Why is it that Girl's Camp is always such a highlight? It's a lot of work, little sleep, lot's of junk food, full of dirt and dust, yet it's one of the things that I look forward to all year.
Last year's was on a ward level. This year was on the Stake level. The theme was Your Happily Ever after based on this. Each day was focused on a different princess. Perfect theme. I loved the meaning behind it all.
I was able to go up Monday morning. We unloaded, got settled in the cabins (making some minor bunk changes) and then some orientation from the LDS missionaries who host at the church owned property.
This was a nice, kick back stake camp with plenty of free time for the wards to do their own things. Since I was asked to be in charge of the hike, it seemed a good idea to do a test run and make sure that I wouldn't lose the girls like last year.
Smart idea. After a wrong turn, we finally routed a nice hike and felt good about being prepared for Wednesday afternoon.
(me and my girl 'Nae at the overlook)
The Stake was in charge of food, so well, at least they provided PB & J's.
We did need to bring out own dishes, and I totally forgot so again, 'Nae hooked me up
(I had to eat everything with a bowl and spoon)
(tried to get Charity to share her fork, but it wasn't working out)
It was fun to be able to build a fire, make some smore's and sing camp songs. That seems to be the girls favorite!
(Bird as a gangster in the skit)
Since, we were short a bunk for a leader in our cabin, I volunteered to sleep on the floor or the table. I opted to push the two camp tables in the cabin together and made a nice bed. I was too skeeved to attempt the floor. After, settling in for the night (LONG after my normal bed time), I got the girls attention, told them that I loved them more than the sea, but if any of them woke me up, I was gonna crack skulls. And then, I was out.
Tuesday was an early day with my girl 'Nae and a couple others who were up for a nice run before the day started. We followed the dirt road out of the area and on to the highway. Absolutely GORGEOUS! The sun was rising, the air was full of the smell of forest and once we watched a deer run right past us. A quick 2 miler for the girls (3 for me since I was circling around and around) and it was back to get going with the others for the day.
It was Challenge course day. This camp has an area on the property that has several challenge courses. Each one of them designed to challenge the girls physically, and relating those challenges to gospel principles. I had my girl Tay who needed to be at the gate for a soccer practice so we went to the first course, got the orientation, went first and then I raced her down to the gate.
That first course was the zip line. Okay, so I've done the zip line before several years ago and was terrified of the actual sliding down the zip. I did okay climbing the pole and crossing the log up high, but the feeling of letting go and letting the zip line take me was almost crippling horror.
Of course, Tay and I needed to go first for time purposes. We were set up with the gear, donned helmets and listened to the instructions. Taylor went first and absolutely KILLED it! She was awesome. As I waited for my turn to go, I talked a bit with the sister missionary helping me get ready. I told her I was scared of 3 things. One, that I would pee my pants. Two, that I would cry. And three, that I would swear. After her jaw dropped when I mentioned swearing she reminded me that I couldn't do that or I would be a poor example. Sweet, sweet sister. Isn't she cute?
Finally my turn and away I go. First, one has to climb a wood pole. There are foot and hand holds, but at the very top, you have to let both your feet go to change their positions. It requires both quad strength and upper body strength. I wasn't sure I was going to pull it off, but luckily, no falling. At the top, you have to pull yourself around to face the other way while your feet are on a tight rope and your hands are grasping a second rope above you. That was fairly hard. Once turned around, you need to get across the tight rope to a second tree landing. You only had the rope above to hold onto for balance. Very, very scary. It was proven though, that if you leaned forward into the rope, it was much stabler. Also, if you slid your feet along the rope rather than actually picking them up and stepping. The thought of leaning forward was terrifying. But, once you could do that and feel the support and balance it gave you, it made the crossing much easier.
Once you reached the ledge, it was time to hook to the zip and unhook the belayer. This was the part I was worried about. I remembered the last time I did it, how I didn't like the sensation and was scared to feel that again. The sweet sister missionary at that station was the BEST!. She made me look her in the eyes while she talked me through the steps. Rather than jump forward, she had me turn around with my back to the line. Sit down until I felt the harness holding me, and then just let go. After choking back the puke sensation, I did it! Off I went and while the initial feeling of "loss of control" was still there, it was muted somewhat with the knowledge that the harness was safe.
(I did not cry, pee my pants or swear. I'm calling this a success)
After we hustled down the mountain and I dropped Taylor off, I hurried back to the zip line area and luckily was able to watch all of our girls go through it. So interesting to see each girl react a different way. Some flew right through it like it was second nature. They were getting the thrill of it all. I loved seeing the fun and happiness in their faces. For others, it was more than a little bit scary. Some were shaking and some were crying out of fear. As many people stood around to cheer them on, I discovered that the less "noise" there was, the better they could concentrate. If there was just one calm voice giving them instructions and encouragement, it helped them focus and ease along the rope. Parallel to life, I probably need to extinguish some of the "noise" surrounding me and listen a little more carefully to the Voice that I need to.
Later that day, our girls did a funny skit, we had a nice devotional and another fire with camp songs. Since Taylor's bunk was now open, I ditched the table for that and again after warning the girls of bodily harm if awoken, I crashed.
Wednesday was rough. The early girls who liked to get up and work out, still got up and we made it a light easy one since we knew we also had the hike later that afternoon. In addition, we found out that the lake (where we were going for another activity that morning) was a mile and a half walk. One way. There was some muttering of cancelling the hike but as far as I was concerned, I thought the girls should do it.
Brenda and I wanted some running in, so after getting the instructions on how to get to the lake, we took off. It was a BEAUTIFUL trail run. Oh my goodness! I've decided I most def need to do more of that. And, by the way, it was no mile and a half. It was 1.75.
At the lake the girls were able to get in canoes, the leaders in paddle boats and with life jackets on, we were able to putter around on the water. So much fun! It is so incredibly beautiful and peaceful! The girls were duly warned about the leeches in the lake so there was no canoe tipping or water fights. Instead, just peaceful rowing/paddling around.
(Brenda and me - "peace, love and temple marriage")
Interesting side note about the leeches. Celeste who used to be one of my Young Women and now is called as a leader has on her bucket list "Have a leech" Thankfully, the sister missionary who had shown them to the girls to warn them, was accommodating to Celeste
The girls made it back, some lunch and rest time and then a meeting at the pavilion to discuss the hike. That 2.5 miles they had just done to the lake and back and taken it's toll on some of the girls and leaders. So it was given as an option to do the hike. I was then asked to speak to the group.
Wha? I wasn't prepared for this. Seriously praying as I walked to the microphone to know what to say that would encourage them to push themselves.
Since the whole theme was Princesses and "Your Happily Ever After", I decided to tie it Mulan. Other nights they had discussed some of the hard things the princesses had to do in their lives before they got their happily ever afters. Cinderella endured the abuse of her stepmother and stepsisters. Tangled was led to about her true heritage and kept captive my mother Gothal. You see the point they were making. I pointed all this out to the girls and then reminded them of Mulan. While other princesses might have had to endure emotional struggles to become who they were, Mulan had to endure physical trials. She had to pretend to be a boy, fight with a sword and go through all the warrior training. I told them that she must have been exhausted every single night when she went to bed and that her muscles probably ached constantly from all the physical exertion. But at the moment when she passed the test and the feeling that she had, well no one could ever take that away from her. Ever. I challenged them to dig deep and unless there was a physical emergency that prohibited them, they should go on the hike. Everyone was allowed about 45 minutes to return to their cabins and prepare.
When it was time, we met up again. The girls and women going on the hike met down at an amphitheatre at the trail head. Those that were not going, were to bring their scriptures, journals or other reading material to stay in the pavilion and work on. I thought it was good to give the girls a choice, but understand that if they chose to stay back, it wasn't going to be a party or nap-fest.
We started the hike, and I have to say I was impressed and proud of every single girl and leader who did it. We didn't start until about 2:30 so it was in the heat of the day. They had already been walking/hiking earlier and honestly, the trail was a little tough. I had a walkie talkie up at the front of the line, and then someone had one at the end so we were able to keep the group together somewhat. The girls around me had great attitude, and we laughed and talked all the way. We saw some deer, and amazing scenery! There is nothing like being in the mountains. Period. Nothing really quite compares.
(we were warned about the caterpillars, and once I saw a beautiful, black bird just sitting high in a tree watching me)
Gratefully, the hike went off without too many stops and once we made it back to the camp area, I really wished I would have had something to give each girl to acknowledge that she had earned her Warrior Princess status! Me and two other leaders quickly packed our gear and left camp. There was a rule put into place by our stake leaders that not all the leaders could be there all of the time, so we were taking turns.
Luckily though, we were all invited back Thursday night for the final devotional and ward testimony meeting. That last testimony meeting is always the highlight. Girls that don't normally share their feelings feel safe at camp to do that. This year didn't disappoint. In fact, it was so special that I'm not even going to give more detail. Just know that NO ONE will ever forget what they felt that night. And that my love for each of those girls and other leaders is sealed forever.
(my girl Chels. No words needed)
So chalk another girls camp down in the books as a success! I really, really love my calling to work with them, and honestly, they are such amazing young women that it's a privilege and an honor just to rub shoulders with them. I'm a lucky and blessed lady indeed!