As a high school student, imagine spending four days and nights in a remote wilderness venue where you’re allowed to experience extreme adventure in a professional and safe environment. Now, imagine that being part of a course that you took at school. This
program, called Cape Challenge at Cape Enrage, is a reality for Riverview High School students in New Brunswick, Canada and it was a reality for me as a senior teacher at the school. Within four days, I accompanied students while kayaking, rappelling, climbing, and wilderness camping. We took part in initiative and outdoor games, all centered around team building skills, and it was the experience of a lifetime.
Our days at Cape Challenge were prepared before the clock struck 9am and we’d already gone for a morning run, cleaned up our camping area, made breakfast, and packed our lunch. I was in group C, which meant that I’d be kayaking the first day, climbing the second day, and rappelling the last day. At 4pm activities ceased for gear cleanup, dinner, and evening games. Lights out wasn’t difficult at 11pm because we were exhausted yet excited about the days ahead.
I stepped out of my kayak for the first time after two hours in the high tides and I could hardly move my legs or arms. They were like bricks pulling me towards the ground. It was only time for lunch and I wondered how I was possibly going to paddle the same distance back. Most of the students didn’t appear to break a sweat and they casually pulled their kayaks ashore. I was too embarrassed to admit my weary state and forever thankful when a student asked if I could join a double kayak with one of the bigger male students so he could try a single kayak. It was only the first half of the first day of adventures and I was already physically drained. Heck, the morning run was well past my capabilities of physical activity. During the paddle back, I wondered if I’d gotten myself in over my head.
The evening games of obstacle courses and table climbing were challenging but competitive and that’s when I started to shine. I realized each activity was a competition and I thrived on competition. Whether I was competing with myself or others, I vowed not to give up. I vowed to excel and be a leader for the students rather than a tired, old complainer.
Three hours of climbing on the 60 foot cliffs adjacent to the rappel face made up my second day of activities. We geared up and an experienced guide double checked our equipment. Climbing was not weather dependent and the high winds and rain poured down on us and the rock-face. I was happy to have warm, water-proof clothes that protected me from the weather off of the Bay of Fundy. There were two climbing lines set up for our group of 8, which meant that we had some down time to rest and visualize our next climb. I successfully maneuvered two of the three possible routes, but the third, and most difficult, was my master. I couldn’t, although we were not allowed to say the word “can’t”, overcome the wide lip that protruded about half way up the wall. One other girl in our group made it to the top of the third wall and I proudly cheered for her. I may be competitive, but I didn’t feel defeated or discouraged. Although she had accomplished something that I couldn’t, I was still proud of myself for trying and trying and trying.
Descending 140 foot cliffs was my favorite part of Cape Challenge. Nervously stepping off of the platform for the first time was the greatest journey. Not unlike bungee jumping or skydiving, the first step is the hardest. By the third rappel, I was hanging upside down and trying flips on the rock-face. The returning climb was the most exhausting part of the rappelling adventure, but I knew the quicker I walked, the more rappels I could get in. 10 rappels and 10 climbs up the 104 steep, steps was my breaking point. There was enough time for one more rappel but I opted to stay below and take pictures for others.
Although I was a chaperon at Cape Challenge, I was as much a part of the skill building, adventure seeking group as the students. Cape Challenge lived up to its name by challenging me physically and mentally. I was pushed to my limits and left wanting to return year after year.