Student Leadership Blogs: Mountains to the Bay
After meeting the other campers in the parking lot, we started our drive to Weaverton Cliffs. About halfway there, we took a short stop at Harper’s Ferry to look at a map and learn where we were and what we were planning to do shortly before starting off again. We arrived at the base of the cliffs, took a quick snack break, and began our hike. It seemed a lot longer than it really was; but after a lot of switchback and sweating, we finally made it to the top. The view over the Potomac was amazing because the highway next to it was blocked by trees. Ready to learn more about our week, we gathered around a few maps while the leaders pointed out some key points on our journey. A while later (after some more sightseeing), we started down the mountain. Everybody agreed that the hike down was definitely easier! We reached the cars and started the drive to Watermelon Park.
When we arrived, the leaders taught us ho w to set up our tents, and we began immediately building “shelter.” We definitely enjoyed our time in the sun but it was nice to sit in front of a warm meal (courtesy of the CBF staff!) and relax.
Our lovely dinner consisted of fried chicken, potato salad, and a dinner roll or two. Dessert was a slice of watermelon...not grown from Watermelon Park (ironic, isn’t it?). Afterwards, the leaders gathered us in a circle and introduced to us The Group Contract, full of traits and rules that we each deliberated on and agreed to follow. Last but not least, we brushed our teeth, changed our clothes, and went to sleep after watching the sunset. A great ending to our first day!
Day 2: Monday, July 25
We started our day to a musical wake-up call (Aretha Franklin) at 6 a.m. A few people woke up quickly, but most had trouble getting out of bed that early! We packed our bags for the canoeing trip and went to breakfast (a cereal, bagel, and oatmeal buffet). We took a shuttle to the put-in site where we got assigned to canoe groups based on experience and talked about the topic for the day: Tolerance for Adversity & Uncertainty. Knowing that it would be a long, hard paddle, but excited anyways, we pushed off and began.
The river was mostly smooth, with some small rapids. Everyone learned quickly to “read the river” and find the V’s in the water that signified safe passage around the rocks. It was exhausting, but exciting work, as we shot bilge pumps and splashed each other with water on our way down the river. After canoeing for around three hours, we stopped for sandwiches and some wading in the river before continuing on. Finally, after about four and a half hours of intense work, we arrived back at the camp site. We had gone 10 miles, and seen somewhere around 12 blue herons, seven bald eagles, cows, two red herons, and tons of geese. The sense of accomplishment everyone had was enormous, and we went into town for ice cream to celebrate. It was too rainy to hike to an overlook of what we had done, but we went back to the campsite and surveyed the stream for macro invertebrates to determine water quality. Lastly, dinner was prepared by the cook crew, and it was stir fry veggies, chicken, and dinner rolls with watermelon and a cookie for dessert. The perfect second day.
Night 2 and Day 3: Tuesday, July 26
As the night continued, we assembled our belongings, preparing for our departure from Watermelon Park the next day. Organizing our clothes and wet bathing suits, we grew sad because so many memories had already happened at that campsite. Then, we gathered in our nightly circle, and began reflecting on the adventures of the day. Our leader Christy asked us to list our “snapshot moments,” and we began to speak about the cattle in the water, the Blue Ridge Mountains lying in front of us, and the expressions we made when finding something cool in the water. We described the numerous ways that we represented “Tolerance with Adversity and Uncertainty,” which was the day’s leadership theme. We stared at the amazing moonlit sky, and we made a makeshift fire with a citronella candle. Although we had only met the day before, we already felt like family. Heading into our tents, we slowly, one by one, fell asleep, listening to the river flowing and the crickets singing in the trees.
The next morning, we woke up to the joyous tunes of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid. Although it took a very long time to finally open our eyes, we quickly broke down the tents and packed our belongings into our duffel bags, loading them into the truck. Since this was our ticket to breakfast, upon completion, we devoured our cereal, bagels, and bananas. Making sure we had left Watermelon Park exactly as we found it, we walked around the campsite, picking up all leftover supplies. After piling into the “Truck Duck” and “Party Roadkill Van” as the two cars are named, we drove away from the last two days of camping. Then, we came to a pavilion located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, where we are about to learn all about this new landscape and its animals, before settling amongst one.
— Jackie Siegel
As we sat on the paint-splattered picnic tables and felt the shade of the forest, Amber, from the Blue Ridge Mountain Animal Refuge, sacrificed her own time to show three of the animals
from the rehabilitation center. Our group fell in love with Sugar the flying squirrel, Lucy the red-shouldered hawk, and Sheldon the Eastern Shore box turtle. During Amber’s presentation, we even witnessed a rescue when a baby blue jay landed on Christy’s arm begging for food. As a few campers went to the outhouse, the group discussed the leadership trait of the day, “Self-awareness.”
We finished our discussion on empathy and the definition of self-awareness while our leaders assigned cook crews for the rest of the week. We’re all looking forward to all the delicious dinners that are going to be devoured by our hungry group. We climbed into our cars and prepared for the long two-hour trip to Uncle Ed’s Farm which is also known as Mulberry Grove, the birthplace of U.S. President John Hanson (President of the Continental Congress in 1781).
Eventually we reached our destination where we quickly set up tents, something we’ve all become quite good at. As we sat and talked in the shade and looked out at the amazing view from the yard, we prepared for a trip to the grocery store for the meals we’ll all be making. Our cars pulled into the hot asphalt of Safeway where we were all so glad for the air-conditioning, and the food in the aisles made all our stomachs grumble. We split up along the aisles, grabbing the necessary ingredients for all of our dinners and paid for our many groceries. We stuffed our cars with our items and drove back to our campsite where a cook crew made a dinner of barbeque chicken sandwiches, baked beans, and green beans. The hot chicken slipped out of our fingers as we took in the beautiful view of the white picket fence and the rolling hills. We quickly cleaned up dinner and settled back in for a group discussion for our evening plans. The majority voted for a night canoe and so we grabbed our headlamps and bathing suits and headed out for a beautiful night-time paddle.
As we took the short ride to the push-off in Nanjomoy Creek, we used all of our five senses to revel in the beautiful sights and sounds. The scene seemed so beautiful, like a painting. The water seemed to take the form of glass; the beautiful dark blue sky was with scattered stars; the trees appeared black in the shade; the croaking of the green tree frogs and the musty smell of mud and water mixed with rich, fresh air. As we sat in silence, our paddles rippling in the water, we ate our dessert and learned about the marsh grasses. We quietly paddled back and put the canoes back by using our teamwork and cooperation skills. The cars quickly pulled out and we headed back to camp where we all immediately dozed off with our arms still sore. As we laid in our tents, we all fell asleep to the crickets singing.
— Alice Yang
Day 4: Wednesday, July 27
We never thought that 7:30 a.m. would be sleeping in until this trip! As the wake-up calls came, we packed up camp, ready for a new destination. We loaded in to the Duck Truck and Party Road Kill Van, and we headed to the Zekiah Swamp to explore.
We paddled through twists and turns and, finally, we were blocked by a fallen tree. Thinking we were only going wading, we explored the swamp in waist-deep water, not knowing we were getting a big surprise...SOAP! Before embarking on this adventure, we never imagined taking a bath in a swamp with biodegradable dish soap would be so refreshing.
We got back in the cars and drove to Colton’s Point. When we arrived on the beach of the Potomac River, there was another surprise in store for us. They told us we were releasing a wild bunny that was given to us at the Blue Ridge Mountains Animal Rehabilitation Center but instead it was...SODA! After the sweet treat, we paddled across the Potomac River and arrived at St. Clements Island. We set up camp on a beautiful bluff. Watching the sun set on the beach, we prepared a delicious dinner of Mac&Cheese and chicken. Now we are sitting on the pier, overlooking the mighty Potomac River.
— Meg, Jackie, Cassidy, Kayla, Nora
Morning of Day 5: Thursday, July 28
Today we woke up with the sun at 6:30 a.m. We broke down camp, and had a nutritious breakfast of bagels and cereal and last night’s dessert! We canoed back to Colton’s Point, and got in the Roadkill Party Bus and Duck Truck for the last time. We traveled two hours in the car to Point Lookout State Park to eat lunch (tuna fish, make-your-own sandwiches, and a snack buffet) and then boarded the Bay Eagle with Captain Larry. After loading the boat, we cranked up the radio and headed to Fox Island, all the while everyone was dancing and singing along! We’re looking forward to our stay at Fox Island, with actual beds and running water!
— Valentina Lohr and Kayla Paxton
Afternoon of Day 5: Thursday, July 28
After we arrived at Fox Island, we met the CBF staff and unloaded the boat. But almost as soon as we were on land, we got back into the Bay Eagle. We looped around the island and did some crabbing. We had to fit dead fish into the bait box of the crab pot, so we kissed them (eeewww!) and then ripped them in half so they fit inside the crab pots to attract crabs. There were blood and guts everywhere! Next, we drove around to the front of the lodge, which stands in the middle of the water. From there we filed into our dorms, where they actually had beds! It was our first time on the journey not in a tent. Then we learned about the safety of the island.
Following that, the cook crew made a pasta bar, which was delicious. A bit later, the Fox Island Program Manager Matt suggested we go outside. We didn’t really know what to expect, but as soon as we got outside, we saw tons of comb jellies in the water, which light up in the water at night. They looked like underwater fireflies! Some of them washed up on the beach, and we were able to pick them up because they don’t sting. When we got inside, we did a fun activity about natural resourses and respect for our peers. After that, we were all so exhausted that we collapsed into bed.
— Liam Thomas and Tripp McGuire
Day 6: Friday, July 29
We started the day bright and early. As we watched the sun come up we all had no idea what time it was because we were on island time! After we watched the sunrise, we got right to our last day at Fox Island. This was our fullest day so we had to eat a big breakfast consisting of cereal, bagels, oatmeal, and anything else that was in the kitchen.
After breakfast we all boarded the Jenny S and headed to Cedar Island and went proging. While we were proging we saw a black widow inside a dead horseshoe crab. We then headed back to Fox Island and ate root beer floats prepared by our great leaders. Afterwards we boarded the Jenny S and headed out with the scraper and caught lots of little critters (northern puffer fish, soft shell crabs, and a baby speckled trout.) We then headed in and had our last lunch on Fox Island.
After lunch we put on our dirty clothes and walked across the canal to big island (an island made completely of marsh land). We all knew this meant time for MARSH MUCKING! Our first obstacle course was known as ankle break alley. After we had survived the holes and mud of ankle break alley we were in mud neck high. Our second obstacle was making canon balls. We had to run and jump into a huge hole of mud. Everything from head to toe was covered in mud! We then walked through the marsh to belly slide hole. This is where we had to run and slide on our bellies, and then a lot of us just played in the mud (Tripp even lost his shoe!). When everyone was done playing it was time to declare marsh king and queen...this is where you had to make your way somehow or another across a pond of mud. It was a very close race but Kayla was declared Marsh Queen and Tripp Marsh King.
As we headed back across the canal we scrubbed all the mud off and then continued to a bay shower on the dock where we had SOAP! For dinner we had tacos. Afterwards we had a graduation where we all received a T-shirt and a nice comment from one of our peers. After graduation, we did a little star gazing. All of us changed into our pajamas and headed to bed on our last night on Fox Island knowing how early we were going to have to get up to pack and check crab pots.
— Kayla Paxton