Mentor Hike with the Campers

By Sandy Schenck

Today the Hard Hiking Troopers went on a mentor hike and I decided to tag along. We road along Green River Road in The Giving Tree bus with the campers and staff singing various camp songs such as The Littlest Worm, Boom Chicka Boom and other catchy tunes. (Yes, I’m still humming the first song as I write this.)

Once our group was dropped off, our mentor, Caroline and counselors, Gillian and Avery, talked about safety… what to do if you see a snake, the buddy system and a few other tips. We then started on our hike. We stopped by a hemlock where the campers were asked the scientific name. A couple of the campers actually knew it – Tsuga canadensis. We also learned about the wooly adelgid which is an invasive insect that has done quite a bit of damage to the hemlocks in Western North Carolina. One thing I didn’t know is that the needles are a good source of vitamin C and taste a little bit like an orange. I asked one of the campers what she thought. She said it tasted like a plant. Well, at least she was honest…

We then hiked up to the location where a cabin used to be – a real pioneer cabin – built around 1790.  Caroline had four of the campers stand at the four corners which gave us an idea of the size of the cabin which was quite small. She went on to tell us five children, including Alfred Heatherly (long-time Green River Valley resident), used to live in the cabin.

Not far from the cabin site is a very large boulder. First the campers slid down the front and then a few successfully climbed up it. Then the campers listened quietly as Avery read a story that Alfred used to tell that took place at the very same boulder. It was pretty neat to imagine him as a little boy climbing the same rock and most likely sliding down it as well  – just like the campers had done moments before.

After having a quiet rest at the gravestones (circa 1870s), we hiked to the Green River. (We learned that the river begins as a bubbling spring behind Sandy’s house and continues all the way to Charleston and the Atlantic Ocean.) One of the campers spotted a large red crawdad right off the bat. Several took turns holding it before releasing it back into the little pool of water.

Soon afterwards the campers started dunking their heads in the refreshing, cool water. Some of the girls had a “Green River spa treatment” which entailed rubbing sand on their faces and then rinsing with water from the river. After more exploring, we all enjoyed a snack and then it was time to go back to the bus.

What I liked most about this hike was seeing the children enjoying the outdoors with all their senses – from tasting the hemlock needles to feeling the cold river water, from listening to the bird calls in the forest to seeing the towering hemlock trees in the grove. Such a wonderful experience these children are having at GRP!