a water bottle. Sunscreen applied, we hiked upriver from the parking lot. After a 20-25 minute hike, we put in along the bank of the river for an afternoon float back to the start.
The float trip received rave reviews both days. I was excited to get a chance to accompany today’s group. I have to say, I think it will go down as one of my best memories of the summer. I don’t always get a lot of direct interaction with the boys for extended periods. We spent over an hour floating, talking, laughing as a group. We hopped out of tubes a few times for some rock hopping and jumping off preapproved rocks. The water felt cool and refreshing. Little River is so clear and clean. In most places you can see all the way to the bottom, even with 6-8 feet of depth.
Our next stop was Mentone Brow Park, a picnic area up above “downtown Mentone” that overlooks the western brow. We ate BBQ sandwiches, with slaw and baked beans, as we watched the sun slowly set over the horizon.
The group not tubing did battle with clay pigeons, an afternoon of skeet shooting on their agenda. Mike Fielder, our target sports director (and retired federal law enforcement), safely and ably led the guys through shotgun instruction. Each camper received two rounds, 4 shots each to knock out some clay pigeons shot out into the horizon. Our golf driving stations double as a perfect skeet throwing area, lending 40 acres of land with no other campers near.
All in all, not a bad two days for a group of 14 year old boys - water and shooting adventures! I think we may have a new tradition for the Chief 1’s, a nice precursor to their pinnacle trip next summer.
Our other age groups carried on with activities around camp. Clear blue skies stayed with us all day, a great blessing. Roderick gave the Braves a special activity this afternoon as well, some river action of their own. With lifeguards, they trekked down the Rabbit Run trail to some of our local rapids below the dam. It sounds like they had a great time.
This morning for breakfast Mrs. Gail served her French toast and bacon, always a crowd pleaser. Tonight we dined al fresco on a taco buffet. The cicadas are now singing loudly and all boys are tucked in beds. Thanks for reading and good night for now, Glenn