Last weekend, I went camping at Springer Mountain with an Outdoor Recreation at Georgia Tech (ORGT) trip group.
Despite my initial worries about spending a night in the great outdoors and not seeing my laptop for 48 consecutive hours, it turned out to be a fun experience.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I signed up for an overnight backpacking trip. I had never camped before. I’m the kind of person who shivers at a “mild breeze.” After ten minutes of uphill hiking, I pant like a bulldog ,and people ask me if I’m alright. Not to mention my freshman dorm trauma and the sleepless nights I had after seeing some roaches wandering around in my room. Our trip started with meeting with an amazing individual who ran the entire Appalachian Trail in 45 days. He had just finished his epic challenge and was resting at the parking area. After hearing that we were just staying one night and returning on Sunday morning, he smiled at us.
The hike was enjoyable at the start. There were no hills in sight. I was happy, away from campus distractions and enjoying the forest air. The mist presented the most vivid tones of green through the trees. We passed through waterways and had a lunch break near a waterfall.
Then, I slowly fell behind as we climbed up a long hill. The backpack grew heavier. Every water break turned into a “catch up with the group and catch my breath” moment for me. When we were nearing mile 10, I was looking forward to stopping, sitting down and resting. Right after making our tents, we started gathering branches to make a campfire. Our efforts were met with a heavy downpour. While shielding from the rain under a bigger tent for the group, our trip leader, Shivam, introduced us to his favorite riddle about penguins rowing in the middle of a desert. Meanwhile, all the branches were soaked under the pouring rain.
Our efforts to start the campfire included several key individuals: Shivam, a PhD student researching combustion, a seasoned Boy Scout and another persistent engineering student who had packed all the materials needed to make s’mores and hotdogs into the bag he carried for 10 miles. The rest of us watched them. We didn’t admit it, but we were secretly expecting them to give up after two hours of trying. The objects that were used as fire starters included regular matches, stormproof matches (although their performance after just a half-hour of rain raised doubts), fallen leaves, marshmallow, dryer lint, small branches and bark cut from those small branches. After a lot of air was blown, many branches were peeled and numerous failed attempts, there was fire. We all enjoyed our smores and hotdogs.
I had zero sleep that night. The slight slope of the ground made me feel like I was falling all the time. The sound of pouring rain wasn’t very soothing when I didn’t have four walls that kept me warm and dry. I knew I liked hiking before coming to this trip. In my tent, I realized how much I appreciated returning to the comfort of civilization after those hikes.
On the second day, we did a shorter hike to the summit of Springer Mountain. The southern end of the Appalachian Trail was marked with a bronze plaque on this summit. Due to the fog, we weren’t able to see the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My feet were looking forward to the van when we were descending.
I was surprised to learn that some of my friends who love the outdoors had never joined an ORGT trip before. They’d been to several national parks with their families and camped with friends. If you’re one of those people, go on an ORGT trip before you graduate! In several of these trips I’ve attended, I met some people I would never have met otherwise. I had the chance to glimpse their interesting lives and learn from them. There is something about these trips that made it so easy to bond with people you’d just met.
Yes, I say this as an introvert.
Although I was impressed with myself for surviving a night in the wilderness, I’ll probably stick to recreational vehicle (RV) camping in the future.