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Rolling Down the River: Wilderness Kids Summer,Part 1

It has been a wonderful couple months for Wilderness Kids Alexandria in this, our first ever, summer of programming. In the past 8 weeks or so, our students explored new places, faced new challenges, reached new achievements, made new friends, and became a bit more comfortable in the great outdoors.

In three parts, here is what they have been up to!

Paddling the Shenandoah

We kicked off the first of our three trips on June 28th. We headed to Shenandoah National Park, pausing at the locally-famous Apple House, for a much needed snack of apple doughnuts. Before reaching the Matthew’s Arm Campground we checked out the visitor center, collecting the parks’ passport stamp to put in our camp journals.

Wilderness Kids Paris, Josiah, and Rodrick check out a full relief map with Wilderness Kids Guide Sean, in Shenandoah National Park.

After a picnic lunch we set up camp, and went for a hike. We found trees and rocks to climb over, interesting mushrooms, and had a competition to find the best walking stick.

Madina, Paris, Luis, Rodrick and Jeremiah deep in the wood near Matthew's Arm, S.N.P.

We settled back at camp and got to know one another a bit more. We played games like Twister and Jenga, and then decorated t-shirts and made our first entries in the camp journals. Campers were encouraged to write about anything that came to mind, and doodle things they had seen on the hike.

The left hand carefully holds the chocolate and graham cracker as the right hand cooks one marshmallow to perfection. Nice job, Rodrick!

Before long it was time for dinner, and we got a campfire started. Unsurprisingly, the vegetable options we had for dinner weren’t very popular, but s’mores went over extremely well (Now who would have guessed that?).

We slept well in our tucked away camp site, and after and breakfast of oatmeal we set off to paddle down the Shenandoah River. We had three canoes and one kayak, clear skies, and 8 miles to go! We stopped along the shores to have a packed lunch, and then again on a very muddy riverbank to take a much needed swim break. We saw birds, a water snake, and said hello to people fishing and paddling alongside us.

Setting off for the first time ever in a canoe on a flowing river is not the easiest thing to do...

...but our students managed it well, paddling 8 miles to a well-deserved swim, with only a couple crashes along the way!

After dinner we headed to Jeremy’s Run overlook to watch the sunset.

The sunset happens every day. It's nice to stop and appreciate the beauty of it now and then.

On our final morning we had pancakes for breakfast, and packed up camp. We then did a short, but very rewarding hike on the Storybook Trail. This trail had lots of interesting geology and rocks to scramble up, with educational signage telling us about the history of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the way. We found an amazing view at the top, which we enjoyed while eating lunch.

Our final stop in the Park, near Storybook Trail. What a view!

On our way home we stopped in the quaint town of Front Royal for some well deserved ice cream. Appreciated by all!

For all of our campers this was their very first time camping, canoeing, and making s’mores over an open fire. They began cultivating and exploring a new skill set, and made new friendships in the process. With their first camping trip under their belts, they were ready for the next adventure.

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