Many middle school kids might spend their summer hiding from the heat and playing video games, but not the HFO Adventure Crew. Our sights were set on the Firey Gizzard Trail in Tracy City, TN, but first we had to survive training!
Training Stats: 2.5 weeks of training 40+ miles of hiking 180 lbs. of gear carried 10 days of swim training 1,000 spiders dodged at Acadiana Park
On Friday July 24th at 3am we pointed our 15 passenger van towards Memphis. Our first stop was the National Civil Rights Museum. Next we hit Beale St. but nobody had the blues because we were too busy enjoying the souvenir shops. Later that day we drove to Nashville and had just enough time to have some Jack's BBQ before the free benefit concert featuring Sandra McCracken. We arrived late at Momma E's ranch and set up tarps and our first campfire.
The kids were up with the sun at 5:30--with 13 acres of farm animals, the kids wanted an early start. Our day consisted of home cookin', fishin', horse back ridin', pond swimmin', and llama chasin'. It was a day of many firsts for our kids, and made us consider things from our childhood we take for granted. We stayed up late, and sang songs around a campfire long after the stars appeared.
Blueberry pancakes and maple syrup started our day. An hour-and-a-half later, we made it to the trailhead, unpacking our gear and throwing last-minute items into our packs. We had 4.2 miles ahead of us to Raven's Point. The last mile or so was the toughest part of the trip, but the unexplainable high we had when we made the ascent to camp was well worth it. We made camp with the cow ants and cooked up a little freeze-dried chicken enchilada and some mashed 'tatoes.
Day 2 was long, but steady. It really pushed the kids to see what they were made of. We had to go 6 miles, and at times it was a little tough. The biggest obstacle of the day was about 6 feet long and had a rattle. No it wasn't a tall baby it was a giant rattle snake! Johnny carefully relocated the snake off the trail and we pressed on with a revived sense of alertness. We faced the feeling of overwhelm with teamwork, and made it to camp together. At this point, we decided to hike out the next day instead of staying another night on the trail at Foster Falls. Around the campfire, we talked with the kids about what the trip had meant to them, getting deep thoughts, and genuine thankfulness.
The walk out was a cake walk, but bittersweet. We were all glad to be "out of the woods", so to say, but were going to miss the trials and new environment that were bringing us together. We swam at the icy Foster Falls lake and then packed up the van.
From Tracy City we quickly found a Western Sizzler Buffet and then headed out to Bryan College in Dayton, TN. What a surprise when we learned we would have an entire, empty, dorm to ourselves. We chased the kids with ShamWows and played Sardines. This was also an opportunity to have some one-on-one time with the kids and talk about thankfulness and respect again. The next morning, we packed up the van for the last time, and headed home.
But the work wasn't over yet, the following morning we picked all the kids up again and cleaned out our gear, teaching the kids respect for property, and responsibility. They also cleaned and vacuumed the van, with great attitudes!
When we set out to do this trip, we had no idea what we were in for. Looking back now, we can see how the trip brought us all together as a group and gave us an opportunity to enrich our relationships with the kids on a personal basis, allowing us to influence them in a positive way. God showed up in our adventure and made it one we will never forget.
Special thanks to Momma E, Julie, Bobby, and Bruce Morgan with Bryan College, this trip wouldn't have been the same without your assistance.
Also, special thanks to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Nekoosa, WI and First Presbyterian Church of Riverforest for the donation from their VBS offerings. We used the money to purchase a bible for everyone who came on the trip and plan to use the extra money to buy bibles for every new student in our program this fall!
Blessings, Loren & Tory