By William S., Class of 2024
Students in grades five through eight embark on a transformative 3-day outdoor education journey each year. These trips teach students how to adapt to the world around them, learn how to get out of their comfort zones, gain independence, and strengthen relationships with their classmates and teachers. Most importantly, these unforgettable experiences continue to resonate in the cherished memories of our alumni, often heralded as their most treasured moments at Harbor Day. Eighth grade student William Shu describes his experience on his final outdoor education trip rafting down the Lower Colorado River.
The bus ride to the start of our journey, although advertised as a break from the classroom, oddly mirrors an assigned Literature reading by foreshadowing what the experience would entail. In retrospect, the 8th grade’s bus ride foretold the many bumpy ups-and-downs of the Colorado River trip, but the latter also created innumerable memories, countless joyous bursts of laughter, and way too many water-filled, sand-laden floating canoes.
Every tale has a setting to begin in, and ours happened to be Walter’s Camp. The sweltering heat of the campsite and the pesky mosquitoes only made the post-introduction plunge into Walter’s Channel even more refreshing. After acclimating to our canoes, we set up our tents, and then floated down the channel, later falling asleep under the gaze of the shimmering stars.
The next day began with our group loading our portable gear into the metal canoes, and paddling down the Colorado River. Due to the conspicuously drastic variation in paddling ability (we were three miles behind) within our cluster, we decided to “pod up,” where all members tie their canoes together. And so the second day passed by, cheering our perceived toughness in dealing with the harsh climate of the river with Oreos and a relaxing break at a sandbar.
While the remaining days followed a similar pattern of activity, a few stuck out prominently as the most memorable highlights of the trip. For starters, we all promptly woke up at five in the morning to witness the crack of daylight atop a steep incline, briefly crossing the California-Arizona border. In addition, our “pod” paid homage to the grave of Lonesome the mutt by solemnly positioning a rock on a mountain of stones with eulogies dating back to 1990. Through all of this, we continued in our expedition, unless periodically interrupted with a respite of Ultimate Frisbee or Birdie on the Perch, until the last full day with our Naturalists-at-Large.
Around the campfire we sat at nighttime, toasting our triumphs with s'mores and special skits, as our faces lit up with laughter and gushed tears of emotion. The last night also harbored multiple battles, where we fought, united, and fended off the infamous raccoons from pilfering our snacks by heroically zipping up our tents. (Truly astonishing, I know.) But there was no time to waste, as we had to wake up at three in the morning to finish our journey and drift downstream.
As the morning sun rose the next day, the sunset on our Colorado River trip. And through all the misfortunes and mishaps along the way, the outdoor education journey truly set the tone for the rest of the 8th grade year: challenging, yet also fun. Because we, as students, can paddle and chart the course for the rest of the school year and, ultimately, our legacy as the Class of 2024.