Eagle Quest is already over a month into the summer of 2015 (!), and we’re taking groups into the wilderness like it’s our job. With summer staff training already a blur of inconspicuous cairns and team-building madness, the last couple weeks have been spent getting into the groove of things, with many of the guides going on their first trips. Classic Texas heat has mixed with rain – plenty of rain – to inflate the water levels and kick up the humidity at our home near Rocksprings. Despite this, our biggest struggle was not with weather or water. We had a hard time maintaining patience while waiting for our first groups to get here! The wait was well worth it, though, and our visitors have not disappointed.
Although we love everything that various groups bring to our program during their stay, a particularly notable opportunity for EQ has come from our partnership with Explore Austin.
Based, naturally, out of Austin, EA has been in operation since 2006, aiming to “increase self-confidence, build character, and develop a sense of responsibility” in their participants (called Explorers). Working in a six-year process, Explorers are grouped with Mentors – awesome people who are genuinely able to get behind what the program is about – who are with them from 6th to 12th grade. While there’s more to Explore Austin than the summer wilderness trips, these make up the foundation of each summer and turn out to be integral parts of the whole curriculum. These trips have varied to include excursions in New Mexico, Arkansas, and Colorado, to name a few.
Of course, Camp Eagle wants to get in on the fun.
For the third year in a row, EQ has had the privilege of taking groups from Explore Austin on the first trip of their six-year relationship. The Mentors and Explorers are about as new to each other as they are to us, but we figure (and EA agrees) that heading out into the wilderness for a few nights is a great way to kick start those lasting relationships. Texas Hill Country has a mystical way of bringing people together, and we think our little piece of property is especially fit for the job.
“Little” may not be the word, however, when dealing with a group of little guys and gals whose longest hike has been to the corner store and back (this is a real example). Strap on some extra weight with a pack, and you’ve got tall order for some short people. With the two guys groups and two girls groups having come and gone this summer, though, I have to say how impressed I am with the resilience and toughness that these kids showed while they were out here with us. They fought through heat, hiking, and bleached water (n.b. Water flavoring is a powerful tool; “He who controls the water flavoring controls the campers” à la a more camp-minded Orwell) to make it to a delicious dinner at the Windmill, where the tank has finally filled up after an earlier malfunction. We saw some sunburns and ear infections, and we got turned around a couple times trying to navigate in the back valley. Nonetheless, we all made it through with a bunch of big smiles on our faces (except for when we had to say goodbye!).
It was a blast helping to start what will doubtless be a life-defining six years for both the Explorers and their Mentors. We wish them well and hope to see some fresh faces from Explore Austin next summer!