My daughter’s now on her Senior Solo

solo teenage backpacking camping tripOne nice thing about my children going to a private school is that the teachers have the leeway to do a lot of things that would be frowned upon, logistically impossible or a violation of policy in a public school. Heck, we’ve been at the school for so long that we’re are now used to celebrating offbeat saints and holidays too, including Santa Lucia, Saint George and Michaelmas, with special guest Saint Michael (of course!). You’ll probably need to tap into the awesome power of Google to find out who they are. 🙂

One of the other things that the school offers are class trips that are a bit more involved than the “afternoon at the zoo” field trips that other children experience. In fact, each year the upper grades have a week-long trip (though the earlier grades start with two night trips and work their way up to the longer journeys) and in 12th grade, the year starts with one of the most intense: Senior Solo.

I just dropped A- off at her school this morning with her backpack, tent, tarp, thermarest, sleeping bag, trail mix, layers, more layers, emergency medical kit, 100′ of rope, and much more. She and her classmates are heading out to the wilderness near Grand Junction, Colorado for a week with two experienced teacher/guides and a few extra chaperones for what sounds like a terrific — and profound — adventure.

Once they arrive, each of them picks out a separate campsite within about a mile of base camp, then starting Monday afternoon they head out and spend 36-40 hours completely alone. Just them and their tent, a journal and pens. No books, no cameras, no electronics, and not even anyone else for company (or distraction). Then they return to base camp and have another few days as a group to reintegrate and reflect upon their experiences prior to returning home.

As a 17yo I’m not sure how I would have found this sort of experience, but since I went to a huge public high school and there were over 500 kids in my graduating class, the logistics of a trip like this would have been impossible and dangerous. Another benefit of their school: more complicated events for modest size groups.

Drop off this morning was a parking lot full of young adults eager and excited about the upcoming trip and visibly anxious about the impending solo aspect too. For some, there were tearful goodbyes, while others waved and jumped on the bus. After all the packs and gear was stowed on the trailer and they drove away, us parents were left standing around, somewhat unsure of what to do.

More than anything we’ve done as a parent community in the last few years, it was a very clear preview of that fateful morning not so far away when they’ll drive off for college or otherwise fly completely out of the proverbial nest.

pile of backpacks and tents and gear

I’m so very proud of A- for being back in school this year after taking last year off to home school, of facing her fears about this trip, of marching ahead even though she was scared.

Courage, I assured her, comes from doing something you’re scared about, not from being fearless.

She came up to me at one point, looked closely at my face, and said “are those… are those tears?” I denied it, of course, but we hugged again, she went over to her group and they drove out of the parking lot, heading to the wilderness and their future.

Tomorrow morning G-, my 14yo boy, is off on his 9th grade class trip, though they’re off to spend a week at an organic farm in Fort Collins, no solos involved. Not quite so intense. But still a grand adventure.

The house already seems emptier than it has done for months. It’s going to be a really quiet week…

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