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Week One with Mission Outdoors

Hello! My name is Amanda, and I’m spending this summer interning in D.C. for Mission Outdoors. My whirlwind first week in the office was capped off with a wonderful adventure outside of the Beltway to Meadowood Recreation Area in Lorton, Virginia. Meadowood is a beautiful area, with over 800 acres of meadows and forest and 6 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. In addition, they offer environmental education programs ranging from tracking to clean-up days for local schools and other youth groups. There, my boss Jackie and I met up with a group of high-schoolers in the middle of a three day camping trip led by Baltimore Inner City Outings (BICO) and their superstar chair, Nicole. For the last several years, BICO and the Bureau of Land Management, which runs Meadowood, have had this awesome partnership going where BICO takes a trip to the park each summer. That way, BLM and Meadowood get more visitors and more exposure, and BICO gets to go camping for three days and experience a great park!

This particular group of students was from Mi Espacio, an after-school program for Latino students in Baltimore. We arrived as they were sitting down to breakfast, and everyone went around the table to introduce themselves by saying what their favorite part of the trip had been so far (or, in Jackie’s and my case, what we were most looking forward to – kayaking!). Quite a few of the students mentioned getting a bit lost in the woods during a hike the day before as their favorite part, which instantly put a smile on my face. I LOVE getting lost in the woods. Any other time, getting lost makes me stressed and cranky, but when I’m outside – it’s an adventure, another chance to explore and appreciate nature’s confusion and complexity – and it was really cool to see these students, most of whom hadn’t really been hiking before, enjoying that as well.

Anyways, after breakfast I got to impress Nicole with my trailer-driving skills, and we headed down the road to a nearby bay to try out kayaking. I am very fortunate in that both of my parents have been taking me kayaking down in Tennessee and Georgia since before I can even remember, and being in a boat is one of my absolute favorite ways to experience the outdoors. I have countless memories of strapping two kayaks on the roof and heading to Lake Acworth with my dad, spending a beautiful weekend afternoon relaxing on the water. Unlike me, almost none of the students from Mi Espacio had ever been kayaking or canoeing, so after the requisite safety talk, I did a quick paddle stroke demonstration and we headed out. The students took to kayaking almost immediately, and I was so happy when it was time to switch turns and none of the students wanted to give up their boats!


After working the kinks out of steering and how to hold the paddle, everyone wanted to race, or fight splash wars, or play bumper boats. But after a while, things started to calm down. We got to my favorite part of stillwater kayaking – the relaxing, soaking up the sun, paddling slowly around and taking in the day. I was feeling pretty happy, especially getting to see so many young people who had never really had an experience like this before getting outside and really enjoying it. But I couldn’t put it as well as one of the boys did while floating around in a tandem kayak that afternoon. He turned around to his friend and simply said, “Aquí, entre el lago y el cielo… ¿qué querrías más?” Here, between the lake and the sky… what more could you want? 


--by Amanda Wheelock, Mission Outdoors Summer Intern 


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