Grizzly Ladder and Doubt (Camp Mendocino)

Camping in the Redwoods for the next four days! No internet or phone connection.

Left early in the morning for our camping trip. It was about a five hour drive out to our campsite in the Redwoods. Got there, played sand volleyball, drank lots of tea and played get to know you games on our teams. Then we crashed another team’s campfire, and started an open mike night. A bunch of my friends went up without being prompted and sang or told jokes, and then the girls on my team all got on the stage and danced for a painful few minutes. I ended up sitting down right in the middle of the stage halfway through.

Our cabins were open air cabins, so that meant that nothing was sealed off. The door was a cloth flap, as well as the windows. I was on the top bunk, and I could push the cloth to my right and it opened up to the forest floor below, trees above and branches around us. The team before us had a skunk walk into their cabin, and they all got sprayed. We did not get sprayed, but we did name all the spiders nested above us.

The next morning we got up at 4:45 and got dressed in the dark. It was pouring rain outside, so we put on our rain boots and rain gear over our work out clothes. 5:10 met for work out, and then it was canceled due to the weather. We went back to our cabins, put our uniforms on, headed to the kitchen, and were served the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time. Eggs, biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns. We were in charge of cleaning up after all the teams ate, and then we headed out to work for the day.

We ate breakfast at camp, and avoided worms on the sidewalk in the rain back to our cabin. Got our waterbottles, brushed our teeth at the van and then headed to the ropes course.

We did rock climbing and team building exercises for the majority of the morning. Towards the end we went to the high ropes course, and put on helmets and climbing gear. Axel, the beautiful hippie leading our tour asked me what my goal for the morning was. I said to climb the ladder and get into the canopy. Then we climbed the big wooden grizzly ladder in the rain up 30-40 feet. When I placed my hand on the top rung, a man trust a fake skull in my face from the top, and cracked up when I jumped. And then they clipped us to the wires hanging overhead. We were supposed to run and jump and have fun and laugh in the face of death for the next hour and a half, but I opted out. I stood up there at the top of the big redwood tree as the wires pulled and tugged on the wet wood, and I listened to a lovely man named Pierre with a fake French accent talk me through my overwhelming trust issues.

Later, Pierre left to begin throwing my teammates off the zip line which dropped 40 feet off the top of the tree house and zoomed a mile and a half down the trail.

I clung onto a guy with red contacts on his eyes for Halloween as he told me that the zip line was the easiest way to get out of the tree. I said that just wasn’t happening today. This is not my jam. And he showed me how to climb backwards down the grizzly ladder. I waited about 10 minutes- just staring at the ladder and absolutely sure I would never make it down. I saw myself falling a million times over. And then finally I decided to just go, and I was down in no time. And I was not disappointed in missing the adrenaline rush my teammates had experienced. I was a changed person because I never thought I would get to see the ground again.

Axel made bracelets and rope out of wet twisted grass, and then we said goodbye. I admired his leadership style. He was quiet and confident, and called out others when they were not appropriate or were too loud, but paid special attention to the quiet ones on our team. And made it his goal to make us feel heard.

After the ropes course, we ran back across the flimsy wet wooden bridge over the river, and back to camp for lunch.

I felt pretty shit about myself at this point. I wasn’t upset I didn’t do the high ropes challenges, as I had no desire in the world to do that, but I was feeling like maybe this wasn’t the perfect place for me to be.

The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning the kitchen as our service project.

And then, when we got off, we took showers. I enjoyed running around outside in the woods in a towel.

After showers we had dinner, and then after dinner Jess, from New Jersey, and I grabbed chamomile tea in little white mugs and went to sit outside.

Jess and I are the only girls who are introverts on the team- there are two other boys. The rest of the team is constant high together energy until their head hits the pillow.

Jess and I sat outside talking though, and realized that we both felt the same way. We both felt out of place, and disconnected from the group a bit. And then we talked about so much more and it was so great. All the social dynamics of our group were discussed- and it felt good to hear another person say they see it too. Solidarity in silence. We realized we had just as much of a place here as anyone else. We needed to be here.

And then Dre came out and joined us, he’s the 3rd quiet person on my team- he’s my banter buddy. Dre is from Virginia.

Then some other people came out, and our quiet talk was over. So we went in to get more tea, and left out the back door. When people saw us, we told them we were running off into the woods. And that’s exactly what we did.

We finished our introvert discussion in the pitch black redwoods at a little picnic table. And sipped our tea enjoying the quiet.

Later, we headed back for the unit campfire, were each team presented our team cheers that we had created earlier during the day. Ours actually turned out pretty well, even though I had been agonizing about the whole idea of chanting in from of a crowd of 80 people all day.

Later that night we made s’mores and then changed into pajamas.

I met Monica and Derek by the river and we discussed the absurdity of everything and nothing. Then we ran into George, who had his pockets stuffed with candy wrappers and was on his way to the girls cabins to stash them underneath the bunks to draw animals. As you do.

We picked up the wrappers and then he chucked marshmallows into our campsite. And then we went to bed, bears and all.

The next morning we had our hour long workout at 5:30a as usual, then headed to breakfast.

It was George’s birthday so we sang to him, and Monica and George cracked me up with their hilarious personalities.

Then we went back to our cabins, packed up all our wet clothes in the wet damp cabin, and threw everything back into our van.

We had a mini olympics before we left, and I did the four legged race with two of my teammates. We came in second.

Then we took off back to Sacramento.

The drive home was very long, but at the end of the trip I had a long discussion with my boss which was pretty great.

When we got back I did laundry, and then it was our night to clean the dorms. Back in uniform, we cleaned from 7:30-10. And then I fell asleep.

Today was my first day off in a long time, and I jogged and caught up on my to do list. Attempted to do family dinner, but was frustrated with the internet connection.

Week starts tomorrow- our last few days in California for awhile. We’ll be in Oregon on Thursday.

We’re headed to a university on Tuesday for a project. Will let you know how it goes. They are not telling us anything, but we had to sign release forms. So who knows.

Simulated an ebola surge at a medical center today.

Then talked to two separate people from New Orleans and voodoo and Hurricane Katrina.

A very full night.

We went out for dinner at a Japanese restaurant.

Then a bunch of us headed out to the bars to cure our sinus infections.

Dre, Clint, Tony, Carrine, Jess and I drank beer and stood around talking about a whole lot of nothing.

Until we had had a few more beers. Then we were talking about a whole lot of everything. Very passionately.

Walking home, Dre, Clint and I sat down at a table and J came over and started talking to us. He’s from New Orleans I found out, the second person from New Orleans I had talked to that day, and the same day that I started reading Zeitoun. J and I talked about Voodoo, and he told me all about his family and the creepy things that would happen growing up around voodoo. He told me in a no argument tone never to eat any food that someone fixes for you in New Orleans. You never know what their intentions are.

We talked about Katrina, and we talked about politics.

Then I accidentally wandered into the computer lab at 2 in the morning and sent some messages to people I haven’t talked to in awhile.

Then I wandered up to the library and sat on the floor with Clint talking about books and gender politics.

Then  I peeked into the lounge on my floor, and these two people called out my name. I didn’t know either of them well, but I sat down announcing that I was drunk, and that they were beautiful people. And then I told them about how I took three books from the library every night, and that I didn’t look at the cover of one of the books because it was a surprise fortune for the morning.

Then I wandered to bed and fell asleep around 3 only to wake up at 6.

Headed to Oregon in the morning!

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