Ever carried a canoe above your head? How about exploring a cave 16 inches wide (Mr. Mike got stuck)? Know how to fluff your duff? Have you had the chance to carry three days worth of supplies on your back? We, the adolescents, did all this on our extreme backpacking trip.
The Mad Dog Exploration took us from the Touch of Nature center to the Panther’s Den Wilderness and back. It was an unforgettable experience, full of teamwork, spiders, and memories. After signing a contract, promising that we would have strength, optimism, and flexibility, our journey began. Monday was spent packing our bags and canoeing to our first campsite. Going to sleep that night was slightly uncomfortable, due to all the sticks beneath us, but we quickly drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, after a breakfast of oatmeal and granola bars, we hiked up to Panther’s Den and explored caves that were a bit narrow at times. #spidersnearmyface We finished the day with pizza, a game of Mafia, and a new game Greg introduced to us, called This Is a Stick.
Awake, bright and early Wednesday morning, we re-packed our bags, broke camp, and fluffed our duffs (kicking the ground to make it look like no one had been there). After a two-mile paddle, we portaged our canoes and gear from Devil’s Kitchen Lake to Little Grassy Lake. It was extremely heavy, but we survived (barely). Our reward for the effort was a campfire with s’mores, a sandstone ledge over the lake (for swimming), a nice meal with Pringles and Gatorade. Thursday, our last day, was spent with a final canoe back to Touch of Nature, where we said goodbye to our guides and headed back to good ole’ Missouri.
Through this experience, we’ve each come to a different conclusion about what nature means to us. Now, it is not only a big area full of trees and bugs with “facili-trees” instead of bathrooms, but somewhere away from all of the city noise, where you can be happy no matter what, and grow closer to your friends through it all. We’ve agreed this experience was enlightening for all of us, but we may just feel that way because we aren’t carrying canoes on our backs anymore.