One of the things that has been on my mind constantly this summer has been girls camp. Since being asked to be a leader for our church’s youth group last fall, I knew that planning a camp this summer for our girls was part of the gig. I heard through the grapevine of groups that had done a four-day biking trip on the Kettle Valley Railway. All my camps when I was a teenager involved going to a cabin somewhere and doing crafts for four days, which now as a leader I recognize just how much work my leaders put into planning…but a biking trip sounded so much cooler! At least in my books…
So all summer I’ve been planning, organizing, changing my mind, re-planning, biking, trying-to-convince-the-girls-how-badly-they-want-to-bike-120 kms, and convincing myself too. Also, a lot of praying that it would all come together…a lot.
The plan was to bike from Ruth Station, right outside of Kelowna, to the McCulloch lake the first night, then on to Beaverdell the second night, and finish in Rockcreek the third night. After months of planning and anxiety, somehow we managed to get everyone to the head of the trail with working bikes and plenty of water.
The first day/night everything went according to plan (huge sigh of relief). We were all tired, but conquered the first 25 km no problem. The girls had a restless sleeps due to loud coyotes and other wildlife- but hey what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The next morning we woke up, got all packed and prepared for the longest day of biking.
I feel like I have to break day two into two parts, the biking and the unexpected. Biking was exhausting, hot, and everything we did expect. Everyone’s bums hurt, but every single girl did great. We had some girls that bike all the time, and some that this was their first time doing serious biking, and every single one of them was amazing. After biking 26 km to our lunch spot, everyone was excited to jump in and swim and take a break from sitting on those bike seats.
We biked another 30 km, stopping along the way to jump in the (shallow) river when we had the chance! Again, the girls were amazing. We had a few scrapes and scratches, but zero complainers. Honestly, I couldn’t get over how great the girls did.Then the unexpected happened. When we pulled into our second campsite, the campsite owner was waiting for us. He told us that the campsite we were planning on biking to the next day was the centre of a rapidly-growing forest fire that had just started that afternoon. We assessed the situation and agreed that since the fire was still 60 km away and that the town we were in wasn’t on evacuation order we would camp for the night and head home the next morning.
We had a peaceful evening with girls full of laughs and making memories. Honestly it wasn’t even smokey, and the cell towers had been knocked out so we couldn’t even receive any disruptions from the outside world.
Which the next morning we learned was unfortunate… some of the girls parents had heard about the fire and were pretty concerned. They had no way to get a hold of us, which made matters worse. But we called them as soon as we could and let them know we’d be home soon and everyone was fine.
That night we all met together to have a pizza party and our final ‘campfire’ program (even though it was in a nice, comfortable living room and not actually around a campfire). It was a little sad to feel like we hadn’t been able to bike our whole trip, but I was just so grateful that we hadn’t been put in danger and that everything we did do went so smoothly. As I looked around the room and looked at each girl and leader that trusted me as the young, totally inexperienced leader taking them on a four-day biking trip, my heart was full for each one of them who chose to ’embark’ on camp.
I learned a lot from planning girls camp this year. I learned to always assume the best about my church leaders, because like me they’re probably imperfect but trying their hardest to make everything go smoothly for everyone else. I learned that we have amazing youth that can do anything, support one another, and show kindness without being asked to. I learned to be grateful for other people’s passions and talents, because without the other leaders that knew so much more about biking than I did, I know camp would not have gone so smoothly. I learned that God will qualify you when he asks you do things you couldn’t do otherwise. And after having rested and recovered, I’m so grateful I had the chance to lead our young women and learn from their examples.
I’m also really grateful that I don’t have to plan a camp again for at least a few years….
P.S. If anyone reads this and wants to attempt to plan a similar camp, please feel free to contact me and I’ll give you all the advice I can. I couldn’t have done this without the help of so many people, and I’d love to pass that along.