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Headlamps and Walking Sticks

Kids love headlamps and walking sticks and our weekend in New Hampshire was full of them. Seven young teens (ages 10-13) from The Second Step piled out of the van in front of the Waypoint building and were eager to get to New Hampshire. Even before 7:30am, one young man asked when he would get to borrow a headlamp and proceeded to wear it on his head throughout the weekend (both day and night). As for walking sticks, a new one was carefully selected at each turn along the trail to Mt. Cardigan’s 3,156’ summit.

Here’s the weekend’s breakdown:

Day 1:

7am: Seven young teens arrive at Waypoint’s headquarters and gear up for a weekend of hiking, campfires, sleeping in tents, and climbing Mt. Cardigan. Our mascot was dubbed “Señor Chicken” (You’ll meet him later). His sole purpose is to remind us to “Be Here Now.”

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2pm: Our campsites were a short walk from the parking lot and the Appalachian Mountain Club provided wheelbarrows to help schlep our gear. After an exciting wheelbarrow experience that took a bit longer than expected, we set up camp, and our team embarks on an exploratory hike through the beaver dams at Cardigan’s base.

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3pm: Mark discovers a Geocache! We crack open a rusty tin “treasure chest” to discover a journal and skoosh ball. The journal’s first entry dated back to 2008! We labor over what to leave behind for the next finders and settle on leaving our precious “Señor Chicken”. It’s wrenching, but we’re excited about the next adventurers finding the rubber chicken we used as a reminder to “live in the moment”.

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12am: The boys’ tent gets called out for still being awake. “Get some sleep!” was yelled from the girls’ tent…(paraphrased).

Day 2:

6:30am (36°): Fire is going, hats and gloves are on, boiling water is poured over oatmeal, and pop tarts roasting over the fire pit. Our team is groggy, but ready for our big hike. Everyone gets a chance to share their hopes and fears. One person says, Hope = to make it to the top, Fear = that our team won’t give it their all.”

11am: After breaking down our campsite and packing everything away, we’re finally ready for Mt. Cardigan. We head to the trailhead and decide on our route.

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3pm: We’re struggling at the mountain’s steep rock ledges. The trail is truly challenging. All of us are persevering through fears, but giving it our all!

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3:30pm: We’re finally at Cardigan’s summit amidst brisk winds, clear skies, and a 360° view of western New Hampshire. Our group is so proud and relieved. One young man describes it as “the biggest accomplishment of [his] life”

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7pm (Somewhere on I-93): The Second Step van is stuck in traffic with a wasp in the car.

8:30pm (Waypoint headquarters): All are safely back in MA and Waypoint and Second Step say goodbye until next time.

This was an incredible group that supported one another through some major challenges and accomplishments. There is no way to explain the kind of feeling you have after a trip like this. Kids pushed their limits, they came around one another, and showed support in ways they had never before. Their actions are the manifestation of the good hearts that are in them. Weekends like these are one of the most encouraging things one can ever experience and it was all brought out by the challenge and beauty of the mountains and woods in our own back yard.