On May 21 2018, Jo Coyle, Marketing & Communications Coordinator of Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School, joined Green Street Academy on their school’s five-day four-night expedition to Michaux State Forest. She documented the physical and emotional growth and journey of Crew C—dubbed “The Wolfpack” by their instructors—a group of eleven 15- to 16-year-old young men as they ventured into the wilderness for the first time.
This photojournalistic blog series explores the challenges and discoveries of these adolescents as they encounter both physical and emotional obstacles, and grow through it with help from their instructors, fellow crewmates, and personal insight.
Day 1 for crews leaving friends and family behind is usually nerve wracking. In the case of Crew C, there was such a sense of camaraderie that the students acted as if they were going on vacation. Little did they know that after introductions in sunny weather, fun ball games, and naps in a 1.5 hour van ride, they’d be in for a life-changing experience instead of a mere field trip.
If anything, I was more nervous than any of them were (or appeared to be). I hadn’t been on a backpacking expedition for longer than three days since college when I was training to become an outdoor instructor myself. It took me a while to remember names and figure out my role as photographer, marketing coordinator, chaperone, and former camp counselor/outdoor adventures leader.
Again, the group was so close-knit that my strengths in facilitation seemed out of place. I took a step back and watched in awe as Kai and Rice (our instructors for the week) began introductions and team-building. Their energy and enthusiasm was like none I’d seen before, and definitely admirable qualities in our instructors that I envied!
The crew started with “Duffel Shuffle,” where instructors help participants figure out what they need to pack. I was amused by the inevitable uproar of those put off by not being able to bring their deodorant—an edict surprisingly less accepted than that of leaving their phones at home. Afterwards the crew established the values on their group journal, many of which reflected the values taught to them by Green Street Academy. After some fun games and lunch we all packed the vans and headed to Michaux State Forest, where the crew learned how to wear their packs before they started a mile trek into camp where they learned how to set up tarps and reflected on the day by firelight.
1. The crew start their expedition with something called “Duffle Shuffle,” where instructors suggest not only what to pack, but how to best arrange their items within their backpack for ideal comfort and weight.
2. One of the crew’s first group tasks was to create their “Group Journal,” a set of values for them to live by and remember during their expedition. Already they demonstrate camaraderie and teamwork here, using each other’s backs as writing surfaces.
3. Crew are also instructed at the beginning of their expedition to fill out a pre-course survey, where they self-evaluate their strength of characteristics such as resilience and compassion.
4. The crew take a break from expedition prep to play ball in Leakin Park.
5. The crew play a game called “Defender,” where a defender guards a player in the middle from being hit by a ball thrown from a player in the outer circle.
6. The crew play a game called “Defender,” where a defender guards a player in the middle from being hit by a ball thrown from a player in the outer circle.
7. The crew play a game called “Defender,” where a defender guards a player in the middle from being hit by a ball thrown from a player in the outer circle.[/caption]
8. “Road trip!” The crew wait anxiously in the van to depart from Leakin Park.
9. Old Forge Picnic Grounds, Michaux State Forest, Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. The crew start their expedition here.
10. The crew listen as instructors brief them on the hike to come.
11. Many of the crew carry their casual camp shoes in the back pocket of their pack, wearing them almost as an emblem of solidarity reminiscent of where they come from.
12. The crew fumble through putting on their packs and help each other cinch waist straps.
13. The map splayed out before instructors begin the crew’s first introduction to navigation and orienteering.
14. Kai assesses the morale and reactions of the crew after their mile hike into camp.[/caption]
15. One of the first orders of business after getting into camp is KBAR (kick back and relax). This gives the crew a moment to rest and air out their feet in case of sweat or trenchfoot in wet weather before they set up camp.
16. The crew take a moment to kick back and relax after their hike, seeming to enjoy their break.
17. The crew take a moment to kick back and relax after their hike, seeming to enjoy their break.
18. At camp, the campsite manager and his dog come to visit the crew—to mixed reactions.
19. A moth visits the campsite. Most of the crew are disgusted or uninterested.
20. Rice monitors the attention of the crew as she teaches them how to set up tarps.
21. The crew work together to set up anchors for their tarps that they’ll sleep under for the night.
22. The first dinner is left to Kai while the crew learn other campcraft.
23. The first campfire is an exciting event for the crew, most of whom have never camped before.