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Campers turn river obstacles into lessons learned

Eager to begin, the Cameron Boys Camp Rangers set off on their long-awaited journey. This 27-day trip was completely planned by them—food, equipment, toiletries, itinerary, budget, safety—every detail worked out meticulously. Their purpose was to build group unity, explore the karst (limestone eroded) topography and interesting geological formations, and have a ton of fun. The boys drove to Cherokee, NC, halfway to their destination, and spent the night. The smooth, clear Green River in Kentucky was in their sights.

The group chose this river for their 200-mile canoe trip because it was perfect to fulfill their goals. Mammoth Caves National Park, the largest cave system on the planet, is split North and South by the waters of the Green and is an ideal spot to resupply food and gear. At the end, the group planned to visit the Creation Museum and

the Ark Encounter in Cincinnati.

Recent flooding in Kentucky didn’t directly affect the Green River but it did raise the Green River Lake directly above where they would put in the canoes. This prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to release water from the dam, causing the river to flow at a dangerous level, far too turbulent to canoe safely. The decision was made to open the floodgates the day the group left. The Rangers were unaware until they reached the park two days later.

Without missing a step, the group adjusted. Another river close by connected with Green River twenty-seven miles downstream, nearly the exact mileage they would have traveled. The group was pleased that the length of their paddle trip was nearly the same. The only trouble was there was no adequate boat ramp to

launch at this new site. Maneuvering the canoe trailer as close as possible to the new tributary meant it would be difficult unloading the gear.

As soon as the group began unloading, the heavens released a downpour. The counselors, privy to the chance of rain, prompted the boys to change into their swimsuits and water shoes before breakfast. Now donning rain jackets, some carried 40-pound water jugs in each hand over slippery mud. Others lugged waterproof boxes with food and sleeping bags while the warm August rain pummeled them.

Despite the rain and the far more difficult unloading process than anticipated, the boys’ spirits never faltered. Spirits remained high. Unity and collaboration were strong and smooth. In fact, the hardship may have been a catalyst for their positive attitudes. You see, true character is revealed during challenging times and lessons are learned. These guys were prepared. Cameron Boys camp teaches boys to never give up and that through healthy interaction and teamwork great things can be accomplished.

As soon as the gear was tied into the canoes, the rain faded and the group discussed what had happened and described what they had learned by using words like fortitude, compassion, patience, and selflessness—and decided they wouldn’t change a thing. What

could have been stumbling blocks, obstacles to a successful trip, the boys turned into stepping stones. Shoving their loaded canoes away from the mud and rocks along the bank, the boys lifted their heads high and their adventure continued.

Editor’s Note: Cameron Boys Camp is a year-round, 24/7 residential wilderness program/school that equips boys, ages 13-15, to be successful at home, school, work, and life. This takes place through Camp's Christ-centered, wilderness environment. Camp is an accredited, year-round, non-public school. Learn more about at

Written by Jason Sullivan, Cameron Boys Camp; Education Director, Wilderness Camping

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