By Dasha Bough LPHS freshman

Around me is the pitch-black of night. Gooey remnants of marshmallows stick to my fingers, and warm light flickers and bounces off of my friends’ joyful faces.

My ears are filled with a song of laughter and an underscore of crackling wood. Campfire smoke makes my eyes water as it drifts into the night. My eyes follow its white trail from the place where it fades into mysterious darkness back to its origin above the blazing fire.

Ah, the fire. It’s a glorious fire. Glowing and moving against a black backdrop, it is humanlike: vibrant, breathing and dancing before me. Maybe these qualities are what put it in the center of man’s existence.

Since the very beginning, we humans have gathered around this beautiful thing that offers so much more than just heat. Textbook cavemen are almost always illustrated in the act of discovering fire, their eyes wide and their jaws dropped as they warm their hands in front of the glowing embers and lively flames.

Throughout the rest of history, regardless of location or culture, fire has brought people together. There is something so sacred and unnamable about the feeling you experience when gathered around a fire with loved ones on either side of you. It is a feeling we rarely have the opportunity to experience in the modern world of technology and electricity.

In September, the freshman and sophomore classes at LPHS were given the opportunity to share this experience, not only with each other, but with some of our teachers, as well. Going on this three-day camping trip to a place barely a half hour from our own homes was like going to another planet and then coming back transformed.

We left on a clear Monday morning a group of giddy kids, anxious to find out our sleeping arrangements and agenda. As we headed toward our destination that morning, I knew I would learn new things about camping and nature, but I could never have guessed how much I would learn about myself and my peers.

The expedition seemed simple: You had a tent, a sleeping bag, an outhouse, a fork, a spoon, a bowl, a mug and no cell reception. It seemed almost too basic to get much out of, but what I learned was that sometimes it takes simplicity to truly feel emotion and, cheesy as it sounds, to hear yourself think.

Between group hikes, late night card games and the campfire, our classes helped each other grow as a unit – a unit tied together by this unforgettable experience. In those three days, we learned more about each other and about what high school really means than we could have in six months passing each other in the hallway on the way to class.

To me, high school is a time when kids transition into young adults. It’s a time when girls and boys become independent, self-sufficient young men and women. We feel a considerable amount of pressure to have a satisfying high school experience. No one wants to be disappointed. No one wants to be full of regrets about high school 40 years later. No one wants to remember the failures.

This simple, short camping trip taught me things that will follow me throughout life. The experiences I had showed me it is possible to have and build strong, healthy relationships, while also allowing myself to be an individual. I realized I can be still be close and bonded with the people I love and surround myself with, while making sure I am finding my own path and relying on myself to pave my way in life.

I lift my gaze from the enchanting fire, and look again at the glowing faces of my classmates. I smile as I think of how lucky we are to have this powerful bonding and learning experience, right in our backyard. The Big Sky area has always been special for me, now even more so. No matter where we go or who we meet, we will never forget our first expedition, our first true high school experience.

So my dear classmates, I leave you with this: Someday, when you are standing by a blazing campfire, a warm mug in your hands, friends and family around you, take a second to appreciate your freshman year expedition and how it might have affected the outcome of your life. No matter what happens in the next four years, you can always look back and smile, remembering the relationship skills and independence we gained on this expedition.