Mountain biking program fosters relationship building

07.20.2016 - Camp Kanuga, Camps & Outdoor Education
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Children gear up once a year to come together at Camp Kanuga where they have the opportunity to explore the great outdoors, connect with others and challenge themselves in new ways. In this stimulating and sacred space, faith formation and relationship development is foundational and fundamental.

Camp Kanuga Director David Schnitzer is enthusiastic about the development of trust and self-confidence the campers glean through activities like the ropes courses, rock climbing and the newly added pump track and mountain bike trails.

“If we do anything at Camp Kanuga, we build relationships. The campers form bonds with each other and develop relationships with the staff, providing them with heroes and mentors. The most powerful relationship we cultivate is the campers’ connection to God,” says Schnitzer.

Building trails & pump track, building teamwork

It takes a village to build a mountain bike trail. Nate Greener, director of mountain biking and Clark Rummage, first-year Camp Kanuga crew member aided Schnitzer in his quest to build the trails and pump track. They were joined by a work team from The Home Depot and volunteers from the Hendersonville United Methodist Youth Group.

A pump track is a looping trail containing mounds of dirt called “rollers” which simulate the real-life adventure on bumpy terrain. The course at Camp Kanuga features catwalk-like wood elements that form a figure eight and other obstacles such as piles of logs.

“We moved around a lot of dirt and logs,” says Rummage. Nate Greener agrees, with a knowing laugh.

The camp hosts two mountain biking trails, the white and the red trail. They run 2.75 miles collectively and took the crew and volunteers three months to complete.

Greener witnesses their hard work paying off with camp sessions bringing in campers enthusiastic about the new program. “A lot of what we do is pull people out of their comfort zones. …The kids love it; they can’t stop coming back. If they fall, they’re willing to get up and start again. That’s the best part.”

Learning to ride encourages camper & counselor

Midway through session two at Camp Kanuga, first-year counselor Greg Gabriel helped 12-year-old camper Luke Mosley learn to ride, inspiring everyone who witnessed the event.

Gabriel gets off his bike, smiling over his shoulder as he watches Mosley riding with other campers just one day after he first put heel to pedal.

Still ecstatic, Gabriel relays the story of the quick-study camper: “I kept a hold of his handlebar, put a hand on his shoulder and guided him along. I told him not to give up or get down on himself. It was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. When I saw how excited he was, I couldn’t stop smiling. I’ve never done something that meant that much to a kid before.”

The trail ahead

The vision for the mountain bike trail at Camp Kanuga continues.

“Looking to the future, we’d like to see ten miles of trails. We’ll be adding more obstacles to the pump track like ramps and jumps,” says Schnitzer.

Beyond nourishing relationships, these young explorers are processing life lessons when they lie down in their bunks, when they leave camp and long after summer is over.

Schnitzer says that’s the reasoning behind making mountain biking the newest addition to camp. “When you look at the skills involved like awareness, balance and cooperation—along with hard skills like learning how to change a tire—it was an optimal choice for our newest program. Children can take the experience of biking back home with them, and for these kids, it’s a rite of passage. It doesn’t get much better than that.”