Every Wednesday night we take our trail groups on a night hike. It’s one of the best nights of the week because we get to show the kids how mysterious and different nature is at night, and we get to watch them conquer their fears as they do their solo walk. It’s a really beautiful couple of hours. Well, it CAN be. Before every night hike I tell the kids “Ok guys..night hike can be good or it can bad, and it’s up to you to make it good”. And then I address all their questions and fears and we head out.

Before I left with my group tonight I just had that feeling, that feeling that you get when you just know that the night is gonna be ridiculous in a BAD way. But I shooed the thoughts away and told myself I was gonna give these kids the best possible night hike of their lives.

We headed out to this place called Gunshot which is an old shooting range across the street from Mount Hermon. It’s pretty much all sand hills, dunes, trenches and LOTS of manzanita bushes. I love going there because it’s so different from any other trail and the view is amazing. But I had only been on it for nighthike twice before tonight and I was a bit nervous. All of us Naturalists sign up for certain trails for the night hike so we know that we won’t run into any other group. Me and Callan were both going to Gunshot so we talked about it beforehand, exactly where we were going and such. But I got to the top of Gunshot and accidentally ran into her group ending their solo walk. Oops? It actually happens alot so we’ve all learned to be flexible. So I just started walking past her group and started my solo walk on what I thought was the trail going back down the mountain. The trail I was on was the longest manzanita tunnel known to man! When you’re in it not only does it feel like a creepy fairy tale but you forget what the sky even looks like because all that is above you for so long are low manzanita branches. I went out before the kids started to set it up and mark off where they would all end. I was walking, and walking, and walking and there was no clearing for me to end the walk on. I didn’t want them to go that far and I needed to be back at camp soon so I just ended it mid-tunnel. The kids slowly but surely got to me and when they were all back I looked at my watch and saw I had only a half hour before I needed to be back at camp and we were pretty far away. Also, I hadn’t even taught about bats, owls, or triboluminescence yet. So we started hiking, eventually coming out of the tunnel, but then we just kept on going. And going. And going. And….going. It was really dark by this time and I had NO clue where I was. I could hear the cars on the road, I could see their headlights, but there was still a bunch of trees between us and the road, so I couldn’t really off-road it. I started to get really scared. It didn’t really help that the admin on duty that night wasn’t answering their phone or that my walkie-talkie was dead. It also didn’t help that I had 12 kids behind me asking me the most annoying questions EVER “Sarah, how many times do you do this night hike every week?” Me: “I do it once a week” Them: “So how many times a month?” Me: “Well, how many weeks are there in a month?” Them: “4, maybe 5?” Me: “There you go” Them:”So how many times do you do it a year?” GAH!!!!! I’m trying so hard not to lose all my marbles with these kids plus I have zero clue of where I am in a pitch dark forest. I have one kid with a disability who was freaking out which was totally legit because..heck..I was freaking out! And a mom counselor who is so critical of everything I do and always gives me that LOOK. Then I have a group of girls who hate eachother and are constantly gossiping about one another behind their backs. And just to put the cherry on top of this sundae of terrible-ness: I was convinced I had a tick on my leg.

Well..with lots of perseverence and prayer we finally made it to the gate. Thank you God. I hurried them back to camp just 20 minutes late and now that all the fear, anxiety, and frustration had subsided in me I turned around to look at them getting ready to apologize for such an unexpected, long, tedious night..but then I saw their faces. They were so excited. Smiling from ear to ear. They had loved it! They had no clue we had got lost, no clue I didn’t teach them everything I wanted to teach, no clue we didn’t even do half the fun activities I had planned, no clue I had even broke a sweat and was internally freaking out. This was their night hike experience. The only one they knew of. And they loved it.

A humbling experience to say the least. This job is not about me. These hikes, classes, activities, etc..are NOT about me. They are about these kids. Whatever God wants them to walk away with from this week they will. Why do I beat myself up so much for not being Super Naturalist? IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. I get to be continually reminded of this and that everything is God. The words that come out of my mouth when I teach. The joy that pours out when I show them how beautiful this world is. None of this is mine. I do not claim it or own it in any way. All the praise goes to Him.

I love this job.

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