When the Senior Class of 2021 left campus last Friday for their traditional Senior Experience camp out, they had little idea of how much would go wrong and how much would go right over the weekend. “It was a Murphy’s Law trip,” said one senior upon return, only to be interrupted by another senior saying, “It was amazing. I can’t wait until next time we do this.”

Over the past several weeks, the seniors had developed a detailed plan for a camp out at Perrot State Park near Trempealeau, on the state line with Minnesota. The park is known for its views of steep limestone bluffs over the Mississippi River.

To start the weekend off, bus troubles meant a stop in Portage that lengthened the 2½-hour trip to over four hours. This meant that upon arriving at Perrot State Park, the seniors had only a short window of time to haul their luggage the quarter mile from the bus to the group campsite and set up camp, including tents before Sabbath arrived.

But the difficultly had a positive side. “A lot of people in our class are really helpful. If we needed something, people were always there to help with whatever.”

Once camp was set up, the class gathered for a vespers sharing time.

“Cold,” one of the seniors added, “It was really cold the first night. Cold, dark, and mosquitos. We built a huge fire, and we all huddled around, so that helped.”

And in that cold, huddled group, something special happened. One senior began sharing their story, their testimony of God’s leading in their life. Then another shared. “It was amazing – when the testimonies came,” said one. “People were sharing, like, really deep stories. We really got to know who we are. It was humbling and I was really proud to think – these are my classmates.”

“Everybody shared,” said another. “And I said things I’ve never said before. Words I never thought I’d say. Like ‘It’s God’s will.’ I’m here because it’s God’s will. I never would have said that before I came here.”

“After that, I’m actually talking to people I never talked to last year or before,” added a third. “But now they’re like my new friends.”

Sabbath morning, after breakfast, the class pastor led Sabbath School, complete with a memorable story about a traumatized fish. Dean Serna spoke for church.

After a big lunch, the class decided to hike up Brady’s Bluff, a 520-foot limestone mound overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and the Trempealeau rivers. The warm sun on the hike down the bluff was welcome after the cold night and morning.

Upon return to camp, the class officers led their classmates in an activity involving blindfolds, string, a bell, trust, and the willingness to admit one’s need of help. To give details would be to ruin the lesson for future participants, so that’s as much as we’ll reveal now.

After dark, activities included a glow-in-the-dark game of capture-the-flag, and hide-and-seek. With warmer temperatures, most students slept better the second night.

Sunday morning, after an “amazing breakfast,” everyone packed up. The idea was to drive to Tomah and spend some time swimming. But this was not to be. Again, bus trouble caused a change in plans.

While the bus was getting attention in LaCrosse, the class made the best of it and explored the Riverside International Friendship Gardens. In an open field near a gas station, they organized a game of soccer. “We played a LOT of soccer,” one senior remembers. With plans for Sunday completely derailed, the bus limped back to campus just before dark.

Despite the challenges, the students really adapted and found ways to turn inconveniences into opportunities to grow together. “It really was a lot of fun. It was definitely bonding,” said a senior. “We got a lot closer.”

Many thanks to student photographers Hannah and Carson