“I love getting dirty!!” I heard a voice behind me yell. Turning around to see who had said that, it was clear that she definitely wasn’t exaggerating. In the less than five minutes since we had gotten to the lakefront, our little redhead camper had dirt streaked across her cheeks, arms and legs. She was also smiling the biggest smile I had seen from her since leaving for our trip two days earlier.
Rewind to Tuesday morning, 7:00 AM at the Girl Scout Resource Center and you would have seen a group of ten girls, aged 10-17, playing a name game before they hopped into the van and made the five hour drive up to the Flagstaff area, where we would be camping for the next four days. You would also have seen me, going through checklists in my head to make sure we had everything and wondering if this was going to work, having combined two trips and resulting in a huge range in ages and experiences for our first ever Girl Scout excursion camp. Our goal for the camp was to give our girls the chance to explore and connect with the outdoors in a new part of Arizona. At the same time, we wanted to use this outdoor experience to give girls the chance to practice living and working together as a team, as well as gain greater senses of self-confidence and courage by trying activities such as mountain biking, hiking, and geocaching.
We had spent weeks planning and preparing for the trip, but had to make several changes—combining two excursions into one and then changing the location last minute due to fire dangers. I was worried that these changes would throw us off and that we might encounter difficulties once up at Lake Mary, where we planned to camp. Luckily, these worries were unfounded.
This isn’t to say we didn’t have problems—of course we had faced little challenges, but isn’t that part of going on a trip with four adults and ten girls? We had to drive a ways to find the perfect campsite; girls had to be reminded that when it is your day to clean, that means you do the dishes; we inevitably had the small stack of burnt-on-the-outside, mushy-on-the-inside leftover pancakes; we battled bugs for our food; and to this day there remains a pair of underwear that no girl would claim as hers. But that is why you go camping—to remember that little imperfections aren’t what define our days. Instead, your days were defined by seeing one of your campers ride a bike for the first time, by watching a 17-year-old calmly help a frustrated 11-year-old set up her tent, by hearing the victory cry of your girls when they find the geocache they have spent a half-hour looking for, and by having your girls exclaim how much they love getting dirty and staying up to see the stars and how they really just want to stay here longer and can’t we just call parents and say we’re going back next week instead, please?? Pretttttty please??
We came back four days after we left, just as we had planned. We also came back with girls who had worked together to set up and take down camp, cook their own food, and resolve disputes, as well as who had pushed their own comfort limits to try activities they had never done before. And, despite—or perhaps because of—the bugs and the burnt breakfasts, we fully intend on doing another excursion camp next year. And next time, we might just make it a week long from the get-go, giving us all more time to revel in one another’s daily challenges and successes.
To see more pictures from the trail, visit our Facebook page!