Backpacking with the Coyotes

Brevard, NC | Janna Carlson

Plans change and often for the better. On a recent backpacking trip with the Coyote class, we made the decision to delay our departure by a day to avoid a downpour. We managed to miss the storm and maintain the opportunity to exercise our flexibility from staff to students and parents. We supported one another in what can be the most stressful part of a trip or event, the weather. I am glad we could all feel confident that safety, learning and having a good time are the top priorities for our Mountain Sun community.

Throughout my career, I have been taking young people into the woods whether with packs on their back and boots on their feet or PFDs on their chest and boats under their seats. Getting all the logistics set can be the most challenging part. After setting the route, checking the mileage, finding camps and water, you still need a plan B. Then you have to gather gear and make a planned meal. All while making sure safety is first and foremost in every step.

Once on the trail, it’s time to roll with it. It is the Coyotes time to lead and follow one another. They have been preparing for this for years. First with family camping in the Acorn campout, then just with their classmates as a Monarch. It’s my favorite part of taking anyone out to explore the woods around us. Leaders emerge, challenges are faced, and silly dances are created. I think one of my biggest takeaways from the trip was the Coyotes’ resilience. They looked out for one another, and they pushed themselves through the tough stuff.

Stepping out of our comfort zones and into our growth zones is important. It’s also important to find ways to enjoy each mile up and down with packs making it more challenging. Having everything they will need right there with them can be a burden or a freedom. This time is a chance to practice listening to your body and seeing what is a need and what is a want. Some of the time we walked down the trail, some of the time we were at camp, both with planned and unplanned challenges. We talked about the adventure together and had solo time to reflect on this trip. This was to help everyone see how the experience can go beyond the field, into the classroom, and back home with us.

I’m thankful to have found Mountain Sun Community School. It is a community that sees the value in learning beyond the walls of a classroom. I saw students taking initiative by volunteering, being respectful, and leading in many different ways. I circle back to planning and how important it is, but also I also want to remember to let unplanned opportunities never go to waste. I end with a reflection from my field journal, “As we all sat together watching the sun rise over the mountain I think of my Acorns and how they are preparing for this breathtaking and inspiring moment in their not so far future.”

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