During the first few twelve days of our two week program, I gave each student and staff member a chance to write about the events of the day. Our final two days are spent in the hills preparing family involvement plans, going climbing with friends from Traction Team Building and taking part in our final graduation day. Our final day consists of an event where all family members and support workers can attend to help plan for their student's return home. It is a powerful day with tears shed from that anxious feeling of how long can True North's success last and from the happiness acquired when parents see their teenager smiling again.
I hope this gives an idea into what goes on in the bush! I look forward to collecting many more of these as we continue to grow in the Australian community!
Program 1: March 11 to March 24 2013
We picked up everyone starting at 9am. Everyone was pretty positive but still seemed to wonder what was going to happen next. We drove the 4 hours north to the Bendleby Ranges property in the Southern Flinders Ranges but stopped for a snack at a bakery in Clare.
Upon arrival to base camp we got stuck into learning the skills necessary for our bush survival. We had great lasagna for dinner. I felt grateful for the last meal and the ability to use the camp kitchen.
We all spent the night on the kitchen's porch learning about stars from Mike (Adventure Guide). Everyone was interested in discussing how big the universe is. Day one was a nice start.
-Will (Clinical Lead Guide)
Waking up in the cold morning air was a great way to start the day.
We set off pretty early before it got too hot. We walked a good 3 kilometres away from base camp, and then another 2 before we got to the first water drop.
I hated it when it warmed up, and the amount of rugged terrain and steep hills, it was death.
When we got to camp, it was still hot, but it was good to know that we didn't have to walk any further that day.
We rose early on a mission for water, without packs the walk was easy in comparison to the day before. Upon finding water we had some great conversation and the synergy was noticeable within the group. After packing our packs and LNT (Leave-No-Trace) we set off on our hardest day. Quiet, we hiked tough incline tracks and Rocky paths but everyone pulled through and we conquered our quest for water.
We set up camp and had some journal time, shortly followed by learning the art of making a fire without matches, everyone learned the skill. We had an awesome dinner and followed it with some serious conversations. We reflected on our inspirations and what people would think of us if we were to pass away. The day was great. I'm really looking forward to the days to come, and I think the rest of the group are too. Mike also gave us Lollies, what a legend.
We slept in a little bit then got up for breakfast then got trekking. We went up to the top of a huge mountain with the best view. We did some journal writing, heard a screaming goat then went up to the top of the tallest mountain of the southern part and saw a couple of wedge tail eagles diving and gliding
We then walked down the mountain and had lunch and went to set up camp and had a good burrito dinner and had a few good games around the fire. I'm kind of starting to enjoy the camp a little bit.
Today was a very productive day. It was the first day that the boys had their individual jobs. One student was the first to carry the cooking bag, which he did in good spirit using them as drums. After walking for a short while we took a break and Will led a quick guided meditation, as requested by the boys, before going into journal time.
Will and I then called up a student and asked him what he thought was going good with the trip and what could go better. Will read some emails that his parents had written to him. We then did the same with remaining participants. I think the emails really hit home and brought up some real emotions.
We got into camp pretty early and had some things to check off such as traps, fire and navigation. Will also set up a challenge to set up a shelter in 5 min. Traps tested people a lot more today than yesterday and there was definitely a lot of frustration. This was conquered which was good see.
After an awesome chicken noodle soup we had a pretty good talk round the fire, which seemed to iron out some of the issues that were causing the negativity earlier with the shelter challenge. It was really good to see the group stepping up and telling it how it is with tactfulness and compassion. One student especially stepped up and spoke with wisdom; I was impressed.
I feel we are getting more tight nip as a group and that it is only going to get better, I'm feeling pumped about it, Will and I also got nailed by a bull ant, not so pumped about that!!!!!!!!
I woke up to the sound of Will yelling out to me with the other boys' voices in the background. Slowly disorientated we got up and took down our shelters, and headed to middle of camp for some well-deserved breakfast!
After we packed up, we set off back to base camp and ate brunch, it was so good!
After a while we jumped into Will's 4WD and went and collected all of our water bottles from the drops. After we had got them all into the car, the game got serious and I challenged Will to go up to the big mountains. We got half way and we couldn't hold our containment, for some reason we couldn't stop laughing! After the Rocky Mountains, we headed back to base camp.
While one student went orienteering and communicated with Mike over the walkie-talkies, one participant and I had a few minor issues arise from home. I think the time away from home has started making an impact, and we learnt that bottling up emotion only damages us in the long run.
We rose early and promptly resupplied our rations. We made a quick trip to Warren's (Station Manager)before we took off on the second leg of the trip. The hike was nothing but scenic, luscious vegetation took control of our minds and the majority of the hike we barely had conversation. We stopped to read some chapters of The Knight in Rusty Armour. The book provides some great metaphors that the whole group can reflect on. As a group the comradely is increasing and highly noticeable. We took part in a spontaneous sweat lodge, which was one of the most intense and spiritual things I've taken part in. Words cannot describe nor justify the experience. The dinner was well cooked and conversation flowed at dinner, our truth circle was productive. One student who had been struggling had an awesome day and I cannot wait to embark on tomorrow's journey, and my journey as a leader.
We woke up early packed up our sleeping gear and had breakfast around the fire. We trekked up some hills where we found a snake's shedded skin. We kept trekking through to a creek bed where we did some journal work on problem solving and learnt how to tell the directions without using a compass. We had a quick snack before we kept moving. Every one was very quiet just thinking about problems that needed to be solved, we dropped packs while we did some traps and more navigation work.
Then we left our packs and climbed to the top of the tallest mountain in the northern section of the ranges. The view from the top was amazing. You could see mountains in every direction. The guys tried to make a fire on top of the mountain so we could do some meditation. They couldn't get it to light using the magnifying glass from their compass so we went back down to our packs to have some lunch. After lunch we did some knots, made charcloth for our personal fire kits and played a few games.
After that Will took me to the top of a hill to talk about my life and the issues at home. When we came back down it was time for dinner; our cook for the day had cooked Mac and cheese. We then waited for the sun to go down to do some night hiking but we lost the dish washing bag so we hiked to our campsite from last night and still couldn't find it. We emptied all the packs and it turned out it was in another boy's the whole time. We hiked a bit more and then set up beds and went to sleep.
We woke up this morning in the middle of a flat section of land where we stopped after last night's walk. We were tired but I quickly cranked the stove for a morning coffee. We were fortunate to watch kangaroos on a morning jog through the hills. After breakfast we quickly made foot to Quarry Springs. From the high ridges our leader for the day guided us into a stunning creek bed where we stopped to complete the day's curriculum and journal assignment. In passing check off today, our participants were asked to demonstrate knot skills, journal and complete the leadership and mentoring sections in the curriculum.
Today was my day to carry the cooking bag; arguably the heaviest and most challenging task on a hot day like it was. I made a goal in the morning's circle to "learn to love the cook bag." Although I'm not sure this happened 100%, we made it to camp with positive attitudes after a challenging hike.
Around the fire, after dinner, we got stuck into a serious game of charades before reading more of the Knight's tale. His crusade led us quickly into our nightly group session focused on how we approached our daily goals and how we can avoid problematic behaviours. Tomorrow we venture into the participants' solo experience. It will be our final day of hiking and Mike and I are feeling positive moving into this next phase of the program. (Mike got bit on the butt twice by a spider...we will see if he survives the night)
We woke up early and had breakfast. We could tell it was going to be a hot day. We packed up then played a few games before we set off for our hike. It was a good walk. We stopped for a chapter of The Knight in Rusty Amour and a few journals.
We then got to Hidden Valley where we learnt about 'solo' survival challenge where we have to set up our own area for the next day and a half. It is quite challenging but you have a lot of time to think about issues that matter as well as meditation and having your own fire to manage.
There was a huge storm in the middle of the night with lots of lighting and rain. It was really good to watch.
Waking up after our first night solo and a storm was quiet surreal. My night solo was a solid time for reflection and facing my previous actions, both positive and negative. Solo is a challenging experience and at times I found myself going "bush crazy". Looking at yourself is hard, but a step in the right direction. That night my shelter had fallen apart, thanks to the curse brought upon by Mike....
We packed up from solo mid day and headed back to base camp. We packed up and retrieved the water bottles. Upon returning the rest of the night we just relaxed and enjoyed our final night in the ranges. Companied by Sheppard’s pie and a nice cuppa we slowly fell asleep to the chatter of the “bromance” between Mike and Will, and the sounds of Liam, dreaming of the days to come.
Day Twelve, Thirteen, & Fourteen:
Friday morning we woke up and prepared for the drive back to the Adelaide Hills. We arrived with antsy feet from sitting for the 4 hour drive. We got into an amazing game of cricket where Mike ended up steeling first place after I (The American) through out one the participants before tying the game.
I spoke with the group briefly about preparing for graduation and we discussed some possible options for how to return home and greet your parents. They are excited but there is obvious anxiety about the coming days.
Saturday we rose early to go rock climbing and abseiling at the Adelaide Hills. We had a blast. Each participant pushed themselves and made the day so exciting. We returned to our camping areas in the Hills and the boys began writing their graduation speech. The boys would deliver their speech to all of the parents the next morning and discuss what brought them to True North Expeditions and what possible changes they would like to see in the future. We heard their speeches after dinner, they were so powerful.
Sunday came, the final day of the program! Parent began rolling in at 9 and I sent the boys on a hike with Mike. After greeting the families with Renee, our great friend and amazing counselor Gabrielle Enright and myself, we sat around a hot fire on the cold day to begin our graduation process. I discussed how the boys went and how powerful of a trip it was for me then Gabrielle stole the show discussing some various parenting techniques that can help ensure success at home! Parents were attentive but clearly focused on when they could see their kids.
The boys arrived and delivered their speeches before going to get the long awaited hugs from their mums, dads, brothers and sisters. We met individually with each family and created plans that offer the best chance for success. We were so pleased with how the day went and then by 1pm, everyone had left.
It was so quiet without the boys around. I sat with Mike, Renee and Gabrielle and debriefed the experience. We were all so pleased with the guys and how well they did communicating with their parents. Each student came so far and we felt so proud about how much our program could offer.
What a program! Our first one for True North Expeditions. Can May 13 hurry up? I think we're ready to go again!
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.