Is solitude possible for a teenager today? What about having no other distractions apart from those occurring when he or she is not the sole focus? One wonders amusingly how our modern media addicted and self-absorbed teens would handle this. What would happen when, freed from the impositions of that little electronic device, they were exposed to a world of visual, olfactory, and auditory delights where the soft crushing of rain-soaked leaves underfoot and the muted shadows cast on a cascading waterfall by an overcast sky were their only diversions? The Outdoors Club of Rahway High School made it its mission to find out.
On Saturday October 13, to mark the Club’s first annual hike of the 2018-2019 school year, 22 students grades 9 through 12 embarked upon a foray into what was, for them, the uncharted territory of the South Mountain Reservation nestled in the forbidden wilds of New Jersey’s West Orange. Although Club Co-Advisor and RHS Math Teacher John Marks remarks that, “Society today has advanced to the point where humans no longer need to even venture past their front door to sustain themselves”, he goes on to remark that “there is something innately human about going for a hike in the woods.” And hike they did.
Thanks to both chilly fall temperatures and significant prior days’ rainfall, the hikers (many of them first-timers) found navigating their trail to be hardly a walk in the proverbial park. Slick rocks, muddy hills and valleys, as well as shivering gusts of wind provided the students with a daunting experience they are not likely to forget. After bravely conquering a full 6 miles with her grimy but game gaggle of students, Co-Advisor and RHS Environmental Science Teacher Jessica Carr comments, “I could not help but smile when the kids screeched and laughed at one another passing through the mess, letting their guards down, and actually regarding the amount of mud each acquired as a veritable badge of honor!” This was indeed an opportunity for some valuable personal bonding between the students and for savoring the sights and sounds of this truly unique, albeit sloppy, adventure that was enjoyed sans the need for help from any man-made device.
"What I missed most was comfort and chairs”, admits sophomore Scott Nwosu. He is however quick to add, “I didn’t miss technology!” “This wasn’t a typical day for me…being outdoors with other people, being active on a Saturday, and actually having FUN outdoors!” Junior Andres Salcedo Munoz was in total agreement. “I had my friends, my teammates, and my teachers all having fun in a friendly atmosphere talking and laughing together. This never happens!” “With all the marvelous technological advances in society today”, notes Mr. Marks, “there is indeed something lost when we turn away from our connection with nature. I believe the students discovered today that the mysteries and smells of a forest, the sight and sounds of water flowing over rocks and cliffs, and the majesty of light peaking through treetops can call more to the soul than any Instagram post or story on Snapchat ever could.”
Naturally, as is expected with any exploration, the Outdoors Club’s soggy trek into the woods also provided some unanticipated discoveries of its own. “Going uphill”, learned junior Sarah Singh, “is when you learn who your REAL friends are…and not the ones that ditch you and become the alpha of the pack!” “I’m out of shape”, laments junior Gabriela Mendoza, “I probably need my inhaler more than I think I do!” Would these intrepid explorers sign on for yet another opportunity to rub shoulders with nature? “Absolutely!”, avers Gabriela. “It was great fun!”