Some of us forgot water bottles. Sleeping bags. Mess kits. Some of us didn’t know what a mess kit was. Some of us had never been to the mountains. Never been camping. Never gone five days without a shower. We are the seventeen AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation (ACLC) 2009 corpsmembers, working for Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) since February. Shockingly enough, we survived and — gasp — some might even say enjoyed our Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) camping trip.
On Monday morning we loaded up our backpacks, jammed coolers full of food and headed up the winding roads toward Golden Gate State Park. On the drive up, some of us slept, some of us daydreamed about building the perfect fire, and some of us watched the tall buildings of Denver and the noise of Federal Boulevard fade into the rear view mirror. We said goodbye to cell phone service and flush toilets and said hello to tall pine trees and marshmallows browned on sticks.
We spent the week learning how to properly build trails and rock walls, how to become successful leaders, and we embedded ourselves deeper into the culture of youth corps, learning the importance and magnitude of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Each day, we woke with the sun after freezing nights bundled in sleeping bags, packed our bags with PB and J’s, water bottles and rain gear and headed out to workshops.
We were divided into different classes based on the specific crews we will be working on this summer. Some of us learned how to give important environmental education presentations while some us spent the day trying to keep up with 80-something-year-old Steve Austin as he rained his extensive trail building knowledge upon us. We were out in the field using tools, sweating under hard hats and getting a taste of the exciting summer months ahead of us.
On our last night we huddled around the campfire as the stars came out, told ghost stories and — even though some of us didn’t want to admit it — thought about how quickly the week passed. Friday morning we filed back into the vans and headed back to Denver with dirt under our fingernails dreaming of the showers and beds awaiting our arrival. Some of us had their first camping trip officially under their belt. Some of us learned skills we will use this summer and later in life. Some of us still had the grit of cowboy coffee stuck in between their teeth. But all of us survived.
Vanessa Notman, MHYC Corpsmember