Landing at K with a Sea of Relief

In today’s society when you think of camping, you usually think of luxurious RVs or spacious tents, barbequing your dinner on a grill while the kids swim in a pond nearby, lawn chairs around a bonfire, and licking s’more residue off your fingertips as the moon ascends in the sky. We don’t tend to think about the kind of camping that involves sleeping under tarps, drinking water from a nearby stream that’s been filtered clean, swimming and bathing in lakes, waking up at 4 in the morning to climb the sixth tallest mountain of the Adirondacks, and stumbling up a hill in the dark with the assistance of your headlamp in order to find the perfect area of soft ground to dig a hole and relieve your bladder. Even though the latter idea seems incredibly strenuous, and slightly insane, I can personally say that it is one of the most rewarding and refreshing experiences one can partake in.

Landing at K with a Sea of Relief
One last beautiful day at Lake Massawippi before heading home

When committing to K and signing up for the LandSea program— an 18-day outdoor pre-orientation program in upstate New York— I convinced myself that it would simply be a way to pass the time as I anxiously awaited the first day of school. Little did I know that it would actually be one of the most meaningful moments of my time thus far at K. Spending 18 days in the wilderness, especially with no prior camping experience, is definitely intimidating, but personally, I enjoyed the challenge it posed. Though I knew nothing about how to pack a hiking bag, how to set up a tarp, or what a bear canister was, I soon learned all the ins and outs of the “backcountry.”

After a 14-hour bus trip, I arrived at the Lake Massawippi Boy Scout camp with about 50 other incoming First-Years. Exiting the bus, we were quickly surrounded by 20 leaders, chanting and dancing, welcoming us to the start of an entirely new adventure. We were split up into eight different groups, about five to six participants in each with two leaders, and were taken to our own specific base camp location to start our journeys. I will admit I was nervous and very hesitant the first day of the trip. I was worried I would be terrible at camping, that I wouldn’t get along with the members of my group, and that the entire trip would be something I would regret. Good thing I was wrong.

Landing at K with a Sea of Relief
The best deep dish pizza comes from the backcountry

The days seemed to turn into seconds after the first day passed and the entity of our group transformed from strangers into a family. Days spent hiking up mountains, canoeing across lakes and ponds, cooking various meals in a Dutch oven (including the best deep dish pizza I have ever consumed), and spending nights reflecting around a bonfire ended up giving me new friendships, skills, and a new confidence and sense of relief going into the school year at K. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity that K provided me with that allowed me to grow not only on an individual level, but within a group setting as well. Take it from me, check out the LandSea program here at K. Don’t let price or lack of experience discourage you. I guarantee you it will be the first step of obtaining more in your four years here and more in your lifetime.

– Karina Pantoja ’20