Once again I’ve taken a group of kids on a river adventure. There are times when I have to pinch myself that I get to do this awesome thing over and over and over again. In April of 2002, Josh Armstrong – colleague from my teaching years in AZ – walked into my classroom and asked if I wanted to chaperone a river trip. Before he could tell me the dates, I said yes. I love water… paddling in it, floating along… I led canoe trips in WI at a summer camp for two years – it was delightful. I was excited to get back to the water.

Every spring since and the summers of 2007 and 2008… I was fortunate enough to participate in a series of trips with Grand Canyon Youth. One year I was on three trips. (Big Smile) The things that occur during these short snippets of life, unplugged, floating, exploring are those of lifetime memories. For many of the students, this is a one shot deal. For me… it hits the repeat button every year and I cannot explain the level of happiness it brings me.

These last three trips with the Philly kids have been hard though. Its not the travel or the arrangements or the money… its that I spend time in Northern Arizona, falling in love with it all over again. It takes a group of the Philly kids about 30 minutes to ask some version of this question, “Ms. Laufenberg, why did you ever leave this place?” and I usually give them some sort of flip answer because its difficult to remember the reasons… as I drive into the San Francisco Peaks, along Rte. 66 and then through Monument Valley on the way to the river. I left Flagstaff for SLA. Specifically. It was and continues to be the right choice, but every year when I leave Flagstaff with the peaks in the rearview, I make sure my sunglasses are on as I choke back the tears. It always feels wrong to be leaving it.

The friends I left behind here are the dearest people to me outside my family. This place will always be home to me.

Already looking forward to April 2012. When we do it all over again.