The day was July 1, 2007. The air was warm and sticky and smelt of sea salt. We had finally arrived at our destination. I was exceedingly grateful to step out of that van after the long seven hour trip and allow some feeling back into my buttocks. Little did I know that this was the start of an adventure that would leave my whole body sore and my mind filled with memories of an incredible experience.
Our scout troupe had been preparing for this trip for months; one full week of high adventure at California’s Catalina Island. There is a camp there known as “Camp Cherry Valley,” a name we boys later recognized as our safe haven. This was our first destination.
We weren’t like all of the other scout troupes at Cherry Valley. Most of the other boys were to remain in the base camp for the entire week. We however, were the venture scouts; and we were ready to explore and take on every inch of the island. That night hardly any of us could sleep knowing that tomorrow we would be paddling away in war canoes to Starlight Beach. I personally had never paddled a canoe in my life, and I was excited to show the ocean that I was a pirate and a sailor.
I will never forget that day that we paddled those war canoes. I thought that my butt had hurt on the car ride, but no; four hours on a hard wooden seat with no back, not to mention the fact that my arms were burning with every stroke of my paddle; I thought I was going to die. Several of my fellow scouts even saw their lunch from the day before.
It wasn’t all bad though. I did have my piratical moments paddling over the giant swells the ocean threw at us. We had visitors, including a seal, a dolphin, and a school of young sharks. I named one Sherman.
Starlight Beach was a blast. It was as if the beach had been waiting for us. We spent hours challenging the ocean to wear us out with her nonstop waves. Being young and full of imagination, I was charging each swell as if it were an enemy on a battlefield. I may have been slammed onto the ocean floor a couple times but the exercise helped me sleep that night.
The next couple of days consisted of several hikes including a trek to the highest peak of the island. At several parts of the trail it seemed as if we were climbing straight up. Our calves burned and each one of us was running low on water. However, when we finally reached the top and looked at the breathtaking view of the ocean that surrounded us, we realized the hike was worth it. It was a lesson that each one of us will probably carry on for the rest of our lives and that is to never give up; especially when the moments get tough. In the end, the view is worth it.
On our last night, we had a meeting with our leaders and went over what we had learned from the trip. We reflected on how hard it was and how each of us had to fight not to give up. Yet, it was an experience that gave each young man something to carry on. I will never forget the brotherhood, the friendships, and the lessons I learned on that trip to Catalina Island. Memories and trips like those truly last a lifetime.
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