1. On my 21st birthday I went on an Outward Bound trip.
    It wasn't for my birthday. It just happened to fall on the same weekend.
  2. Outward Bound is an organization that takes groups on four-day to twenty-day hiking/camping adventures in order to foster teamwork, leadership, independence and character.
  3. I was on a short four-day trek with a few other church leaders and a handful of local cops.
    We all worked together on a gang-prevention program. The program didn't work, but I got these great trip memories out of it.
  4. Our hike was through the Appalachian Mountains in NC.
  5. Each person carries a huge back pack with all the supplies needed for the four-day trip.
    As soon as I put on my pack I thought I was going to die. I was an idiot and didn't train like I was supposed to.
  6. Literally ten minutes into the hike one of the cops twists his ankle so badly that he throws up from the pain.
    So then we had to unpack his bag and divvy up the contents. I couldn't believe I had to add more weight to my already insanely heavy pack. Asshole.
  7. He wouldn't let us call him a ride home and insists on going ahead with the hike. He's limping badly and occasionally just hops along on his one good leg.
  8. Our leaders inform us that we can only use one square of tp for #1 and only two squares for #2.
    I'm thrifty and somewhat environmental so I see this as a personal mission. I swear to adopt this minimalist use of resources but it only lasts maybe two days post trip.
  9. We hike Table Rock Mountain to spend the night on top.
    But first we need to hike halfway down the backside of the mountain to find the spring where we can refill our water bottles. We hike by moonlight and it is magical.
  10. Once we are back up top, our leader tells us that if a bad storm passes over us we might have to hike down in the middle of the night to avoid lightning strikes.
    I woke up once in the night and the clouds were roiling! But luckily no storm actually hit!
  11. In the morning we ate breakfast and everyone wished me a happy birthday.
    These people were near strangers but trips like this make you such fast friends.
  12. That day we went rock climbing!
    I had only ever rock climbed on man-made walls with those convenient grooves and handholds. This was a whole different beast. My hands went raw almost immediately from grabbing the rocks. Rappelling back down was terrifying and then thrilling and then peaceful.
  13. You're with your group 24/7 except for what is called your solo outing.
    You spend a night or more all by yourself. In the woods. All alone. With no one else.
  14. I was the youngest on our trip and also one of only three ladies.
    The leader of our group was a female cop and one of our Outward Bound leaders was also a woman.
  15. This is important because it's how I ended up getting the sweetest solo sleeping spot.
  16. I got an amazing overhang/shallow cave in which to sleep!
  17. This was awesome for several reasons:
    (Ooohhh! A list within a list!)
  18. 1. It was supposed to rain the night of our solo.
  19. 2. Even though we were given string and a tarp with which to construct a canopy, I never mastered the knots it took to keep it up.
    A small cave was just what I needed!
  20. When I got dropped at the cave by my leader I journaled a bit, did some yoga, prayed and went to bed around 8:30pm.
    I don't handle alone time well so I figured I could just sleep away the time.
  21. I woke up an hour or so later to a faint noise.
  22. It was dark by then so I couldn't see much.
  23. I was laying on my back looking at the ceiling of the cave about four feet above my head.
  24. I could see a fuzzy movement. Kind of like a static channel on the tv.
  25. I reluctantly turned on my flashlight and pointed it upwards.
  26. The ceiling was covered
  27. in hundreds
  28. and hundreds
  29. of spiders.
  30. 🕷🕷🕷🕷🕷🕷🕷🕷🕷 👀
  31. I swallowed a scream and tried not to cry and vomit all at once.
  32. I stayed in my sleeping bag and rolled out of the cave.
  33. I made it about 10 feet away and threw the tarp over myself and hoped for daylight to come quickly.
  34. Luckily the rain ended up being light and I managed to fall back asleep with minimal other critter issues.
  35. I've maybe never been more scared but it was also one of those times when, even in the middle of the horrible event, I knew I'd have a great story to tell later.
  36. The next day was our final day together. We all met back up to debrief. It was strange hearing grown men self reflect and be vulnerable about their doubts and weaknesses.
    Strange but special.
  37. We met up a few weeks later to debrief again and then I've never seen most of them again.
    Turns out the cop who tripped had a broken ankle! And he had hiked on it for four days!
  38. Years later I saw him again and he was walking with a noticeable limp.