I wasn’t exactly exploding with excitement when I first got on the bus heading for Sky Ranch summer camp. It was in Van, Texas, in the middle of nowhere and possibly the last place in the world I wanted to be. But as is normal for every teen, my mom didn’t see it my way.
She saw the trip as a chance for me to get involved with the church, meet new people, and most importantly, get out of the house. So it was official. The next four days of my life would be spent in nothing but nature. Well, I found out soon enough I’d created a highly exaggerated image of the camp.
Though Van, Texas really did seem to be in the middle of nowhere, I can honestly say that Sky Ranch itself was so far from being the real Great Outdoors that it could have easily been a summer resort. But I must admit it was great for someone like me who was so obviously mentally and physically unequipped for the camping experience. Ironically, the thing I came to enjoy most about the camp was that it felt so far from the everyday world and all its troubles.
I didn’t have to worry about school or homework or soccer practice or whose turn it was to wash dishes. Surprisingly, even the lack of TV created an unusual sense of peace and serenity. The everyday luxuries I had enjoyed back at home began to gradually seem like useless self-imposed commitments that only contributed to the burdens of life while everything at camp seemed so simple and clear. My four friends (whose moms had also made them go) and I roomed together in the same cabin, which was actually very nice, and far from the small itchy sleeping bag and cold bare ground I had imagined it would be.
That first night we just laid back and hung out. Something we hardly ever had time to do. We talked about everything and nothing at all.
Things that had been carefully secluded in our minds were brought to light and we all came to realize things about ourselves that we had never before even thought to explore. Something about the calm quiet environment caused the mind to silently ease all worries and gracefully overcome the surrounding chaos.I would never have guessed that there would be so much to do in my next three days at camp. We spent most of the first day swimming and canoeing on the lake.
This is where I realized I was not the great swimmer I’d thought I was and that rocking the canoe back and forth wasn’t exactly an Einstein idea when in the middle of a lake. The second day I found myself racing downward through a forest of trees with only a small wired string and body holster to keep me from crashing to the ground. The Zipline, as it was called, gave me the same intimidating thrill and excitement of a roller coaster without all the electric gears and technological engineering.
It was pure nature and pure fun. I rode until my head felt it would explode and then I rode five times more. That night we rode horses up a trail through the woods.
Two years later, I still haven’t gotten the hang of horseback riding but I can say it was an interesting experience, the highlight of it being when my horse went galloping off the trail nearly throwing me and my friend off into the water. I’ve never really gotten over the incident but I don’t blame the horse. If I had known in my panic that kicking the horse would only make it go faster perhaps the trauma of the event would not still be so great.
The third and last day I was sad to be going back home to the hustle and bustle of life. But I left feeling more refreshed and energized than ever before. I formed many new friendships and strengthened many existing ones in the four days. I learned that sometimes getting away from everything to sit back and relax can be more calming than any nap or T.V. show. I’m still not much of an outdoors person but I have a greater appreciation of nature and its ability to entertain us just as much or more than the technology of today’s world.
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