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Outdoor Adventures Teach Kids Resilience, Allows Them to Strengthen Internal Resolve

Rope courses, amateur boat racing and white water rafting offer kids far more than vacation time fun. Outdoor experiences like these may also teach your kids rich life lessons and build character that will ultimately help them "go their own way."
by Carla Meadows Modified: August 4, 2014 at 5:45 pm •  Published: August 4, 2014

Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 “Rumours” CD has been the soundtrack of our epic summer 3,500-mile road trip this month. (I was so excited when I found the last dusty copy at a small Wal-Mart in Taos that you thought I’d hit the lottery.)

Now I know that really dates me, but one of the perks of being an Old-School Mom is that you get to pick out your favorite songs from your youth and teach your kids to sing along. Best of all, they end up loving the music so much that they don’t even know that they’re jamming to a tune that was a hit when Jimmy Carter was in office.

One of my favorite tracks from the CD is “Go Your Own Way.” Just the title alone speaks so much to me because that’s what we as moms try to do – we try to teach our kids to “Go Their Own Way.” We encourage them to have discernment and direction. We want them to follow their own path, be prepared for wherever the road may take them and to enjoy the journey ahead.

That’s one of the things that I have loved so much about taking this road trip and being in the Great Outdoors because it really has given my children (and me) a chance to not only reflect within, but also to gain resilience through challenge by choice.

We all faced several challenges at family camp recently in Colorado. Our highlights included the mountain-top ropes course which had us scaling and jumping off telephone poles (talk about a “leap of faith”). And, we had a blast physically pushing ourselves to tackle high-wire obstacles, swinging among the treetops on a giant pendulum and zip-lining over the canyons below.

My youngest even tested her nautical abilities by building a small watercraft to enter into boat race on the creek back at the campsite – and she won! These activities gave each of us opportunities to not only to stretch ourselves and encourage one another, but more importantly they offered life lessons that helped us grow individually and even made us closer as a family – especially for what lied ahead.

Later in the week, we signed up to raft a Category 3 whitewater rapid on the Upper Taylor River north of Gunnison, Colo. with a great local outfitter, Scenic River Tours. Although I’ve run tamer rapids on the Lower Taylor, as well as in Jackson Hole, Wyo., I’m just a Travel Channel enthusiast and river guide wannabe who likes to fancy herself as Meryl Streep’s character from the 1994 movie “The River Wild.”

It was a glorious day for rafting. The sun was high and the water was icy cold. After pulling on our wet suits and motoring down to the launch point we were on our way with our colorful guide “Wild Bill.” (No, I’m not making that name up. I’m convinced this guy was a rogue pirate on the high seas in another life).

Everything was smooth sailing and we were enjoying the excitement of being on the rushing water and taking in the incredible scenery around us until we unexpectedly hit a rock that tossed me, Hubby, my eldest, Wild Bill and one other passenger into the roaring river (water temp – 38 degrees). It just happened all so fast.

Wild Bill’s skill and quick thinking helped pull the raft to safety on the side. He immediately blew his whistle to signal for help. As my eldest and I struggled to get back in the raft I could feel the hand of my youngest trying her best to pull me up. That’s when I turned around and realized that Hubby had floated downstream away from the raft and the other passenger had disappeared out of sight completely.

Hubby held onto a huge rock with waters raging around him and then carefully made his way over to the shoreline while navigating through the fast-moving current. Thank God he was safe.

Wild Bill, now with his leg severely injured, quickly checked on our safety and then ran down the shoreline to make sure the missing passenger got picked up downstream. Fortunately, she too was OK and was rescued by another raft.

Although the whole incident was extremely scary, for my younger daughter it was terrifying because she witnessed the entire thing from inside of the raft. She and one of the other younger passengers were the only ones who didn’t fall into the water.

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by Carla Meadows
NewsOK Contributor
Carla Meadows is a Oklahoma City native, wife and mother of two tweens and a loveable Golden Retriever who blogs about building intentional family moments through the wonders of travel at home and across the U.S.
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