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A 13 year old's take on a week long backpacking trip to Arkansas

Nathan Deolloz, 13 years old, recently went on Camp Fire's Backpacking Trip to Arkansas for the week of Spring Break. Here's what he thought of the trip and his experience with Camp Fire's Backpacking Club:

I recently participated in the backpacking trip to Arkansas, and the Heifer ranch event that went along with it. After a 12 hour drive to our car camping site, we set up tents for the night after some dinner. The next day, we drove the vans for a bit then hiked four miles to our camping site. The hike down was mostly downhill, and it was very muddy and cold. Along the way, we saw an old house near our camping site, and learned about some of its history. An old woman had lived in it, farming for a living, with little contact from the outside world. We got to explore the house, and even the attic. (Which a few people found pretty scary, for fear of ghosts, and also of the floor caving in.) After looking at it for a few minutes, and also enjoying the break that came with it, we continued on to our camp site.

Once there, we all set up our tents and or tarps, with a nearby river providing water that could be filtered and used for drinking or cooking. After settling in, we cooked dinner by a fire, and got to talk quite a bit. The next day, we went on a day hike, and got to see a lot of cool views and interesting land marks, and even got to go in a cave! At one point, the group splintered off, some going on and visiting a waterfall, the others heading back to the campsite, worn from the day’s activities. I myself was very cold and tired, and I had hurt my wrist earlier, so I was happy to be able to head back. While we waited for the main group to get back, I and two other guys (Eric and Mitchell) gathered a large amount of firewood. We had decided that it would be warmer to sleep out in the open by a fire (In our sleeping bags, of course) than to sleep in the tents. Keep in mind, it was twenty degrees out, and we were jumping at the idea of anything that would be warmer than our tents. (You could even try theorizing that our brains were frozen)

Unfortunately, this plan didn't end up turning out quite the way we wanted (The fire went out at midnight due to poor coordination) However, it was a great experience, and taught me a lot, and I'm glad to have done it. The next day, we hiked back out to our vans, and drove out to a spot to have a lunch. We were all fairly hungry due to the last few days, so being able to have a large lunch was a great feeling for all of us. After lunch we hiked over to a large cave, which was very fun to explore. After that, we drove over to Heifer ranch, where we spent the night, and had dinner. There were also a lot of animals at Heifer which we got to look at, including goats, chickens, turkeys, and what I believed to be pheasants (?) and a lot more. Living in the city, I don’t usually get the chance to see these types of animals, and I enjoyed the chance to do so.

The next day, we had breakfast and moved on to some team building exercises. One in particular had us trying to work together as a group to run under a swinging rope without anyone being hit. The first time, we managed to all get to the other side after around 40 swings of the rope. In the end, we finally managed to get the entire group from one side to the other in a single swing. The difficulty of this situation really brought out some of the leaders in our group, and also some of the problem solvers. (Sadly, I was not in either of these groups) After lunch and some more team building exercises, we toured all the sites that were part of the global challenge program. The program basically had us all split into groups, living in different houses which mirrored the living situations of certain countries. My group in particular was lucky enough to get the country Guatemala, which meant that we had a house with multiple rooms, bunk beds, and mattresses, and a water spigot outside. The other three groups got slightly less luxurious quarters (By which I mean one room houses), but in my opinion, they were all still great compared to the tents we had been sleeping in for the last few days.

At the start of the global challenge, they gave each of us resources, and also certain goals to achieve. They purposefully designed the situation so that the groups would have to trade with each other to have something to eat that night, as some groups might have gotten a large amount of rice, but no water to cook with. This made it so that other groups would come to us and trade us food in return for usage of our water spigot, among other things. After the evening was over, the groups cooked their own dinners, though one group was nice enough to gift us some soup. Dinner took quite a while to finish, but when it was finally done, we felt quite a bit less hungry than we had earlier. The next morning, one of the groups cooked everyone breakfast, and afterwards we listened to a talk that compared what we had done to real life in third world countries.

They talked about how many people don't have easy access to food like we do in western countries, and also have a harder time getting proper education and resources. After the talk we had lunch, and did a few more team building exercises. Afterwards, we headed out. The Heifer ranch experience was a cool and valuable one, as it changed my views on immigrants, and people from other countries. That night, we slept at a car camping site. Some of us were a little tired from the week’s events, and decided to simply go to sleep in the vans instead of setting up tents. For dinner, we had spaghetti, and some s’mores for dessert. The next day we headed back to the campfire offices in Austin, and cleaned out the vans before heading home.

All in all, I'd say that it was a good trip. My world view was expanded, and I made some friends. This was also my second trip back packing, and the experience gained from it will definitely will help me on future trips. It was pretty hard the first few days, and the cold made it difficult to enjoy some things, but in the end the difficulty provided more challenge for us all to be able to overcome, and improved my mental endurance. I was also glad to have been able to expand my fire building skills! But by far my favorite thing about Campfire trips is the community. You don’t have to like everyone, but there will always be at least (Depending on how sociable you are, haha) a few people you’ll be able to talk to and enjoy hanging out with during the trip, and after if you choose. The diversity and fun nature of the Campfire community is something I will always appreciate, and I look forward to coming back on my next trip!

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