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August 27, 2012

It’s not Bad Luck, it’s an Adventure!

Every year, students in the After School Academy, part of the Youth Education program at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, attend either a day trip for those who are ages 6 – 9 or a weekend camping adventure for children ages 10 and up. Youth from the Saca Community Learning Center set out on an adventure with me (Youth Education Program Coordinator) and James, Adult Education Program Manager on August 3, 2012. 

On Friday afternoon, the team headed out around 1:30 for a camping trip to the El Dorado National Forrest. Already behind schedule and the children anxiously awaiting arrival at the campsite so we can set up and go swimming, the complaints began. By the time we eventually pitched tents and headed down to the Union Valley Reservoir to swim, it was close to 6 pm. James stayed behind while I took the kids down to swim.

For those of you who don’t know me, I can trip over air. As a matter of fact, I do so quiet often. Besides me tripping and spraining my ankle in a hole within the first 30 minutes of setting up the tents, the rest of the night went pretty well. We made sure the kids were all equipped with flashlights and whistles and knew what their campsite number before they wandered to play hide and seek in the dark. That night, everyone fell asleep around 10pm

James had planned every last detail of the camping trip, but the one thing he forgot to do was plan for the adventure Kristina brings everywhere she goes.

The children began to wake up around 5:30am on Saturday morning to the sweet sound of James singing, “It’s time to get up, get dressed and let’s go.” It is time for a mile run around the campground. Of course I stay behind because I am a danger to myself and others when it comes to 

running and start the fire for breakfast. Once everyone is back, we eat and head off for some morning fishing. James gave all the kids a lesson on fishing and by the end of the class they knew how to cast, thread a worm, untangle lines, identify different types of bait and some even learned to tie a fisherman’s knot. Alex caught a trout, but unfortunately it was too small to keep, so he threw it back. The kids had a blast and can’t wait to go again. We still had no idea what was about to happen next.
The group headed back to camp to pack our lunches and bags with the things we need for the hike up to Bassi Falls. James led another class on map reading and how to use a compass. Each child received a whistle, compass and each team was assigned a bag of water, food and sunscreen. We drove up to the falls so the children can enjoy the hike down. The road up to the falls is a one way, dirt road with a nice steep cliff on one side. I began to freak out because we are in the huge van, filled with young children and I can focus on is the sheer edge. Three massive 4 wheel drive trucks begin to pass us as if it was a normal street. They pass by driving on part of the mountain side and each time, James comes closer to the edge. By this time I fear the worse (that we are all going to fall off this mountain and roll down the hill). The kids are freaking out, but likely due to my current state. We finally made it to the top park and hike down. On the way down I trip about a dozen times. By this time, the kids are now pointing out every pebble they see to warn me of a potential trip hazard. In anticipation of a great waterfall, you can imagine our dismay to find just a slight trickle down the mountain. On the hike back up, the group has to stop to re-wrap my extremely swollen ankle and James finds a walking stick to help me back up the trail to the van. We successfully make it up the hill, but here comes the tricky part we have to back down the hill because there is nowhere to turn around at.

At this point I have nearly lost it. We start to back down the hill. James tells me to look for a space where we might be able to turn around. I spot a section coming up, but I can’t tell if it will work. It will have to do as it’s the only space I can see. I try to describe the space and attempt to explain a parallel parking approach will work best, but it doesn’t come across that way. James goes for the spot head on, puts the van in reverse and steps on the gas. The wheels start spinning you can hear the dirt flying up and hitting underneath the van. I yell, “We’re stuck!” undo my seat belt and fly out of the van. The kids follow me. James asks us to get back in because he needs the weight and I tell him no. Turns out we’re stuck. James calls AAA while I start to dig us out. Yes I start to dig us out. These children all think they are going to die now and AAA can’t find us because we are in the middle of the El Dorado National Forrest on a road that apparently does not exist. We make a few attempts at putting things under the tires to get us out, but it was not until one of the boys pull a huge piece of bark off one of the trees that a plan begins to formulate. Everyone begins to push from the front as James eases the van in to revere. All of a sudden out of one hole! And into another. We are still stuck. A guy in a 4x4 vehicle, equipped with a hitch and rope, ties one end to his hitch and the other to the frame of the van. He steps on it, James steps on it and dirt and rocks are flying. The tires are spinning and his truck is lunging in the air. He tells James to pull up and turn the wheel, so he can pull it out from the side.

The kids and I observe from a nearby hill. This time as the truck starts to pull, James steps on it and the van swings sideways coming within an inch of a massive Redwood tree. Just for a moment I thought, “Oh man, Blake is going to kill us.” The look on James’s face as he slid within inches from the tree, was as if his life had flashed before his eyes. Everyone watched in awe as the kids yelled out, “Did you see that he almost hit the tree?” Too bad the van slid back into the hole.

Eventually another truck with greater horsepower arrived and they successfully pulled the van out of the ditch. Once safely back in camp, the kids could not wait to rinse off in the lake. I was a different story. I could no longer walk from sliding down pine needle covered hills. At least the children received a firsthand lesson in first aid - how to wrap an ankle and wrist, the importance of ice and what changes elevation may cause. They also received a crash course in towing.

Our camping trip ended with me waking up to a lake in my tent from a severe thunderstorm that hit our campsite that night and a long drive back to civilization in wet clothes. This is a camping trip that will live in everyone’s mind for years to come. At first, the children said they would never go camping with us again, but have decided they could help me be a better camper and are now willing to give us a second chance.

Submitted by Kristina Rodriguez, Youth Education Program Manager

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