Breathing fresh autumn air, enjoying the lakes against the background of flaming red maple trees on the ridges, hearing wildlife scamper through the leaves, are just some of the experiences the Grade 7 & 8 students encounter on their X-treme Wilderness Hike. The Hike has been held every year for more than 12 years.
The X-treme Wilderness hike has a significant impact on each child in their final two years at Immanuel Christian School. For four days each student carries their food, tent, sleeping bag, change of clothing and a few other essentials. They learn things that can be more effectively taught while hiking in the woods, over hills and through marsh land.
The X-treme Wilderness hike provides students with life lessons that leave a mark on them. When students step out of the security of familiar surroundings, the students become aware of their vulnerabilities. Many things that they take for granted at home becomes a challenges like finding water, finding good camping sites and finding the thunderboxes (toilets). Realizing their vulnerabilities becomes a catalyst for students to ponder and meditate on the source of their strength.
Psalm 121 frames it this way.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills?
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121: 1-3
The appropriateness of Psalm 121 goes beyond the fact that students are hiking in an area with many hills. It is hoped that each student begins to realize that, deep down the strength they need, for each day comes from God, whether hiking or when they are back into familiar space. This is highlighted through the daily devotions while on the hike.
Students learn about the importance of teamwork, community and group unity. Obstacles which present themselves can be overcome by working with each other. Students have opportunity to assist and help one another in simple and supportive ways. On occasion, packs have been redistributed so that smaller students could carry smaller loads or, in the case of a twisted ankle, carry no pack at all for part of the day.
Decision making is emphasized through a model of servant leadership. Leading is more than just having the loudest voice or the biggest fist. Students have learned to come alongside classmates to make decisions like when to have lunch, where to eat and even what to eat.
Orienteering skills are developed through map reading. Every day, new student leaders are selected to practice their skills in directing the group. Perseverance and endurance are developed on the hike.
The beauty of the experience, when a student has been pushed to their emotional or physical limit, is the discovery that they possess an inner strength that will carry them forward. It takes perseverance to carry on and get to the campsite even as daylight is fading or the rain comes down harder.
One of the student devotion verses has dealt with Joshua leading the Israelites out of the wilderness.
The LORD gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.”
Students gain an appreciation for personal reflection and for some time alone. Each day, the students spend time in devotions and in personal journal time. The setting of the Algonquin provides a quiet seldom found in urban areas like Oshawa and Whitby.
The X-treme Wilderness Hike in Algonquin includes atmosphere, fun, laughter and celebration which we look forward to every year again. Throughout the rest of the school year the benefits of the leadership and teamwork development are felt.