Post-trip: Kelsey Cantrell

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First off, I had an amazing time at Don Carter State Park volunteering to clear and blaze trails while many of the park rangers were helping with the aftermath of hurricane Matthew. I was able to put two of my favorite things, helping others and the outdoors/hiking, into action for a great cause.

I feel like my connections with various organizations on campus led to greater connections with other individuals on this trip. We often found that we had mutual friends, and began many conversations that way. Meeting new people is fun and scary for me, because sometimes I let my fear get in the way, but who knew being in a van for 5-6 hours and camping in the middle of the woods could change that? Chatting around a fire at night about school, our hobbies, and what we enjoyed the most that day was relaxing and comforting.

I learned many things on this trip. I learned what sour wood trees look and taste like, that two blazes on the tree mean to pay attention, and the importance of teamwork. There was a lot I already knew about camping and hiking, however, there were still things I learned. No matter what, you are always learning. I now know the energy and amount of work invested into opening a state park, and I also gained an even greater appreciation for the land we live on. I faced my fear of sleeping alone in the dark (in a tent of course), sleeping in the cold nights, hiking through the woods, not knowing anyone on the trip, and I came out feeling better about myself, the environment, and future park visitors. Knowing that I made a difference in multiple ways, including for people and for the earth, brings pure joy into my life and allowed me to focus on the things I value along with being thankful for the things I have. Grateful for a weekend of being unplugged(mostly) and great company in the great outdoors all while making a difference!

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