The next morning, it's still dark when I stumble out of my tent. There's a tiny bunny waiting outside my door and the air is clear and crisp. We have to go to Smith Rock before it gets too hot to climb.
As we're hiking in to the rock face where we'll try out rock climbing, several campers tell me if they weren't here they'd probably be at home sitting in an air-conditioned room, playing video games or watching TV.
Ben says he hasn't seen any kind of high-tech gadget in days.
"And you like that?" I ask him.
"Yeah, It's fun to just get away from it all," he says.
And this is the very definition of "away from it all." In the foreground, we're looking out across the high desert plateau of eastern Oregon, dotted with scrubby pines. In the distance -- white-capped mountains.
As I step up to take my turn scaling the wall of rock that looms in front of me, I'm more than a little nervous. It's about 90 feet from the point I'm at to the top of the climb, and I've only done this once before outdoors, on a much smaller slab of rock.
"Okay, you guys ready to cheer me on?" I ask my new friends. "On belay?"
"Belay on," says Carol, our rock climbing tutor from First Ascent Climbing Services .
"Climbing." I yell. Then a second later, "Sort of!"
It is so much harder than it looks. There seems to be nothing to hold on to. There are no ledges or convenient shelves sticking out of this rock, just one vertical crack I move toward hoping I can wedge my hands into it. The weight of my entire body is hanging on my toes and fingers. By 10 feet up, I'm shaking all over.
"Don't look down, don't look down, don't look down" I mutter to myself.
"Remember to breathe!" Carol yells up at me.
The cheers from the campers below really do keep me going. And as I approach the top, I can see clearly why Adventure Treks (through First Ascent) would have teenagers tackle this particular sport. Rock climbing is a lesson in self-reliance and discipline and the feeling you get when you finally reach the top and look out across this amazing landscape -- well that's almost indescribable.
Building confidence. Building self esteem for teenagers. That's what this adventure camp is really all about. If they're still around in 10 years, my then-teenaged son will be going on this trip. He won't have a choice. Me, I'm getting a little old for this sort of thing.