Do you remember your first trip to a National Park? Whether you experienced towering mountains, powerful waterfalls, or new plants and animals, your trip was undoubtedly remarkable.
For five Crawford High School Adventure Club participants, their first National Park experience was last month on an Outdoor Outreach overnight rock climbing trip to Joshua Tree. For many of the other students on the trip, the only opportunities they’ve ever had to visit a national park have been through Outdoor Outreach.
The students were amazed by the vast open space, tall rock formations, and unusual appearance of the famous Joshua Trees. It seemed as if there were a world away from their home in San Diego, despite the relatively short 2.5 hour drive to this beautiful place.
Crawford students arrived at Joshua Tree National park excited to try rock climbing and hike the trails. For three of the students, setting up a tent for the first time gave them a sense of accomplishment. For another student, eating s’mores around a campfire gave him the chance to connect with his peers in a new, comfortable way.
The Crawford Adventure Club participants reached new heights on this trip in more ways than one. Not only did they take in the amazing views from atop the rocks they climbed, but also became closer as a group. Opening up around the campfire, these students had the chance to discuss challenges they faced at home and at school.
Unfortunately, Crawford High School has been in the news twice this year; once for the death of a student tragically killed in a hit and run just blocks from the school, and again for a marijuana overdose on campus that put four students in the hospital.
Sitting under the stars with Outdoor Outreach staff and peers who they’ve come to respect and trust, the students were able to process these events, discussing things like family, loss, and the dangerous consequences of experimenting with drugs.
Trips like this one demonstrate the value of connecting young people to the transformative power of the outdoors, both as spaces to be challenged by joy-filled outdoor experiences, and as safe places to open up to a support group of peers and mentors.