Recently, at our community dinner on Monday night, our Adasahede, Miles, recited a famous quote from the well-known environmental advocate, Edward Abbey. He read aloud, “So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends. Ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.” I was elated to hear him share this with us because when I was 15, someone read the very same passage where this quote came from, and it has stuck with me ever since. Upon hearing this quote, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “You know, I couldn’t agree with you more, Miles, and I hope everyone in this room listens to your important words of wisdom.” However, it then struck me that everyone in that room has already been following Mr. Abbey’s advice!
This past weekend, the students of The Outdoor Academy embarked on their first paddle/climb trip, and my goodness did we pick a great weekend to get out there and explore. Over the course of the weekend, the students got their first shot at climbing and paddling in some of the coolest places you can find on the East Coast. A lot of unique activities and events take place here at OA, but I personally think that our paddle/climb trips might be one of the most unique experiences offered by a school in the Southeast.
People travel from all over the world to play in this part of Southern Appalachia. From the majestic Ocoee, Nolichucky, and Nantahala rivers, to the eyebrow-laced granite bulges and pristine friction climbs at Looking Glass Rock and Rumbling Bald, there is no shortage of fun-filled adventures to be had here in Western North Carolina. But despite the incredible natural features and breathtaking scenery that this area has to offer, it’s the learning that takes place in each of our students that truly makes these trips so unique and special.
I might only be in my twenties, but I can assuredly tell you that there is no better way for someone to learn what it means to trust another person (and themselves) than to inch their way up an intimidating section of rock, dearly hoping that if they were to slip, their belayer and back-up belayer will have them safely secured. Of course, much to the climber’s relief, the belayers will “catch” them every single time using their proper belay techniques, but it is in those very brief moments in time where that true learning takes place. And I’m not talking about the type of learning that requires hours and hours of begrudgingly answering homework problems in the back of a textbook. I’m talking about those moments when you are standing half way up on a rock face, palms beginning to sweat, knees beginning to tremble (we call that the “Elvis leg”), with an overwhelming hesitation of whether or not you can make that final move to the next hand hold without slipping. For you see, something really special takes place in those moments; there’s a tiny switch that gets turned on. For when that person summons all their courage and decides to take that scary next step, they are not only learning to place their trust in their belayers, but also in themselves, and it doesn’t matter whether they slip and fall or successfully make it up to the next hold. It doesn’t matter at all, because either way, they are going to realize that they can trust other people to help them when they are in need, or they might even begin to trust that they can achieve things that they never thought were possible for themselves.
These types of experiences are so wonderfully unique because of how they affect our community here at OA. Can you imagine all of the things a group of people can accomplish when they can trust each other on that kind of level? Here at OA, our students get the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, succeed in situations they never felt comfortable in, and learn what it means to do their part in an interdependent community. We are extremely productive, efficient, self-reliant, and our community works in utter harmony. How is this possible you might ask yourself? Because we now know what it takes to climb to the top, and we’re no longer afraid of trying.
Music Teacher and Wilderness Instructor