Their faces peer out at me from my scrapbook. Lugging huge backpacks up a steep trail, performing feats even an ant would envy. Perched on the top of an outcropping of rock against the sunset.
Ceremoniously dumping water on each others’ heads. These are the faces of a group of people who have been a special part of my summers. We like to call ourselves Trekkies, but lately we have been confused with the Star Trek: Next Generations fans. That’s all right; we could just as easily be called something else: Galactic Grapes. Zoo Animals. We come from very different backgrounds, but all share the responsibility of watching out for each other and for ourselves. The program is called TREK: High Adventure Leadership Camp, an outgrowth of my beloved Coppercreek Camp, my summer haven. Four weeks of rockclimbing, caving, backpacking, and whitewater rafting.
It is an intensive lesson in tolerance and a development of physical and mental strength. Four weeks of living together, eating together, making no-bake cheesecake together. The demands are great, but the rewards are worth it. And the people are some of the most hilarious ones I have ever met. There’s Brian, who wears a plastic Gumby-doll, nicknamed Guacaman, around his neck and likes to stick his toes in my ear. Barbara, with whom I stayed up late into the wee hours waiting for the Cockroach People to come and get us. D.J., whom we almost killed for telling us that awful joke about the pink ping-pong balls.
I think about them often, now that I am too old to do the TREK program. Oh, the times we had! We waded through the snowfields to the peak of Sawtooth Ridge in the Trinity Alps and look down at the shimmering blue lakes encased in their rocky basins and the green meadows stretching away to join the trees. We inched through tiny lava tubes under the ground and prayed we were not lost.
We dared to challenge Hell’s Hole on the Trinity River and came out alive, even if we came out backwards. We graced the Weaverville supermarket with our Presence, wearing pillows on our heads to entertain the locals. We suddenly became possessed with an Inspiration to spit watermelon seeds at each other. Oh, the times we had!
Among faces in my scrapbook, I can see myself–younger, but obviously me, with the same grin, same freckles, same old hiking boots. Here I am indulging my passion for fruit punch Crystal Light, reading The Little Prince on the trail, learning to see the humor in everyday occurrences while discovering the serious side in me.
What is the profound amidst the not-so profound? Taking the cooking gear well away from the lake to wash? Picking up that piece of litter? Not teasing Tim about his hair, which is always sticking up? Always remembering that you can make it up to the top of that rock, even if your arms are shaking like a sewing machine. These lessons of respect for the natural environment, tolerance for other people’s space and feelings, and a strong belief in the power of ME are the legacies of TREK. More than that, I find rare moments of complete peace with myself and my future while surrounded by the people, the beauty, the golden freedom of summer.
Trek 1989, 1990, 1991
Kate is also an accomplished musician. Please go to her Facebook page and enjoy her beautiful music: https://www.facebook.com/kateisenbergmusic.