Getting over the jitters and getting the KOAP kids outside

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  • (Photo courtesy Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness)

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  • (Photo courtesy Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness)

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Boy do I have some very interesting wilderness experiences. The summer going into my senior year, I applied for the Kootenai Outdoor Adventure Program (KOAP) to help mentor kids ranging from sixth through eighth grade. We had multiple day hikes going up to some swimming holes, had fun days at a lake house including archery competitions and kayaking down a lazy river, and even played on a rope swing that I may or may not have broke as I was using it. But the day that everyone was looking forward to, myself included, was the four-day overnight backpacking trip.

Everyone was a little a nervous beforehand. We wouldn’t admit it, but if I’m being honest, going into the woods with a bunch of younger kids and staying four nights, in tents, with a bunch of younger kids was kind of a scary thought. What were we going to do to keep the kids occupied? How are we going to keep track of them?

We backpacked for about three miles, covering all sorts of terrain including rock, muddy, steep ground and multiple bridges. When we got to our spot, we set up for camping, fetching water, pitching tents and making food, the most important part of course.

The day time was easy to keep the kids occupied. There was a little lake beside our campsite so many of the kids would go swimming during the day or go fishing. Huckleberries were in season so of course we took any empty container we had brought with us and hiked to a spot down the trail that had tons of huckleberry bushes. All of the kids were troopers considering the summer sun beating down on us, but everyone was determined to pick the most berries which kind of turned into a bit of a competition.

After the days had ended, we rolled into the nighttime. The nighttime was full of ghost stories around the campfire and playing games like sardines, so fun in the dark, by the way, but by the third night, the games got a little repetitive and we were longing for something even more fun than just the games we were playing.

So to fill this boredom, we decided to have a little dance competition with all of the campers. We all formed groups, including the mentors, and came up with silly dances to perform in front of each other. My group included three other seniors. I’m pretty sure we were starting to get a little insane from being in the wilderness for so long. Our dance was the weirdest thing — very interesting, I guess you could say — which made it all the more fun. It was probably one of the most embarrassing things I did, but in the end it was definitely worth it. All the kids we were mentoring had fun, even the teachers that came with had a blast.

This experience is one I will for sure never forget.

Emily Mossburg is the 2018 Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Essay Competition winner for Libby High School. Voices in the Wilderness is a series of adventures in wild places written by local people and provided by FSPW. To submit your own story, write to sandy@scotchmanpeaks.org.

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