As the 11 boys finished piling into the swank-a-licious Archmere van that would take us 4 hours south to Big Meadows Campground at Shenandoah National Park, I realized that giving these Auks control of the aux cable could prove to be a huge, albeit poetic, mistake. Relieved that these boys actually have great taste in music (we jammed to CCR, tons of country and even T-Swift), I admit that I enjoyed the drive down despite the are-we-there-yets, which increased in frequency until we reached Skyline Drive. If you have never traveled on Skyline Drive, this is something I recommend that you add to your to-do list, bucket list, checklist, wish list, or the much more fun to say muistilista. Put it towards the top.
Each year, the other teachers and I look forward to this trip as the rising senior boys have an opportunity to bond with one another as they get away from the daily distractions of phone, internet, and social media. The slight irony of recounting this experience on a blog is not lost on me. Although they’d never admit it, this particular group of 29 boys seemed somewhat trepidatious when facing 4 days and 3 nights of tent camping since most of them had never spent a single night in a tent before.
Over the course of our time in Shenandoah, the boys worked together in small groups to build campfires to cook dinner, hiked a total of 22 miles to some spectacular views, swam in pools of mountain spring water and climbed to the summit of Old Rag Mountain. There was live music each night at the Big Meadows Lodge and one night, a local performer named David Gilmore (not from Pink Floyd) invited the boys up to sing “Sweet Caroline” with him. Good times.
The camping trip was both a novelty and a challenge, and by the end of the excursion, the boys felt a strong sense of accomplishment, community, and self reliance. They’ll bring these positive experiences and camaraderie to the Archmere community when we return to school in a few weeks. With that, I leave you with a few quotes: one boy said, “We went into the woods as boys, and now we emerge as men.” Not dramatic at all. Another has learned to appreciate the comforts of a roof, central air, and his bed: “this was so much fun, I loved it! …never doing it again.” And finally, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite quotes from Henry David Thoreau every time we head out on this excursion. He writes in Walden, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”