Earlier this afternoon I got back from an adventure like no other alongside the amazing individuals of St. Louis AmeriCorps Emergency Response Team (AC STL ERT or the ERT for short). I not only learned a lot about navigating through the woods and utilizing a map and compass to get from point A to point B, finding evidence of overgrown trails and signs of what once was, and the essentials to camping in the woods, I learned the value of teamwork and cooperation, the strength of numbers and positive attitudes, and what it truly means to trust others and accept the mistakes that are bound to happen.
The adventure of Quest began as we were broken into teams, packed out bags and headed out to a local Wildlife Refuge where we did some team building activities, packed more food into each bag and were given mystery gifts that we were to keep safe throughout our travels.
Several important details (names, locations, etc) are being left out for two reasons: 1) I’m not exactly sure where we were (to be honest) and 2) this activity is utilized by the ERT almost yearly, so I don’t want to give away any details.
We handed over our technology (watches, cell phones, GPS trackers, etc.) and headed out into the unknown with just the basic tools. We stumbled through the darkness, got lost time and time again, but never lost heart. Even when we were still hiking through the woods at 0230, we were still laughing and having a good time (we didn’t know it was 0230 due to the fact that none of us had a way to tell time except for our leaders who were there to make sure none of us got completely lost, suffered grievous bodily or mental harm, or died).
While out in the woods, each of us learned something about ourselves, our individual teams, and the group as a whole. We talked about how the experience of wandering through the woods with little to no help is like surviving through the first couple days of a disaster. We talked about the long hours and the stories that will come out of the experience of this year.
We learned what it meant to come together as a team to make decisions. To both lead and follow. To trust. To make mistakes. And to learn what it means to become a member of a community.
It was a chaotic 48ish hours where we encountered forgotten trails, old boundaries. Changing terrain. Outdated maps. Beautiful rock formations. Cowboy camps (under the stars and/or sheltered under overhangs). Hives of yellow jackets. Poison ivy. Uncharted wilderness. Bushwacking.
It was a challenge that we all accepted and we all rose to meet. In some ways, it was a test of leadership, teamwork, and perseverance.
It was a journey that none of us would give up.
One of the things my team (11 Shades of Green) talked about was the fact that we had a lot of fun working our way from one point to the next. While we were attempting to get from point A to point B (and eventually point C and D), it really didn’t matter that it took us forever to find the first location (approximately 3000 feet off the road where we started). It didn’t matter that we were wandering through the woods in the dark of the night, lost in some way.
We came together to support one another. We came together as a team. And when all the teams came together, we realized that we were not the only group that got lost, but we all shared the same experiences (though, some groups were more lost than others).
We all returned to St. Louis refreshed (although a little sore), ready to dive into the next adventure. And as we prepare to head out to Montana for a month of training, we will all take these experiences with us.
“I can’t rightly say I’ve ever been lost, but I have been mighty perplexed for two or three days runnin'” – Davy Crockett
God Bless and PEACE