Nature Love: An African American Girl Overcomes Fear and Embraces Rocks and Rafting

By MARI CHILES

I have been to cooking, science, soccer and writing camps throughout my summers, and a lot of them have been some pretty interesting experiences for me. But one camp that I will never forget is Camp Scene.

Camp Scene is an environmental camp that teaches kids how to care for and love the environment. Each summer, Camp Scene hosts six weeks of camps, each week with a different theme. Thanks to the Greening Youth Foundation, I was able to attend the camp week that  focused on water ecology. But we didn't just sit in a room and read or write about water. We did some things that I've never done before and would never dream of doing at camp!

 

 

Each day of the week I was there was an adventure. We kayaked six miles, went rock climbing, scuba diving and fishing for organisms in a stream and played at the beach. My favorite activity was white water rafting. My mom was afraid that all of these things would be unsafe for kids, but Camp Scene made sure we had fun and that we were safe.

A day at Camp Scene starts at about 8:00 a.m. Our group, which is kept to about 10 to 12 people out of safety precautions, piles onto the bus and heads off to our first activity. While on the bus, the two camp counselors read about a different topic on water each day, and then quiz us at the end of the day to see if we learned anything. So, even if you do all of these cool activities you still get your fill on learning each day.

 

 

One of my favorite activities of the week was rock climbing. I was nervous the whole ride to the rock-climbing center, because I am very afraid of heights. Walking into the building and seeing the humungous wall with points jutting out of it and curves everywhere didn't really make my stomach feel any better. But I faced my fear. Before anyone could climb the big wall, we had to go upstairs and try a smaller wall so that Camp Scene founder Scott Seitz could see how well we were at climbing. Not to my surprise, I was upstairs almost the whole entire time. It took me so long to finish that wall. I was amazed at some of those people who, like me, had never climbed before, but managed to get to the top the first time they tried. But little by little, I got higher and higher up the wall. Sometimes I would have a counselor bollé me, which means they would hold the rope and slowly let the rope go up whenever I got higher. I didn't really like that because it gave that person total control over when I could come down. Sometimes I would be scared out of my wits screaming to come down while my counselor would be telling me to go up a little bit higher. After that, I stuck to the machines, which would let you down whenever you wanted to. One other reason why I was so scared was because every time a climber wanted to get down, she had to let go of the wall. Who would ever want to let go of the wall? But after awhile, it was really fun to float back to the ground like superwoman.

On that one climb to the top of the wall, I had lots of support from the campers and the coolest counselor ever, Ms. Brittany. A lot of the time I would be only a few feet away from the top and I would have to come down mainly because I was so high up and also because my arms hurt a lot. Rock climbing is a serious workout on your arms! But I pushed myself and got to the top of the wall. They even took a picture of me smiling down from the top. I was so triumphant! I was high-fiving everyone and I couldn't wait to tell my mom and dad. In the end, rock climbing was great because it was new to me and I got to face my fears.

 

 

Another cool activity I got to do at Camp Scene was scuba diving. It was great! We went to a big building with a swimming pool and a bunch of gear and suits hanging up on the wall. Everyone had to jump into the freezing cold water so our instructor would be able to make sure we could swim. He made the water cold so that we wouldn't get hot in the suits and because it was so hot outside. Then he made us practice breathing with the apparatus in our mouths so that we could feel what it was like to breath underwater. After that, we put on the vests and tanks and swam around. I was able to stay underwater for minutes at a time. If I had the chance I would definitely try scuba diving again!

 

 

Remember when I said that white water rafting was my favorite activity of the whole week? Well, I am not exaggerating! It was probably one of the coolest experiences of my whole life! We white water rafted on the Chatooga River in north Georgia, almost in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain Range. There are a lot of safety precautions when it comes to rafting so we had to take a whole lesson before we even got geared up. Afterwards, the 12 campers, two counselors, and Scott divided into three different raft groups and hiked off to the river with all our gear.

 

Rafting is pretty easy when everyone is in sync. The five campers are up at the front while our guide is at the back steering. Our guide told us many cool things about the different rapids how to go through them and how many times to paddle. Sometimes we even ended up splashing other rafts that were close to us! The craziest rapid on the river was Bull Loose, named that because it is a small channel of water that runs really fast and whips and kicks you like a bull! I was terrified to go on it because the other campers on my raft were telling me how scary it was. Our instructor even gave us special instructions to prevent anyone from falling out of the raft in one specific part of our rafting journey: when she yelled a specific command, we had to hunch down in between the seats. When we got to the tricky part of the river where we had to hunch down, everyone was totally under water for about four seconds! Water was running past my face and ears and I almost let go of my paddle! It was a very exhilarating experience.

 

My week at Camp Scene gave me new outlook on the environment and I had so much fun pushing and challenging myself to do things I'd never done before. White water rafting, rock climbing, scuba diving and studying and playing in nature made me appreciate the environment even more. For anyone who is a nature lover like me or loves trying new things and being adventurous, I would definitely recommend Camp Scene.

Mari Chiles is an up-and-coming writer who loves nature. She is a junior contributor at MyBrownBaby and a kid reporter for the Scholastic Kids Press. She lives in Atlanta with her parents, sister and dog, Teddy.

{All pictures photographed by and used with permission from Camp Scene}

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

11 Comments

  1. That seems like so much fun! Maybe I need to check that out for next year’s camp experiences.

  2. Kia Morgan Smith

    O.M.G, Denene I would have been freaking out if my babies were in all that water! Mari, you are a brave girl and I am SO glad you had the adventure of a lifetime! It really looked like fun, fun, fun! ;)

  3. reading about your adventures makes me want to go to enviro camp!

  4. What an awesome looking camp! Sounds like you had a great time.

  5. Wow! looks like good fun and you learnt a lot too. Well done, Mari.

  6. Camp Scene sounds awesome. Fun, adventure and learning all rolled up in one memorable experience. A win win for all!

  7. Mari, you make me want to go rock climbing and white water rafting after reading this! It sounds like it was so cool! And triumphant — YES!!! I may need an extra little shove to go scuba diving, but that sounded pretty neat too.

  8. Hey from New Jersey Mari! Very nice article. What a fun and exhilarating camp experience! Kudos to you for facing your fears and being open to try new things. BTW – Simone says “Hello.”

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