Unfiltered Adventures

Exploring the world one adventure at a time.

The first thing I remember noticing was the beauty. The camp is settled on top of a mountain in Roaring Gaps, NC, providing a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountaintops and the rolling hills beyond. It is a very humbling experience, providing a glimpse of just how large the world is. I mean, we all know that the world is huge, but we (or at least I) seem to have limited its size in our minds–putting it in a box and limiting it to our own imagination. Seeing the expansiveness of merely a fraction made me feel quite small, but yet grateful to be able to experience it. Any worries or problems I was facing back home seemed to dim in comparison.
Looking down across the valley were innumerable shades of greens, reds, golds, and blues. As it was early autumn, the leaves were just starting their color change.

The air was crisp and clear, free of all of the air pollution I had grown accustomed to. Yet there was also the pleasant aroma of the smoke from a fireplace or maybe a campfire–both were equally as likely. I remember wishing someone would bottle the scent up and sell it as a perfume or a candle, but alas it was not meant to be.
The first evening at Camp Cheerio was mainly a chance for us to get to know the counselors and the camp grounds. There were the usual ice breaker games meant for team building and probably to give our chaperones a break after being stuck with us in a bus for what seemed like forever. For many of us, this was the first time being away from our parents, so we were determined to make the most of it.

Whichever way you looked, you could see memories of past campers and counselors infused in the buildings. How many stories were told here? How many memories were made here?

Probably one of the most entertaining parts of being at Camp Cheerio was watching how everyone fared at the various sports over the next few days. Of the roughly thirty of us, I can probably count on one hand how many were actually athletic–and I definitely was not one of them. This particular field trip was for an accelerated learning class, so watching us nerds attempt new sports requiring physical coordination was a form of entertainment in-and-of-itself.

Canoes: It Takes Two

After splitting us up into groups, we first received a thrilling safety brief on what to do and what not to do with the canoes. Basically:

  • Wearing a life jacket was nonnegotiable
  • Don’t stand up inside the canoe
  • Don’t try to tip yourself over

You can tell from the photos that this was the most exciting part…

After the counselors were finally convinced that we understood the rules, we suited up (I guess that word works for life jackets too).

The first half of our time in the canoes was primarily us spinning around in circles as each pair attempted to row in unison. I guess that’s why they consider it a team-building exercise. After most us figured out how to go straight-ish, it was time for the races. We all tried, but few prevailed.

I think I even heard someone singing the the theme song “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic.

The High Ropes Course: Discovering Who Was Afraid of Heights

And then there was the high ropes course…

I promise, it looks easier than it is. After watching all of the spy and action movies where the hero(ine) climbs a single rope to staggering heights without breaking a sweat, we thought a rope ladder would be a piece of cake. I see now said hero(in)es had a superhuman/professionally-trained ability.

In an effort to safeguard the reputations of my peers, I am not showing the more unflattering shots (which were most of them). That harness seemed to make it is nearly impossible to maintain a graceful posture while climbing… Granted, our coordination (or frankly, the lack thereof) didn’t help much either.
The only good part about the harnesses was the safety they provided. I cannot count how many times we lost our footing and depended on the rope suspending us to keep us from falling. In an effort to build our trust in our peers and learn to support one another, while one of us was climbing, two others (plus a counselor) were belaying. I’m not sure how much trust it actually built, but no one let anyone else fall.

A few did manage to make it to the top. I, as you can probably guess, was not one of them.

Archery: Summoning Our Inner Katniss Everdeen

As The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins had literally just come out, we were all anxious to try our hand at archery.

Growing up, the only archery set I had been allowed to use had suction cups for arrowheads, in lieu of anything pointy. My mom was too afraid of us kids having an accident and becoming impaled (like we were really that coordinated).
Here, though, our arrows had pointed ends to impale the foam-like targets at the other end of the range. After a safety brief and being spread apart at a cautious distance, we were allowed to become the Mockingjay (Hunger Games reference).

Some of the arrows actually met their mark, most however seemed more attracted to the ground. A few even found their way over the netting that divided the archery range from the woods. Hopefully no unsuspecting birds or squirrels fell victim…

Rock Wall Climbing: Up Big Rock Candy Mountain

Climbing a rock wall was always one of my favorite activities growing up. It challenged my physical strength and flexibility, strengthened my problem solving skills, and was safe enough for my mother’s sanity.
The rock walls in the local family fun park were probably a bit easier than the ones at Camp Cheerio. Here, the handholds were smaller and spread farther apart–a perfect combination to test your skills. While no one was belaying us, there was a pulley system that kept us safe.

There were various levels too. The beginners side had an incline that progressed away from the climber, while the advanced had an incline that progressed towards the climber–making gravity work against you more. The intermediate side was a nice medium between the two with the wall being completely vertical.

And at the very top were bells you had to ring to announce your triumph.

Spelunking: Going Where No Sunlight Has Gone Before

There was one activity that we weren’t as excited for, but turned out to be pretty cool: caving. The camp provided us with helmets and headlamps to keep us safe. The ponchos and oversized raincoats were our parents’ doings.

Our guides took us through various passageways that were pretty easy to travel, but in some the ceiling got so low that we had to crawl on our hands and knees. Once we got deep inside, we were all instructed to turn off our headlamps.
This was the first time any of us had ever experienced the inky black of total darkness. At night there’s always the glow of the moon, stars, cars, or houses. And even with your eyes closed, light still filters through your eyelids.
Here, in the cafe, however, there was absolutely no light. I had never really understood the phrase of ‘not being able to see your hand in front of your face’ until then. Even when I brought my hand so that it was literally touching my nose, there was absolutely no visual indication of where my hand was.

Waterslides: Beyond the Waterpark

By the time it was time to go on the waterslide, the air had gotten a bit too chilly for me to participate. My friends that went on it had a blast though.

It was pretty much a slip-and-slide that they had installed over a dug-out slide in the side of one of the hills. Hey, it worked, was fun, and left very little effect on the surrounding nature–the perfect trio for the environmentally-friendly camp.
The water at the base sure was cold though!

Zip Lining: Soaring Above the Trees

One of the most memorable activities had to be the land zip line. They had a water one too over their lake, but most of the water activities were closed for the season.
The only zip line I had been on previously was at my friend’s house–about five feet in the air. This definitely was more than five feet.
I don’t know how high up we were, but the view was amazing. The first second, as the ground fell away under your feet, was a little intimidating, as we had to trust the cable to hold us. After that, all I could think about was the colorful leaves below me and the fragrant air blowing through my hair.

Despite the great height, we all felt safe. There was a counselor at the top to send us down and one at the bottom to catch us.
Unfortunately, most of the pictures came out very blurry–we were moving too fast.

These Hills are Made for Rolling

Despite all of the planned activities, one of the most team-building moments was definitely the most spontaneous. None of us are sure whose idea it was or who actually went first, but suddenly rolling down the hill behind our cabin became the worst-kept secret of the trip.

There was only one kind of dangerous problem. We were literally rolling down a mountain, with this at the bottom:

–an even steeper drop-off past a rather rickety-looking fence. Don’t get me wrong, the fence was strong. I’m just not sure if it was strong enough to stop us from rolling under/through. But that was just part of the fun–increasing the adrenaline–right?
Now before you go call CPS, yes we were supervised and safe. I’m not sure whether our sole safety measure was our chaperones’ idea or ours, but while some of us launched ourselves down the mountainside, others would stand down by the fence to stop the rollers from going too far.

It worked most of the time. So much for all the safety briefs every hour, right?
And, of course, once we were stopped/caught at the bottom, we dizzily got up and ran back to the starting point to do it all over again. It’s a good thing we hadn’t all just eaten.

Looking Back

Now, whether or not we actually learned anything on this field trip wasn’t important (or frankly the point). We were given the freedom to have fun with just enough structure to keep us safe without making us feel like we were being constrained.
That’s what camp is all about anyways, right? To have fun, make friends, explore, and learn that life doesn’t always have to be taken so seriously.

For anyone considering on going as a counselor or sending your kid(s), I give this place five stars!