I just returned from a ten day trip out west to Nevada, Utah and Arizona. My favorite part of this trip was a 5 mile hike at Zion National Park on the West Rim and Angels Landing Trails. The first stretch of the hike was a very steep uphill incline which leads to the start of the Angels Landing Trail. This last 1/2 mile is a strenuous climb on a narrow ridge over 1,400 feet above the canyon floor. There were support chains in place which I clenched tightly to at almost all times while I avoided staring down at the steep drop offs on either side of me. Each time I looked up and felt like I was approaching the top, there was another stretch to go. Though I am not at all fearful of heights, there was a moment when I looked down and said, “For the record, I don’t like this.” While this hike challenged me physically and mentally, the sense of accomplishment I felt while I overlooked stunning views of Zion at the top made this one of the best experiences of my life.
As I reflected on this experience, it made me think about why I pushed myself to do this hike. There was a moment when I stood at the base of Angels Landing looking up at the narrow ridge I was about to climb feeling slightly terrified. However, not once did the thought cross my mind to turn around and give up. I was going to do this because I knew how good I would feel when I reached the top.
Camp is filled with opportunities to take risks, try new things and step outside your comfort zone. Each day at camp, children and staff are encouraged to do things that may make them uncomfortable whether it be getting on a bus, performing on stage, meeting new people, kicking a soccer ball or dunking your head under water for the first time. Each one of us has at least one experience each summer which is new, challenging, scary or anxiety provoking. Camp is such a great place to push ourselves to have these experiences because we are in a safe, comfortable, accepting environment where those around us will encourage us and celebrate both our mistakes and our accomplishments along the way. We build self-esteem by facing the experiences that challenge us most and realizing we can find a way to get through them.
I believe that the skills I learned at camp motivated me on my Zion hike. I started as an Elmwood GK camper and have spent every summer at camp since. Through my day and sleep away and camper and staff experiences, I have been faced with so many situations that are outside of my comfort zone – going to a new place, meeting new people, learning to swim, being away from home, going rock climbing, doing adventure courses, leading an orientation session, making my first parent phone call, the list goes on. I have been challenged and continue to be challenged in so many ways each summer. It is one of the many reasons I love camp!