A Series of Firsts: My First Camping Trip

A Series of Firsts: My First Camping Trip

My peers and I in our campsite at Loud Thunder, right before heading back to Loyola. October 08, 2018.

I had just gotten back to campus after leading my first 360 retreat (the one on my previous blog post) when I got an email from Ramble Outdoors, a sub-department here at Loyola which is in charge of all-things-outdoors here on campus. The email was a reminder to register for their Fall Break Camp Out, a two-night camping trip to Loud Thunder Preserve, just a 4-hour drive away from Loyola. As the title of this post suggests, I had never gone camping before, and as the plans I previously had for my Fall Break had been cancelled, I saw the opportunity to check “camping” off my Bucket List. However, I wasn’t really sure about how much I wanted to sleep in the woods for two nights and making my own food with no kitchen available, little things that we live with in the city that I didn’t know if they would be available during this trip (and the question of the availability of a restroom haunted me, to be honest). After careful consideration and several conversations with my mom and my roommate, I decided to go camping with Rambler Outdoors, because I wasn’t sure where an opportunity like this would come up again at a time in which I’m not busy.

The days in advance were filled with excitement and some nervousness. As I had no previous camping experience, I didn’t have the appropriate gear to even go for a hike, and was worried that Rambler Outdoors wouldn’t be able to lend me the things I needed. My biggest fear was freezing my soul while sleeping outside: the weather forecast predicted rain and low temperatures would hit Illinois all weekend long. Nevertheless, I arranged my gear rental and packed as many layers as I could in my backpack, and I left campus in a Loyola van, with a bag of trail mix on my lap, and a big smile on my face.

Once at Loud Thunder, my worries left in a quick second. The camping site was pretty nice, with its own bonfire and located right by the Mississippi River (and yes, there was a bathroom). We set up our tents and started cooking dinner before it got dark, and ended our first day with a big bonfire and a bunch of s’mores. Cooking was one of my favorite parts of the trip: the process of setting up everything and just putting all the ingredients together on the little stove made me think of food in a way I didn’t back when I was in my kitchen. The next couple of days were a little more easygoing, as it rained all day long on the second day and we were not able to go hiking. Therefore, we spent the whole day eating snacks and playing board games while trying to stay dry. That night, Loud Thunder lived up to its name: the night sky was lit up by lightning and the sound of the rain falling on our tents was interrupted only by the clash of thunder. I was scared that our tent would give out and that we would all be soaking wet, but by the next morning, we woke up as dry as we had been the night before. And on the third day we packed up and left just the way we got there: making sure not to leave any trace in our campsite and leave it as untouched as possible. This is one of Ramble Outdoors mottos and they perform it throughout their different programs, and it really impact my experience at the campsite. We really tried to avoid leaving trash around, and also made sure that the land where our tents had been wasn’t damaged or anything. The Loyola values of being as friendly to the environment as possible followed us to Loud Thunder.

Even though my experience was not like what I expected, I am so happy that I got to get to know a little better everyone who came to the camping trip: fellow peers, the student facilitators, and the coordinator for Ramble Outdoors herself (shoutout to Rachel for being so awesome.)  And I also liked the fact that we were away from the city, surrounded by a beautiful, autumnal landscape and uninterrupted by urban noises or artificial lights. On our way back to campus, I was reflecting on how peaceful the whole trip had been, how being disconnected from the “real world” had felt. It really was a unique experience, and I would love to go camping once more.


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