My co-leader headed off first on the well-marked wooded trail that wound up out of the valley of redwood trees. After she departed, each girl hit the trail at about 30 second intervals, just enough distance between them so that they could not hear or see the girls in front or behind them. Each girl hiked alone for a few minutes until they rounded the last bend to find the group waiting for them. I was the last to hike out and was surprised to find the group still silent when I arrived. Twelve social twelve-year-olds voluntarily held their chatter for a sustained amount of time!
They were all smiles and eager to share their experience of hiking solo. They spoke of hearing distinctly: a fly buzzing, leaves rustling, their breath panting with exertion from the climb, the crunch of their shoes on the pebbled trail. The talked about being lost in their thoughts, about being a little nervous walking in the woods without another person in sight, about wondering when they would finally find the others, about how the hike seemed to last much longer than two minutes. They marveled at how much seemed to have happened in such a short time because they were paying such close attention to where they were, and what they were thinking and feeling, free of the distractions of conversation or companions, and they want to try it again on the next hike. One of the simplest activities of the weekend was the most memorable!