November 12th 2021
“When I first came on this trip, I didn’t think I would like it. But now that I’m here, I’m glad I came.” I heard this profound sentence from a student while we were standing looking out across the dunes of Assateague Island. This response was not an unusual summation for the trip and the kids that went on it. Many of the students, 9th graders from UrbanPromise Academy, had never been camping before. Most hadn’t been this far from home and none had been to Assateague Island before.
Assateague Island, one of a long string of barrier islands that stretches from Maine all the way down to Texas, is a unique place. Found on the Delmarva Peninsula, the island is under the protection of three separate parks and reserves, each managed by a separate organisation. This protects many forms of wildlife that rely on its forests, beaches, and marshes for their resources. These habitats are widely different and require special methods to survive in each. A crab from the beach would have a hard time surviving in the tree and bush covered depths of the maritime forest.
Some of the students sympathized with this difference in adaptation as they woke to the feeling of sand beneath their tents and wind-blown dunes. It’s a daunting task to set up a tent when you’ve had the comfort of a bed and house. There are poles, stakes, bags (which usually end up blowing away if you aren’t paying attention), and your own two hands to make sense of it all. As any Trekker knows, the outside can be full of surprises. On our trip some horses ate a staff’s granola bar. We also had an extremely windy day, which while great for flying kites and enjoying the breeze, did have us double-check our tent’s stakes a few times. Life in the outdoors is not an easily predictable process.
But perhaps that is exactly what students are adapted to. Many students live in environments where their life is a changing thing, lifestyles that can turn on a dime or be turned into something entirely different. In all of this, UrbanTrekkers has strived to show that even in the hard moments and after a long day, you can still sit around a campfire at the end, sharing stories, insights, and some well-roasted marshmallows.