The 5-week Machon Adventure participants began their Machon summer with a North Carolina Outward Bound experience. Below is their collective reflection on this unforgettable trip:
Ten naïve Machon are circled up, standing next to their pads with group gear on the ground and their spirits in the clouds. Well, mostly. Some people are swatting bugs away and some are just dealing with them. None of us know what we’re getting into. Someone calls, “packs on,” and we each struggle to put them on. The reality of the situation has not begun to set in, and none of us know just how much six days of an Outward Bound course could be…these backpacks are heavy. And not your normal “oh yeah, that’s got some heft to it;” more like, “yeah, our backs are probably going to snap in half.” Even though we all feel the pain, we begin to hike. Each step is a challenge of its own, but something keeps us going. I’d love to say that it was an inner desire to achieve greatness or even the power of a group pushing each other to succeed. But, I’d be lying. Sometimes, the best motivator is ignorance. If you don’t know what you’re getting into, how can you be scared of it? And, the truth is, none of us knew what was ahead of us. In that moment, unaware of the challenges ahead of us, we push on into the void.
It’s now day 2. Each of us has more or less accepted our situation and the denial has begun to drift away. Clouds of ignorance are replaced by very real and dangerous storm clouds above our heads. It begins to drizzle and we put on our rain gear just in time for the heavens to open up. But we paid it no mind. We began to hike in the mud, push on by our collective energy and determination. After a long hike and a break, no one wants to keep going. But we all get up and start our hike up Cedar Rock. No one wants to go, but we all go anyway. Our motivation is like a domino track: as one person pushes on, the next follows. What comes next is one of the grueling hikes any of us have done, never mind, once again, the 50 pound packs we are wearing. But, we push on. We persevere as a collective unit to reach the peak, regardless of snakes or bees or any other challenges in front of us. We reach the summit and celebrate our victory with an incredible view. Then, we are told that due to the weather, we have to hike all the way back down. Even though we are about to undo all of our accomplishments, we know we have to go. So, with headlamps on, we hike all the way back as the night creeps in. We push each other to persevere into the night as we work as one to reach our goals.
These 10 naïve Machon are now standing as leaders ready to take on any challenge put our way on the final night in the wild. And then, the skies open up and let loose a storm unlike any other. There is a flash of blue and red followed by a crack of thunder. We ran to put on our rain gear, grab our packs, get 50 feet away from each other, sit on our packs with a sleeping mat underneath, and our knees to our chest. As the storm swells and the rumbling of thunder becomes nearly constant, someone starts to sing. Over the howling wind, the harsh rain, and the biting cold, our voices reign supreme. We know that we have to keep going to stay safe and sane. After more than an hour of red lightning and crescendos of thunder, we are finally allowed to resume our activities. Our camp destroyed and tasks completely halted by the storm, we have our work cut out for us. But at this point, we each know we have the strength to keep going. Yes, we still fed off the group, but now our perseverance – our drive – comes from within. We stand up: cold, wet and determined. Now we are ready. Now we are able to persevere.