By Jessica Koolick
Editor’s Note: Teva Trek is a 3-week program for campers entering 10th and 11th grade that combines Herzl Camp traditions with outdoor adventure. 7th and 8th grade campers can add a 1-week Teva Adventure option to their 3-week camp experience to get a taste of Teva. Click here for more about our Teva programs.
It still scares me to look back at the summer I just experienced. I remember the bugs, the storms, and the unknown. I also remember the laughs. It’s not often you live in a tent in the wilderness for a month. It’s extremely rare to live with seven other girls in the process. It’s virtually unheard of to not shower for eight days while still enjoying every minute. I have the privilege to say I’ve faced all of that, and more.
As my sophomore year raged on, I knew my summer needed to be different from those of the past. I wanted to do something crazy; something out of my comfort zone; something nobody would expect me to do. Most importantly, something I wouldn’t even expect myself to do! I thought endlessly about my options, allowing my brain to bounce around ideas for weeks. I settled on Teva Trek. I have been at Herzl for six summers, and while most campers don’t return for the intense, to-the-limit program, I pledged to myself and to my parents that I’d commit my summer to Teva Trek. Teva Trek translates to nature trek. Let me tell you, I was in the for the nature trek of all nature treks!
I convinced my best friend Haylee to join me, and we tried our best to rally each of our Jewish friends to sign up but only six other girls believed they were “woman enough” for the program. I think they were intimidated because Teva Trekkers sleep in tents, with beds mounted atop large wooden platforms out in the woods. That’s right, no electricity, no bathrooms, and absolutely no personal space. For me, this was the beginning of the true Teva magic. The culmination was a one-week trip to Voyageurs National Park in International Falls, Minnesota to look forward to. With only one backpack, and two seven person canoes, my program would set off for a week without showers, electronics, and civilization.
When I arrived at camp, the tent I was to call my home for the first three weeks terrified me. My fear of the dark was renewed. We were taught to construct a fire, cook over it, and pitch tents with our eyes closed. We learned to use maps, walk silently through the woods and work as a team. The preparation would all come in handy when it came time for us to drive up for our retreat to Voyageur’s National Park. After arriving and unloading the bus, we reloaded it all into canoes, and began paddling for our first campsite. As the natural beauty all around me began to leave an everlasting picture in my mind, I inhaled slowly. The freshness of the air pierced my nostrils as my arms struggled to keep up with everyone’s brisk pace. As everyone else began to painfully realize the strain of paddling, we took a break to truly digest our surroundings. Trees on small, serene islands were everywhere you turned, and while each direction looked entirely the same, each island still radiated with a beauty unique from the rest. It was in that instant that we spotted our first campsite. My arms and the rest of the group had lucked out. We stayed at that campsite for three nights, leaving enough time for us to wander aimlessly through a rock garden, explore every inch of our island, and watch three enchanting sunsets. For the final one, we night paddled and watched it on the calm, serene water. We chose to remain silent for the duration of the paddle and the sunset. After the sun had disappeared behind the horizon, we turned back for camp. As I continued to paddle through the water, it occurred to me how much the little things in life could affect you. Here, a meaningless sunset had taken my breath away and left me speechless the rest of the night.
The next day, we set off early and moved campsites. It took us six hours travel sixteen miles, to find our next campsite. There we sat in a waterfallWhen the trip ended two days later, I thought about how much I had changed; the person I’d become. I had once only cared about vanity, and judging myself and others on looks. Everyone is guilty at some point for judging one another. I can honestly say I’ve beaten that habit. We spent eight days without showering, and nobody smelled or looked remotely good by the end of day two. We all survived.
Teva Trek changed my life, and showed me my true limit. It morphed my old, afraid-to-get-dirty, shower-obsessed persona into a jungle girl, ready to take on anything. I’m sorry more people didn’t share in my life-altering experience called “Teva Trek 2009.” Don’t miss Teva!