PEREXAlthough I didn’t go on the Level Three expedition, I had a great time on my last group expedition.

On day one, we hiked 4.5 miles to Cherry Tree Shelter on the Iron Mountain Trail. It was a slightly cloudy but warm day, and, despite the heat, there were still patches of snow in shadowy areas. I really enjoyed that camp!

On day two, we hiked 6 miles to Straight Branch Shelter on the Iron Mountain Trail. About thirty minutes into the hike, we saw a deer, and I found some shotgun shells on the ground. It was overcast that morning, but it cleared up nicely. There was so much wood at that camp! After we were settled in our camps, we spent an hour improving the water source, and all of us had lots of fun.

On day three, we hiked almost 8 miles on the Iron Mountain Trail to one of my favorite trails of all time, Feathercamp Branch Trail. It was at least 75 degrees, but all the creek crossings gave me plenty of time to splash my face and wet a bandana to put around my head. We finally made it to Straight Branch camp on the Virginia Creeper Trail, and I sat by the rushing creek, on an island, and read for two hours. I even tried sleeping out under the stars, but it started raining so I went into my tent.

On day four, we hiked 8.5 miles on the Iron Mountain Trail, five of which were uphill. It was 75 degrees again, and we were all sweating in the heat. It was the hardest hike of the expedition, but Gage, Nate, and I concluded the day with a fun, 45-minute group fire.

On day five, we spent another day at Miracle Springs, the first camp we stayed in on our very first expedition back in September. It was really special to end where we started. We built shelters and stayed in them as practice for the solo expedition. Mine wasn’t half bad until a bird fell through the roof and a mouse decided to get in my sleeping bag around 11 p.m. Nate rightfully won the shelter competition – his was really good. At that camp we also learned some edible plants.

On day six, we hiked three miles back to FMA and really enjoyed the traditional after-expedition supper – I ate so much!

This final expedition, added to every other expedition, has helped me recognize how physically and mentally strong I truly am. The mountaineering part of FMA will be something I’ll never forget.

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