by Hannah S.
If you’re like me, then getting up in the mornings is not your greatest strength, however you may be surprised to hear that when I had to wake up at 3am for a four day long camping trip with my classmates, I was nothing but excited!
At HW, we offer annual, week-long retreats for grades 7-9 at the middle school. These retreats happen at the beginning of the year (usually during early October), and they serve as a way for students to bond with their classmates. 7th graders go to El Captian, 8th graders go to either Joshua Tree or Catalina Island, and 9th graders get to canoe on the Colorado river.
The night before my 9th grade retreat, I was more than excited. I spent the night before packing my bags (as light as possible for the canoe), cuddling with my dog, and of course, enjoying my last moments with my phone. I went to bed, and when my alarm went off in the morning it was completely dark and my mom had already put my bags in the car. I said goodbye to my dog and phone and we drove to school.
After loading all our bags on buses, we started the five hour drive to our first campsite. We talked, sang songs and wasted our phone battery on watching TV shows (for the few that brought theirs). After the long five hours was over, we were finally at our first campsite. Here, I learned how to put up a tent, steer a canoe, and most importantly I learned from experience that if you keep M&Ms inside of your tent, a raccoon will probably come steal it all.
On our first night, there was a sandstorm, so we all had to hide in our tents while the wind was almost tearing them apart. My two tent buddies and I screamed and laughed the whole night, that is, until the counselors started yelling at us. After that sandstorm, I thought we had faced the toughest challenge for the trip, but the hardest was yet to come.
After that night, we got to the real part of the trip: canoeing, which is much easier said than done. We got up early in the morning to pack up everything from our campsite and move to the next one. By the time we got to our destination, my arms were burning from paddling all day long but the amount of laughs with my friends made up for it. We kept going like this, moving from campsite to campsite, until the last day.
After our last night, I’d had the time of my life. Memories had been made and many, many, pictures had been taken (wish I could say the same thing about showers), and we were all ready to head home. On the final night, we had a campfire and smores as we all exchanged stories together and reflected on our trip. This was when I really bonded with people that I wouldn’t have known otherwise – and although I may not have become best friends with all of them, we can still reminisce about a funny memory when we see each other in the hallways, or other brief moments that help instill a sense of community in our school.
A mere three hours of sleep was taken that night, as we woke up to the sound of hard rock music blasting through speakers, mixed with the one and only: Moana soundtrack, and for the last time, we packed up our tents and bags and canoed our way out of there! Only one thing was different about this morning. In all the rush of getting ready to leave, I forgot that we had woken up early enough to watch the sunrise. Our group tied our canoes together and in silence, we drifted on the river and watched the sunset.
Was I freezing, tired, and yearning to get home? Yes. But, that peaceful moment of watching the sunrise with all of my friends was enough to make me grateful for what I gained throughout the experience. We watched the sunrise for however long we were (I don’t really know, all our phones were dead and at this point I had absolutely zero sense of time), taking pictures with disposable cameras (I know, very retro), until the sun came up and we were on the road again.
After what felt like an eternity, we finally arrived at our buses, ready to get home. The bus ride back was even more fun. We finally had access to TV’s, bottled water, and charging outlets. The five hours back felt like nothing as we sang songs from the Lorax and reminisced about our newly created memories.
In short, the retreat experience seems long and terrible, but it was actually an amazing bonding experience, both with my friends and teachers. I was able to make memories and new friends that will last a lifetime, but let’s just say, I was happy to be able to take showers again.