A lot of people have heard of the Outward Bound wilderness programs, the ones that take a group of kids and some leaders and send them into the middle of nowhere to have wild, crazy adventures. Well, that’s how I spent my July, and it was indeed both wild and crazy.
I spent twenty-one days with two leaders and eight other kids, rafted 96 miles on the Deschutes river, summited Mount Washington and Three-Fingered Jack, and braved such terrors as mosquito infested ponds and nature savvy bathroom trips. However, despite the thrills and terrors all of these brought me and how close I got to everyone on the trip, there was one moment that I will never forget.
Not the rapids. Not the mountains. Nope. A tiny little rock wall.
It was just supposed to be an afternoon training session, a stop on the side of the river to practice techniques we would be using in the mountains. There was a nice little rock cliff, no larger than an ambitious pine tree, and it took the leaders no time at all to rig up a nice belaying system for us to practice with. We had our harnesses and helmets and were all pretty excited. I watched my first few friends go, getting up with only minor difficulties, and was eager to have my shot.
I stepped up to the base of the rock, hooked and tied myself into the ropes, and double check with the leader who was belaying me to make sure everything was okay. I grinned, reached up, and pulled myself off the ground.
Instantly, I was terrified. Why? I have no idea. Some part of my brain may have been stuck on memories of the fake rock walls they have at fairs. Because they want you to spend more money, slip once and you will gently fall back down. Slip once here and your fall down, no matter how gentle, would leave you cut and bruised. Maybe I didn’t understand how secure I was, how much I could rely on my belayer. I was just frozen.
Then, help arrived, in the form of my newfound best friends, the other eight kids on the trip. Some shouted advice, yelling good hand and foothold locations. One kept up a steady stream of Chuck-Norris-esque jokes, sticking my name in instead. Others just cheered when I made it one step higher.
I didn’t fall. I didn’t die. And now, two months later, all nine of us still talk constantly, even though we live as spread out as Connecticut, Virginia, Mexico. They were there for me when I (however unreasonably) needed them most, and they know I will always return the favor.
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