From September 8th through September 14th, 2019 Higher Ground’s Idaho and California stars aligned as staff from Sun Valley and Los Angeles joined forces to run a water sports and sunshine camp on Fay Island, CA. While HGSV Intern Angela Walter and Program Manager Dooley D. Dooley drove down from the north, Director of Philanthropy, Erin Rheinschild flew through the skies to converge on the private island. Meanwhile, HGLA’s Program Manager Kris King and Program Director and Mental Health Professional Lauren Terschluse jetted up from the south for some inter-chapter collaboration to host one of the finest, funnest, therapeutic recreation retreats ever seen in the Sacramento River Delta. Access to Fay Island was generously coordinated by the kindness of married speedboat-driving team, Erik and Leslie Doyle. The use of the island itself was donated once again by owner Cree Edwards, who continues to share his private island with Higher Ground year after year. Speedboat fun was kindly provided by the good people of NorCal Mastercraft in nearby Discovery Bay by way of a sparkly but powerful motorboat for participants to surf, ski, wakeboard, and tube behind.
With six couples from Washington, Florida, Connecticut, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Texas, participants were introduced to a variety fun-pack of water sports. There was kayaking and Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) boarding, wakeboarding and wake surfing, waterskiing and tubing, and of course, some plain old-fashioned swimming. Warm, sunny days made for the perfect weather to get wet and make great new memories.
Participants got a chance to try their hands at some water sports they hadn’t had the chance to experience. Many were new to the balancing act of SUPing and learned how to stand on water and navigate around. One participant, who had never been swimming and was fearful of the water made the most of the opportunity. With a little encouragement, she strapped herself into a personal flotation device and cautiously paddled herself out in the river on a SUP. She took to it so well that before long, she was slowly but surely lowering herself into the water, bit-by-bit, shrieking with pride and exhilaration. It was an impressive accomplishment and seems like it opened up some new realms of possibility. Others took advantage of the speedboats offerings and put in some time being towed on tubes, skis, and surfboards.
Wednesday offered a break from the river with a trip to Muir Woods National Monument nestled amidst redwood glades just down slope from Mt. Tamalpais. It was a magical place of wonder and awe, with the deep green stillness of the cool coastal glen providing stark relief to the frivolous, sunny spaciousness of the Sacramento River Delta. Necks craned upwards at the majesty of the sacred groves of Giant Sequoias, occasional beams of sunlight filtering through the redwood canopy 200 feet above. People stood in awe at the six-foot cross section of an ancient redwood born 1,111 years ago. Before returning to Fay Island, the crew stopped for a classic Italian-style seafood dinner at the exotic Sausalito Seahorse.
Along with the recreational aspect, a key part of Higher Ground’s camps is the therapeutic component. It turned out that all of the couples had done some significant therapeutic work on their own before attending the camp, so were primed and ready to engage with the discussions and exercises Higher Ground employs. Armed with their own valuable experiences, participants supported one another, sharing insights and perspectives and learning some new ways to understand how trauma effects daily life and how to better navigate some of the symptoms. The transformation across the week was profound and energizing, with all involved ready to return home and take on life with some solid new skills.
Many great thanks belong to the Higher Ground staff, without whom the effectiveness of this week would not have been possible. While all put their hearts and souls into this, special shout-outs go to Superhero Chef Erin Rheinschild and Lauren Terschluse for going above and beyond the call of duty. Erin seemed to spend more hours than there are in a day in the kitchen, providing highly nutritious culinary masterpieces for the 17-person crew, and sharing her giving heart all the while. Finally, we want to offer many thanks and blessings to Lauren Terschluse for making her last camp with Higher Ground so incredibly impactful. She tirelessly provided a non-stop flow of compassion, support, and insight for the couples. We know you’ll continue sharing your gifts and look forward to seeing you again from time to time.