Thursday, May 11, 2017

barrier island trip

I've been hearing about the barrier island trip for at least 5 years.  Blue and Violet's school takes a big field trip in 5th grade.  It's the first overnight trip which, I assume, is why they start pumping the trip to students 5 years early.  

Like any good hermit, I live a pretty insulated life.  I don't watch the news and I don't have a Facebook so information has to travel to get to me.  Unless it's art or music I don't go looking for it on my own.  The information that gets to me usually comes second hand and I've learned how to weed out things that don't add up.  Each time Blue mentioned the trip to "barrier island" I understood that there are many barrier islands and I would ask which one.  No one seemed to know where this mystery island was.  When the abstract trip became a little more concrete this year when Blue entered 5th grade, still the information did not flow my way.  Right up until a couple of weeks before the trip, a trip that I had been volunteered to go on, I had no idea where this island was.  G could have gone as a parent chaperone, but cabins were divided by gender so he needed it to be a dad trip.  As luck would have it, when the dates finally made their way to me, my school schedule had the exact space in it for the trip.  I'd finish up school on Tuesday, do the trip Wednesday through Friday and roll up on graduation Saturday morning.  

Those of you who know me, will appreciate my disdain for traveling with people other than my immediate family.  Make those people a herd of 5th graders accompanied by their parents and you've got the second circle of hell.  I accepted my fate.  After all, I do love the beach.  Literally 2 days before the trip, I read the handful of sheets of paper that were sent home.  The only tangible information I had about this trip.  

 This would be Blue's first overnight field trip.  He's a homebody so I wasn't sure how that would play out.  But the more he learned about the trip at school, the more excited he grew.  There was a lot of talk about "the mud pit", I big pool of thick mud that students were encouraged to get in as deep as they wanted.  For weeks I heard about the mud pit.  I started to realize this was some sort of rite of passage for 5th graders.  

Upon arrival groups were divided up and assigned their adventures.  Our very first adventure?  The mud pit of course.  We met our naturalist and she guided us about a mile down the beach inspecting finds along the way.


 The kids learned about the tide and the shifting of sand from one end of a barrier island to the other.  They learned about the beach, the estuary and the salt marsh.  

 We reached the crooked tree that marked the spot where the beach walk ended and the mud trail began.  For months I had heard about the mud pit.  For months Blue had asked me over and over again if I was going to get in the mud pit.  As we stood at the edge of the salt marsh, all the adults stepped back on the beach except for two.  One other dad and me.  Everyone else bailed and took the dry path up to a spot where they could watch.  

 The rest of us followed the naturalist into the marsh.

 Right down into the marsh.

 There was an established trail through the salt marsh to the mud pit.  We were instructed to stay on the trail so we wouldn't harm the delicate ecosystem.

 Our feet suctioned down into the mud and all the nasty goo slimed down into our shoes as we walked.

 Soon the trail opened up into a large brown pool.  The mud pit.  

 Not exactly what I pictured in my head as a mud pit, but it was muddy.  

 Some of the kids rolled in it and smeared the mud on their entire bodies.  

 I'm not sure if you've ever smelled a salt marsh, but it's a powerful, distinct stench.  And we were going to smell it for the next couple of days.  

Immediately after leaving the mud pit, everyone got into the estuary to wash off.  I put my phone in some kind of waterproof bag for the adventure and was able to take photos.  While the entire group was in the estuary washing off, a pod of dolphins swam up very, very close to the group.  I quickly got out my phone and started recording as they approached, disappeared under the water as they were just a few feet away from us and then reappeared bobbing up and down.  Later when I went to watch this amazing video I realized that I wasn't recording.  My video started at the end when I thought I was stopping the recording.  So my amazing video was of me putting my phone back into my pocket.  

 Our night activity was a campfire with silly songs and stories.

 The "barrier island" was actually Seabrook Island just below Charleston.  The camp was St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center and the specific type of 3 day camp we signed up for was "barrier island".  

 The camp staff was great.  All the naturalists seemed to enjoy the kids and their jobs.  

 And they were always ready to stop whatever they were doing to admire the natural beaty.  During the campfire event several white tailed deer ran up on us.  Once they saw us they ducked out toward the beach and then reentered the dunes not far away from us.

 The naturalists stopped, told everyone what was happening and took the time to talk about the deer and other native animals that we might encounter.  Two of the deer are sprinting in the photo above.

 After the campfire, it was time for "dance".  The kids were led in several different dances.  Blue is dancing in the photo above.  It was interesting to see him interacting in his natural environment.  As a parent, you don't get to see how your kids act in school.  This was a nice little window into his world.  

 After the evening activities were officially over, most of our school informally met on the beach to terrorize ghost crabs.  The kids loved this.  The crabs not so much.

Then came the night.  It was a long day and the kids were tired.  The cabin we had been assigned had a maintenance issue when we arrived so we got split up between two smaller sleeping areas.  One group got a small cabin.  Our group got the side room of some sort of meeting area.  We got fold up cots to sleep on.  In addition to the kids in our room we also had 4 dads.  Fun fact about dads:  they snore.  Some dads snore really loud.  Frighteningly loud.  After about three hours of trying to get to sleep, I grabbed my sleeping bag and retreated into the meeting room next door.  Sleep was just as elusive in there.

 Operating on about 45 minutes of restless sleep, I knew that running and coffee were the only things standing between me and violence.  So just before 6:00am I quietly put on my running shoes and slipped out to the beach.

 The salty air eased my headache as I ran and the beautiful light made me feel relaxed.  As I ran down the beach I noticed a couple of dolphins moving down right behind me.  Then as I turned to run back up the beach, they turned and continued to follow me.  On the bright side, they did not snore.  

 Blue insisted that I go on this trip with him.  He wanted me there for comfort.  But as soon as he stepped off the bus he ditched me.  Of course, that's exactly what he should have done, but it was comical for me.  He was up and dressed when I got back from my run and after a shower we slipped outside so we wouldn't wake everyone else early.  He understood the importance of us walking all the way over to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee before we walked on the beach.  He even understood when we needed to walk back for a second cup.

 That smile was brought to you by running and coffee.

 For our first adventure on Thursday they got to hold a very curious box turtle.  

 Then the naturalist grabbed a baby alligator.

 And everyone got to touch it.

 Then they all got to hold the rat snake.

 The second adventure was seining in the estuary.  

 The kids dragged the net several times and then they all raced to pick up the sea creatures and put them into the bucket.

 After lunch it was a couple of hours of team building exercises.  These were physical and mental challenges and the kids did well with the first two.  After that they were hungry and tired and they just didn't care much about being a team.  That made it even more funny for me.

 Before dinner there was an optional "beach rec" time.  Of course to Blue this was not optional.  He couldn't wait to get in the water.  

 While I monitored them, I also got to look for beach treasures.

 We learned that female Blue Crabs have red markings on their claws.

 And ghost crabs are just as grumpy during the day.

 This was a gnarly live oak that Blue demanded that I take a photo of before we left.

The night activity was "games".  This consisted of noodle hockey (think hockey with a big ball and pool noodles) and a vicious game of dodgeball.  Some rain and wind moved in during the night activity and when the games were done we opted for the short dash back to our room to bed down for the night.  I didn't have high hopes for sleep that night either.  When the chief snorer fell asleep within seconds of lying down, I was sure it was over.  But around 2:00am the snoring miraculously stopped and I got a full 3 1/2 hours of sleep.  

 The morning run was very windy and the fast moving clouds cast everything in a blue light.  

 You find the coolest things running on the beach before anyone else is up.

 After the daily dose of coffee and a little breakfast, Blue and I donated our mud pit shoes to the collection.

 The school gathered the kids on the beach for photos.

 And we set out on our final adventure of the trip, a hike through the maritime forest.

 The best part of the hike was arriving at "the slough".

 It was apparently a freshwater pond with all sorts of critters in it.  It was very green and the blue skies had opened up and the color there was great.

 The hike ended up at the aquarium where they had a complete bottlenose dolphin skeleton.

 And a female Blue Crab...along with lots of other impressive creatures.

Blue had thoroughly enjoyed himself on this trip.  He did not miss home and he did not want to leave.  At least not until the only thing left was a cafeteria lunch.  Then he was ready to skip out and grab fast food on the way home.  So we said our goodbyes and made our way to Bojangles.  I'm still catching up on my sleep.

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