Troop UMBC

I’m not really one for the outdoors. My idea of camping is much more in line with Troop Beverly Hills than it is with Jungle 2 Jungle. I was raised camping in first a pop-up trailer and later an RV. Even then, I didn’t much enjoy having to gear up with bug spray or having to move my camping chair every few minutes to avoid the smoke from the fire that would incessantly seek out my eyes.

That said, I’ve just returned from accompanying some of our incoming freshman class on an excursion to Hemlock Overlook Park in Clifton, VA. I have to admit; I had my qualms about sleeping in a cabin that lacked air conditioning and being subjected to the elements for three days straight. But now, upon reflecting on my experience, I’d go back in an instant!

On the first day, our 40 students and nine chaperones were split into four smaller groups and led on a serious of team-building activities. I was incredibly impressed by the maturity, kindness, humor, and innovation displayed by my group, Team Harry Potter. True to UMBC form, these students used their knowledge of physics and engineering to balance themselves on a rickety see-saw, to retrieve a rope that dangled over a large patch of stinky swamp lovingly nicknamed the Peanut Butter Pit, and to help each other solve a puzzle using several tree trunks and four planks of wood. And all of this was done with nothing but their hands, feet, and brains!

Team HP avoiding the Swamp Monster and problem solving.

The second day found us split into two groups. One went spelunking in the caves of West Virginia and the other – mine – went rock climbing along the Potomac River. The sights were fantastic, the company was amazing, and the cavers were incredibly muddy.

And Liz and I looked super stylish while supervising the climbers.


After this week, I may need to rethink my distaste of the outdoors. Shelley Long and I both have been to the wilderness and back – and survived! Okay, maybe I wouldn’t call Hemlock Overlook the wilderness, but it sure wasn’t the hotels I’m used to. But seeing the students leave today, having had tons of fun and having made many new friends, I can’t wait for next year’s excursions.

 I should also mention that Liz and I didn’t necessarily scale a bald-faced vertical cliff like everyone else. But we did “boulder” (climb without harnesses) in order to return to the bus. Look at the pile of boulders we had to climb below!