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From the Top of Big Schloss to the Depths of Luray: Wilderness Kids Summer Part 3

It has been a wonderful couple months for Wilderness Kids Alexandria in this, our first ever, summer of programming. This summer, our students explored new places, faced new challenges, reached new achievements, made new friends, and became a lot more comfortable in the great outdoors.

Here is the 3rd and final installment of our Summer Recap.


Atop the Big Schloss, with West Virginia to the left and Virginia to the right. The Wilderness Kids left their vehicle behind and spent a night in the backcountry in August.

In our final trip of the year our students summited a backcountry peak, went below ground to explore a cavern, ascended back to a high ropes course, and finished off with a refreshing swim in and around a brisk waterfall.

On August 8, we left our vehicle and set off with our tents, sleeping bags, food, and more, all packed efficiently in our backpacks. We hiked about a mile to a campsite located just off the Mill Mountain Trail, en route to the Big Schloss summit. After setting camp, we set off again with just daypacks and reached the summit of Big Schloss for some truly incredible views east to Virginia and west to West Virginia.

If it doesn't fit in your pack, you don't need it...a lesson in living lighter. Off we go to ascend the Big Schloss!
So many views! The ridge hike out to Big Schloss if full of views over the extraordinary Shenandoah Valley.

After a good night’s sleep beneath the trees, we set off for Luray Caverns, whose enormous parking lot and crowds of people were a bit of a shock after our night alone on the mountain ridge. The caverns cool temps were a welcome relief however and students and Guides alike marveled at the cavern, especially at the Lake of Dreams, which provides an extraordinary reflection of the stalactites hanging above it.

Students and Guides, alike, were amazed by the Lake of Dreams whose perfect reflection of the stalactites above caused us all to take a second and third look.

Luray also offers a hedge maze, where kids had fun getting lost and finding their way, and a high ropes course, where each of our kids–regardless of their level of fear or concern–mastered the course in their own unique way. It was wonderful to see students who were very uncertain about their ability to handle this challenge, literally rise to the occasion and tackle some very high ropes elements.

Some 25 feet above the ground, Katy has conquered an early round of nerves and moves effortlessly across a rope bridge at the Luray Ropes Course.

After a rain storm, we enjoyed a delicious meal in our Elizabeth Furnace Campground and slept well through more light rain. In the morning we packed up and set off for our final destination - White Oak Canyon. There, we hiked up to a wonderful falls, slide and swimming hole where students and guides alike splashed around enjoying themselves - for each one, their first time putting their head beneath a roaring falls or sliding down a natural rock slide.

If ever an image were worth 1000 words, it is this one. Ah, the joy of splashing in a natural swimming hole, beside a rushing waterfall!


So many firsts this summer - canoeing, camping out, climbing, cooking over an open fire, rock climbing, sharing a tent, making friends with someone who does not share one's mother tongue, playing in lakes and swimming holes, laughing as water pours over one’s head from a waterfall, watching and admiring snakes, birds, deer, and other wildlife - and all of these because of the Wilderness Kids Community that makes it all possible. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for giving these wonderful kids the opportunities that you have made possible through your support, your volunteering, and your financial assistance.

We look forward to having you on the trail with us this fall.

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