After a month long road trip/book tour/ national park extravaganza, I didn’t know how to prepare for the next chapter of summer. I knew that it was coming because I committed in May to be there, but reality really landed with me at my layover in Utah. I flew into Philly, spent a few nights with my friend Tiff, and we drove to upstate New York to see my parents for a final few days before we both entered a contracted agreement of service at the non-profit Good Tidings summer camp.
Nothing could have prepared me anyway. We arrived Sunday evening and were informed that the first week of our training program would be spent in “Forever Wild” forest, learning how to survive and navigate trails and wilderness, and figuring out what we were made of before parents entrusted their precious young to us.
We were given high quality backpacks, a sleeping bag, a bed roll, and instructions to only bring what we absolutely needed (next to nothing). There were 11 total going out on what they called “The Long Path”, with Tom Borman as our internationally trained wilderness guide. We learned to use tarps instead of tents, with 550 chords, grass “ghosties” and trees as poles. We hung bear bags, carried out EVERYTHING we brought in, followed map and compass directions, and bush wacked through miles of unchartered, bramble filled woods.
After a month of promoting myself and my work across the country, I stepped into the most rigorous team building program I’d ever encountered. We ate together, slept together, carried each others packs when someone was tired, and deferred to whoever had the best idea at the moment. We drank dirty water out of pots after cooking because of strict instructions to leave the woods as if we’d never been there and buried our poop with the same shovel.
I fell asleep wondering about how Kate was faring in her new home in San Luis Obispo, and woke up wondering how many more scratches my legs would have to take that day from hiking. I didn’t have much time to process where I’d been or all that I’d seen, because every day demanded all of our full attention, and I can’t say that I minded.
Now, after another week of safety training and preparing for the kids who will arrive tomorrow, I don’t have much time to think or reflect on the wildness of even the previous week. And so summer takes me, totally and unapologetically out of everything that I know, and into days so full I am forced to be present. Forever wild, and that’s only a part of it.