Light and noise awoke me from my deep sleep, forcing me to rub my eyes and sit up on my bunk. The other girls in my cabin at Eagle’s Nest Camp in North Carolina were up and moving, changing into their bathing suits.
“Wha-what’s going on?” I stuttered in a sleepy voice, my eyelids drooping heavily. Another girl in my cabin said, “We’re going to Sliding Rock,” It took me a moment to comprehend what she was saying. Sliding Rock? We were going to Sliding Rock? I thought, No wonder everyone seemed so excited.
My heart leaped. I had heard of Sliding Rock. Apparently it was a natural waterslide not too far away from camp. Then I realized something: Why were we going to Sliding Rock right now, in what seemed to be the middle of the night? Owls were still hooting outside, and bullfrogs were still croaking. When I listened closely I could hear the songs of crickets and tiny spring peepers, a kind of frog that inhabits the Rhododendron forests near the summer camp. Otherwise, the world outside our cabin was completely still, as if everyone else was still asleep, and they were. After all, if the clock on the wall of the cabin was correct, it was only 5:30, which is not a time most people enjoy waking up at. Why did we have to get up so early?
As if to answer my question, Kate, one of the counselors for my cabin, stepped out of the counselors’ section. “All right, everybody,” she said in a loud voice like she was making a speech, “We need to get out of here soon so we can get to Sliding Rock before 6 or so, that’s when they start charging you for being there. Plus, we want to be back here by breakfast.”
“What do we need?” Anna, one of my cabin mates, asked Kate drowsily. She seemed so tired that she would fall back asleep any second.
“Um…Wear your bathing suit, and you’ll want a towel, waterproof shoes, and a warm jacket.”
I changed out of my pajamas and into my damp bathing suit, which clung to my skin uncomfortably. I slipped on my waterproof Keens and pulled my zip-up fleece hoodie on over my head. After grabbing my towel off the hook by my bed, I joined the rest of my cabin outside near the dining hall.
A few minutes later, Cabin Seven, the cabin for boys my age, arrived from around the side of the dining hall. We all walked down to the parking lot, where a bus with the Eagle’s Nest Foundation logo on the side was waiting. After filing into the bus, we each found a seat. I sat next to Hannah, who had the bunk above mine in our cabin, and who was in a lot of the same activities as me.
“How do you think it’ll be?” I asked her excitedly as we sat down. “I don’t know,” Hannah said, “I haven’t been either. But I heard it’s really fun.” “Me too.” I said. For a while we sat in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts about Sliding Rock. Then I remembered something from the night before. Rosie (one of my cabin mates) had asked Kate if we were going to Sliding Rock this session at camp. Kate had said that we probably wouldn’t. I tapped Hannah on the shoulder and reminded her of this. “Do you think she knew then that we were going this morning? I mean, was it a surprise to her, too, or was she just keeping it a surprise from us?” I wondered. “Yeah, I was thinking about that, too. Maybe she was keeping it a secret from us,” Hannah suggested. “I bet they did want to surprise us.”
For a while, we chatted excitedly about Sliding Rock. We imagined what it might be like, and compared what we had heard about it. I wasn’t even hungry, like I would usually be if I was awake for a while without having breakfast, probably because I was so excited.
After what seemed to be forever, the bus stopped. I looked out the window next to me and saw that we were already in the parking lot for Sliding Rock. Hannah and I followed the rest of our cabin mates out of the bus.
Although we were a large group, we managed to stick together as we started the hike from the parking lot to the waterfall.
Finally, we got a glimpse of the waterfall through the trees. A huge slab of rock was tilted sideways, with water rushing down it. There were a few dips and bumps in the rock, causing the water to spray upwards, but otherwise the rock was flat. It ended in a deep dark pool of water. A old and rusty railing went up the side of the waterfall. Then we were past the clearing in the trees, and the thick woods obscured our view of Sliding Rock.
A few minutes later we came to another opening in the woods, but instead of just a glimpse, we could see Sliding Rock clearly, with no obstacles blocking our view. There was a path from this open space to the base of the waterfall, and after setting our belongings on the logs lining the clearing, we all bravely waded into the water.
What I hadn’t known about Sliding Rock was how cold the water was. The water seeped through the holes in my Keens, and numbed my feet like I had stuck them in a freezer.I had expected the water to be a bit chilly, like most natural bodies of water in North Carolina (despite the heat in the air), but I hadn’t expected it to be that cold! I hadn’t considered how cold it would be when it wasn’t even six o’clock in the morning.
For a second I considered turning around and not participating in sliding down the waterfall, but then I looked back up at the waterfall, at the people in front of me slowly trudging through the deep water, and decided I wouldn’t go back. If everyone else could do it, why couldn’t I? I kept on going, ankle-deep, calf-deep, knee-deep, until the water was almost all the way up to my waist.
My legs were shivering and covered with goosebumps, but the base of the waterfall was so close I didn’t care. I grabbed onto the rusty railing, and pulled myself out of the deep pool, water dripping down from me as I did so. Water pooled in my shoes, and made them sound squeaky as I climbed up the side of the waterfall. A trickle of water that had strayed from the main waterfall tickled my toes as it went past me, and it reminded me of how cold the water was.
As I continued to hike up the side of the waterfall, I watched the kids in front of me slide down quickly and land with a huge splash. By the time I was at the start of the line, I was fairly convinced I would like going down Sliding Rock. But I still wasn’t positive.
When it was my turn, I walked out into the water confidently, and fought the powerful current as I tried to make it to the middle of the waterfall, where a counselor was waiting for me. Once I sat down in the frigid water, I felt around for a crevice to hold onto with my hands. When I found one, I gripped tightly to it to prevent the current from pushing me down the waterfall before I was ready.
“Are you ready?” the counselor asked from behind me. I nodded, and he gave me a starting push as I released my grip from the rock. The current pulled me down the rock with it, causing me to go up and down with it as it rushed over the bumps. It felt refreshing, and the way the water glided over the rock made me feel like I was flying. An extra-large bump made me fly into the air, and I landed in the deep water below. The water drenched me as I swam towards the shore, making my bathing suit heavy. I stood up and pulled myself out of the water when I was close enough to the shore to stand in the water.
I shivered, but sliding down the rock was so fun that without even drying myself off first, I walked straight towards the end of the line, and slid down the natural slip-n-slide again and again until it was time to go.