The month of July started off with a bang as our family joined in the Independence Day celebration in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The town has the event at their small local airport and included guys jumping out of planes and parachuting into the crowd and a great fireworks display. It was a great time to hang with other Cookson families!
The following Sunday brought wilderness camp week. “Wilderness” is a chance for the high schoolers to get away from everything (including electricity, plumbing, and the opposite sex) and experience nature and hopefully encounter God. Melissa stayed at home with Kaylee and our middle school kids, but I got the chance to go out and lead a group of teenage guys. The boy’s camp was held at the beautiful Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas.
The location of base camp was a remote location on the bank of the river. On Sunday afternoon my boys and I were dropped off at a trailhead and then we had to make our way on foot for 2-3 miles before arriving at camp and that is when the fun starts. It hadn’t rained in a couple of weeks but it decided to start halfway through our hike! Once at camp we had to set up our own shelters using the materials we brought with us. It was interesting to see what the boys were able to come up with using branches, twine, and a couple tarps. The evening was capped off with dinner over the campfire and more rain.
Because of the remote location, we had to hike to get our water from a local spring and to pick up food that was delivered daily. On Monday my group was responsible for getting food and water for the whole camp. It was quite a challenge for my boys. We hiked a total of 10 miles and half of that was while we were carrying five gallon jugs of water and coolers full of food. It was a good exercise in learning how to work together and how to push through the hard things that come up in life. The whole camp was depending on us to come through and succeed in our task; giving up was not an option. Even though it was hard there was a great since of accomplishment that the boys and I felt upon completing our task.
The following days included hikes to Hemmed in Hallow, Big Bluff, and out of the park to make a short drive to do some rock climbing. On Thursday in was time to pack up camp and make the hike back to civilization. On the way home we stopped and made one more hike out to Hawk’s Bill Crag to wrap up the trip. We returned home to a pizza party in the gym where the boys and girls got to share with everyone about their camp experience. Wilderness was physically and spiritually challenging for my boys and is an event I look forward to being apart of next year.
The week following wilderness had two big events. First, we had another child placed in with us, making our home full again. We have enjoyed having this young man in our home and helping him get acclimated to life at Cookson. The second big event was the beginning of school. Cookson Hills school runs on a year-round calendar, which means that the kids only get 5 weeks off in the summer; however the plus is that those “missed weeks” get spread out through the year. The kids love the schedule because they only go to school six weeks at a time and then get two weeks off.
So July wrapped up with the kids going to school, getting used to homework (again), and sports practices. We are looking forward to the upcoming football games, volleyball games, and rodeo events as we have several kids who compete.