Editor’s note: Columbia Gorge Youth Explorers engages local youth in conservation education, environmental stewardship and outdoor recreation activities on public lands. Adult mentors help create and facilitate monthly activities that promote the development of positive life skills. The program is a collaboration of The Next Door, Inc’s Independent Living Program and Mt. Adams Institute. Is is generously supported by The North Face. Continue reading to learn one participant’s reflection on a weekend spent in the snow on Mt. Hood.
The Independent Living Program for foster youth is one of my favorite things about foster care. The things I’ve learned at ILP meetings and group trips have helped me move towards living on my own. My ILP teacher, Jenny, is amazing, and I am just so blessed that she is someone I can count on for just about anything.
This last weekend my group and a few other ILP groups got together at Mount Hood for a snow trip. The lodge was fantastic. The fireplace kept the whole place warm and comfortable. There were couches and chairs to sit and relax in. The kitchen was small but easy to use. The upstairs had a pool table and hang out area, and the dorms were kept warm twenty-four seven. However, outside was another story. There was snow everywhere you looked. It was cold but very beautiful. When it snowed it was like adding to the beauty of it all.
At first, everyone kind of stayed within their groups. I was a little bummed that one of my friends from another ILP group couldn’t make it. Mike, one of the leaders during the trip, got us all together in a circle to introduce ourselves. It was a good ice breaker. Soon after that everyone was mingling and laughing. We all went out into the snow with inner tubes and used them to go down snow hills. I loved hearing the laughter and seeing the smiles as everyone had a blast playing in the snow. A lot of the guys enjoyed going as high as they could on a hill and sliding down it with a tube or sled. There were a couple big bumps down that hill that made me a bit skeptical. It’s beyond me how guys can be so cautious free. After playing in the snow, we made lots of hot chocolate (and coffee, mind you) and chilled. During meal times everyone would take turns either cooking or cleaning. There was plenty of team work during the trip. During the evenings we would play group games. I was given the great privilege to lead the evening games the first night. I love leading, and I enjoy helping people smile and have a good time. Mike introduced the group to a documentary film called “Louder Than A Bomb”. The film was very inspirational and well made. I’m so elated to have watched.
The trip wasn’t just fun but educational. We had group discussions about wisdom. We were encouraged to step out of our comfort zones whether that be speaking in front of people or doing the trust fall activity. We went on a hike and saw a very pretty waterfall. The hike was gorgeous and well worth it. We also got to learn from outdoor experts. We went snow shoeing with them and learned how to build an igloo. I had never known how to make one until that day. I was pretty surprised to hear how warm it can be in an igloo.
All in all, the trip was a great experience that I won’t ever regret having. I really value trying new things. Now I can say I’ve gone inner tubing at Mount Hood, hiking in the snow, and snow shoeing. To everyone who helped organize and pay for this trip, THANK YOU North Face, Next Door Inc. and Mt. Adams Institute!