Monday, July 11, 2011

ProRanger Leadership Camp - Day 5

Saturday, July 9th, 2011 - Day Five
Saturday was a day that we all have been anticipating because many of us have never been caving before. After tackling the activities involving heights and the white-water rafting, we felt confident as a team in our ability to triumph our last quest at Leadership Camp.
The day started early at 5:30am to ensure enough time for our day’s activity. Another challenge we had been anticipating, the timed 1.5 mile run, kicked off in the six-o'clock hour with everyone giving it their all on their last morning of group PT time. As always with our ProRanger runs, those who finished earlier jogged back to root on their teammates. At the end, we all finished the race with many of us improving on our times from the PEB practiced in May. After changing into old clothes that we didn't mind dirtying, we ate breakfast and loaded onto buses on route to the cave. When we arrived at the site, we were met by a steep trail winding up a mountain. We geared up and began our trek, stopping for some motivational push-ups from Program Manager Don Sweet and selected ProRangers along the way.
Prior to entering, the staff members shared with us their knowledge of the cave. The rock formation that forms the cave system shifted many thousands of years ago, meaning the cave's foundation is well established and is safe for the public. We were told that in the cave, average temperatures lingered around 55 degrees and that no natural sunlight reaches the depths that we will be climbing. Because of these harsh conditions, no animals or plants thrive in the cave, other than seasonal hibernating bats. The only life that can live is bacteria, so it is important that we leave no traces of ourselves in the cave.
We formed a single file line and committed ourselves to supporting the person directly in front and behind each of us. With these extra hands and a constant four points of contact, we will be able to safely maneuver ourselves through the bends, climbs and drops in the cave. We dirtied our clothes instantly by sliding down a moist rock entering the cave. In the beginning, the inside of the cave was relatively spacious, so there was time to look around with our flash lights and admire the interior. All the rocks had smooth groves carved by passing water and many corridors wandered off into the seemingly abyss. The cave slowly but surely narrowed on us, however the changes were subtle because of the many stops we made in the different caverns of the cave to discuss philosophical themes of Outdoor Odyssey and how it applies to our time in the cave. The cave system, one of the largest on the East coast, started with one stream working its way little by little through the cracks in the rocks. Slowly, changes in shape of the rocks redirected the water, carving the many passages wind through the enormous system. The metaphor in this is much like experiences in our own lives where changes, big or small, ultimately impact our future in ways we could have never perceived.
After appreciating the awe of the cave a bit more, we were ready for our most challenge obstacle in the cave. The easiest way out to lunch involved a tunnel that required us to crawl on our bellies arms first and in the dark, the only reference point being the shoes of the person in front of us. The reason for doing this task in the dark was strategic as well as challenging. Many of us found ourselves more scared of the tight space when the light was turned on, yet with no light it was nerve-wracking when contact with the person in front was lost. The tunnel winded many yards, so the crawl was long and strenuous. On top of that, the first half of the cave narrowed on us as we crawled. Portions of the tunnel required us to rotate our body on our right side or change position from head first to feet first in order to pass. For the team members that challenged their fear of tight spaces, the rest of the ProRanger team and all involved are very proud and understand the difficulty in confronting such a fear. Once we left the long, dark tunnel, it was a quick exit to a much needed lunch in the woods.
We enjoyed our surroundings by appreciating the natural beauty of our surroundings and the rich ecosystem of the Pennsylvania forest. We found native Pennsylvania crayfish under rocks in a small, trickling steam, intriguing many of the ProRangers. After eating, we hiked back down the mountain and found our way to the road back. On the way, the Outdoor Odyssey staff treated us to ice cream, which was much appreciated on our last day.
Later in the night, the ProRanger team reunited at the lake for a ceremonious speech from those who have been tirelessly working with us all week, as well as Outdoor Odyssey founder, General Jones.

The General reinforced the core philosophies of Outdoor Odyssey; setting the right goals, formulating the best plan of action and finally motivating yourself to follow through while keeping in mind morality and humility. He reminded us that only 15% of people actually set and follow through with goals, putting us at a major advantage in life if we follow his philosophies. Mr. Sweet recognized us for our excellence in working together as a team and completing the week, followed by all of our team leaders. We were presented with a USB thumb drive containing photos from the entire week, as well as a Challenge Coin honoring our dedication to safety. After hearing heart felt speeches by Mr. Sweet, his brother Stephen, our counselors for the week and finally our peers, we cheered loudly in satisfaction of our dedication.
The rest of the night was at a leisurely pace and the ProRangers took this opportunity to bond as a group one last time. We gathered on the balcony of our quarters while or Chief, John, started a camp fire. Around the fire, we told jokes and laughed well into the night, until eventually everyone filtered into their cabins for bed. A sense of relief from enduring a challenging week kept everyone in cheerful spirits and the fact that we will disassemble in the morning was absent from our minds. Written by Angela Forney.

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