Our November-December 2012 trip left the Sunday before Thanksgiving under clear blue skies. It wound up being a very festive trip with us celebrating one student’s 18th birthday just a few days into the trip. He remarked that it was a great gift to be able to be out on the river paddling and having the time to think about things and get away from distractions at home.
Though the water was chilly, the sun was warm on the river and the water level was higher than it had been in the summer making the paddling better. The river was also more lively but not so much as to cause any problems. All the boats ran the rapids without a problem though, we did get splashed a little!
We transitioned from paddling to backpacking on Thanksgiving. Though we may not have been with our families and there may not have been a turkey, we still had an amazing backcountry feast complete with ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, collard greens, green beans, and mini chocolate moose pies in graham cracker crusts. After dinner, we sat around the fire and talked about the things that we are grateful for in our lives and the import role that families play.
While backpacking in the George Washington National Forest, we saw our first snow of the season which was the perfect thing to get into the holiday mood as we entered December. A couple days later, warm temperatures returned and all the snow melted. We were also treated to amazing views and saw very few other people, other then some hunters and mountain bikers who were riding terrain that seemed nearly impossible.
Once we transitioned to rock climbing, the temperatures warmed up so much that we wound up sitting by the river in t-shirts and shorts scarcely believing that we were hiking in the snow just days before. Faced with challenge of climbing the rock wall, the students performed well, repeatedly attempting difficult routes even after having been turned back before. They were able to see how the challenges of recovery are similar to the challenges of climbing and that even if they should fall, there will be people there to catch them and help them to achieve their goals.
It was with this positive mindset and with well-crafted recovery plans that they headed into Family Weekend and were reunited with their families where they began the long road towards repairing their relationships and preparing for new lives in the new year.