Our 3-Day Hike
Friday, June 20
Day 1: Into the Woods (June 18)
Our 3-day hiking trip started off with a jubilee that I would expect from people heading off to the pristine woods of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Our group of 6 students and 4 staff members were soon miles from the nearest road and on the trail, carrying our necessities on our backs.
Some of us were experienced backpackers, others were novices. Donning a variety of expedition gadgetry, several students dangled water bottles and other items from their backpack, swaying with each movement on the trail.
Along the way, we hiked along a creek and saw multiple waterfalls. We reveled in the beautiful surroundings, and were meanwhile expectant of what the trip would hold. Beyond enjoying the thick of the wild, the purpose of our trip was to learn how to connect with other people.
Chatty Kathy & Narcissistic Ned
The staff members and I prepared several exercises to help the students learn about the concept of bonding.
The first program we did as we hiked along the trail was have each of the students play a character for the next 20 minutes, like Chatty Kathy or Narcissistic Ned. The point was to help the students see different patterns of behavior that prevent them from connecting with each other.
Throughout the trip we went through a few other programs as well.
Day 2: Decision point (June 19)
On the second day of the hike, we reached above the mountainous tree line. Even though it was mid June, drifts of snow still lay across the trail. It was already 4:30 in the afternoon, and we needed to return to camp before it got dark and cold.
So we faced a decision: would we turn back or continue pressing forward? A disagreement arose. Some of the students wanted to press on, and some wanted to turn back.
As the decision loomed, we decided to let the students make the call.
The goal of the trip was to help the students foster a community of grace and truth, and specifically to learn about the concept of bonding with each other. Thus far we had seen little success -- most of the students seemed rather isolated, or were only connecting with each other on a surface level.
Tension Boils on the Trail
The students wanted to divide, letting some hike on, allowing the others to turn back. Tension boiled underneath. One of the girls began to cry. We (the facilitators) told the students that whatever they did, they needed to do it as a group. The students sat on the rocks, munching on snacks but not talking with each other.
We then left the students to work through the conflict. Sitting with the other facilitators, a few hundred yards down the trail, I worried about our decision to leave them. Were we forcing something unnatural? Sure we wanted to help the students to bond, but was this the way to do it?
We prayed for them, hoping this somehow would bring the students together more closely.
What the Students Decided
About 30 minutes later the students trotted down the trail with cheery countenances. They explained how they had talked through the conflict, giving everyone a chance to be heard. In the end, they wanted to do what was best for the group and decided not to press on.
The students seemed to get along better after that. They used more eye contact with each other, drew each other out and even laughed together more. This point of decision seemed to be the highpoint of the trip as far as bonding.
The Night of the Fox
Sitting on logs after dinner on the second night, we began to go through an activity where each person talks about their life for 15 minutes. We call this exercise "Soul-to-Soul."
We provided a spring board for things to talk about, like their personal history, heroes, heritage and happenings. There are many variations of this, but the net effect is that it helps to get to know each person in the group.
As one girl was sharing, one of the leaders named Mark yelled, "Get out of here!" The girl who was speaking was confused at first, thinking that Mark was rebuking her for something she said.
She understood better when Mark ran into the forest, chasing after a pair of glowing eyes. A fox had crept near our camp, hidden in the shadows.
I followed after Mark in the pursuit, hoping to scatter the critter away from our camp. Apparently foxes that brazenly approach people are nothing to sneeze at, considering they might be carrying rabies.
Beyond the danger, the misunderstanding provided a good laugh that we continually referenced for the rest of our trip.
Day 3: Debrief (June 20)
The night we returned, we met up with the other 2 groups of hikers and gathered together to swap stories from our 3 trips.
One group camped near a marshy area.
One student counted that he had received 103 mosquito bites.
Our group suffered a few bites as well, but our main malady was blisters. Still, all in all we deemed the trips a smashing success.