Now that’s what I call summer camp!

by Sara Cermenaro

Three years ago the Georgia-Carolina Boy Scout Council decided to expand its summer camp offering and include high adventure treks for older Scouts (including girls like me).  The most popular trek (because it was truly awesome!) include a day of hiking on the Appalachian Trail, a day of mountain biking on the Tsali trails in the Nantahala National Forest, a day of kayaking, a day of whitewater rafting on the Ocoee, a night of spelunking (and a little sleeping) in a cave in Tennessee, and a finish back in camp with the mile swim (choice of swim or row), a steak dinner, and camp-wide campfire.

Although there is one adult who consistently brings the group on the trek (and happens to be my mom, the greatest mom ever) we always elicit the help of Ken Kastorff and his awesome staff (of mostly Eagle Scouts) at the Endless River Adventures in the Nantahala Gorge to make sure everyone has the most fun possible.

As soon as we arrive in North Carolina, we set up camp and start hiking. We usually go up to Wayah Bald because the view is so beautiful and exquisite from there. The bike trails we bike at Tsali are share with horses, so which trails we ride depend on what day it is. I have decided that horses have a much easier time stepping over the obstacles on the trails than we scouts do on bikes. After about 25 miles of riding, it feels really good to go for a swim in Fontana Lake.

Wednesday is the best day! I look forward to Wednesday all week! We get up early so we can get to Endless River Adventures to meet the awesome staff that will be guiding us, and to select our kayaks, paddles, skirts, helmets, splash jackets, life jackets (all individually selected for the best fit and comfort), and anything else to prepare us for a day of kayaking.  Then they give us a class on kayaking and white water safety and instruction for those who haven’t a clue as to what a kayak is. We all pay attention because these are one-man kayaks and there is no one else to bail you out if you forget something. FINALLY we get to go to the lake and learn to kayak—it is awesome. (Of course it does defy logic and everything you’ve been taught since you took your first breath in the hospital! Who would willingly flip a perfectly good boat upside down, while firmly attached to it, and tell themselves to bring their hips up first and head last?) Well I did, and not I’m hooked! I love to kayak and can’t wait for the weather to improve enough to get back out there and practice my roll.

Kayaking Wednesday afternoon is the best because we actually get to do down a Class II river.  There is always a lot of excitement and tension as we beginners try this for the first time. Wednesday nights are a lot more tranquil than the others. We all are anxious to get some dinner and then sit around the campfire exchanging “war stories” of our first trip down a river in a kayak.  Most of the tales are hilarious. And by this part of the week we have noticed some “sore” spots.

Thursday morning we break camp early and go back to our favorite outfitter, ERA. We really enjoy the staff at Endless River Adventures, and are glad to see the same faces year after year.  Everyone is pumped up because we get to go whitewater rafting on the Ocoee. The Ocoee River is an awesome place to raft because it is non-stop action.  As soon as you’ve finished one rapid, bam, you’re in another, then another, and so on.  Steve and the other guides love to play tricks with us and will have us spinning and laughing, swimming alongside, having splashing wars, or using the rocks to soak one side of the raft or the other.  If conditions are right, we get to play in Cat’s Pajamas-it’s one of my favorite rapids and is extremely fun.

All too soon, we reach the end of the river and the end of our time with Steve and Ken and the ERA gang.  We day our good-byes and head for a cavern inTennessee. We usually go into the cave around 6PM and spend the next 6 or 7 hours on our bellies, back, hands and knees, exploring every nook and cranny imaginable (And some I wouldn’t have considered imaginable if the guide hadn’t shown us how Houdini would have done it!).

Friday morning, we crawl back out of the cave, grab some breakfast and clean up enough to be allowed back into vehicles for the drive home (sometimes this takes longer for some than others, especially if you’ve been in a mud fight!!).  Once back in camp, we complete the mile swim, and then get ready for dinner and the campfire.

Ah yes, now that’s what I call summer camp!