There’s a sublimely beautiful spot in the north woods of Maine off the beaten path called Southbranch campground on the north end of Baxter State Park. It takes thoughtful planning to get there. To begin with, you have to mail in – yes, USPS mail in – your registration to Baxter State Authority. Although recently they do have an online calendar showing availability, you still have to fill out a piece of paper and select your top choices for camping spots, label an envelope, and mail it in. Baxter State Park Authority will mail you back a paper confirmation which you have to have in hand when you arrive at the checkpoint gate – more than ten miles out from the campground. Nothing motorized invited, on the lakes or trails, other than the car or van that got you there. We’ve visited the last three years and spend off-the-grid days paddling, telling stories by campfires, hiking, and sharing good company.
A highlight of this annual pilgrimage are gloriously high granite cliffs, about a morning-paddle away on an adjacent lake. After we awake, pack lunches, and paddle the length of Southbranch north lake, then portage to south lake along a stream, and tie up the canoes, we scramble up the faces of this granite rock to witness the beauty and quiet solitude of a wonderfully isolated deep lake in the north woods.
Then we jump! From various points that meet our own idea of courage, we jump. Here’s the thing – as the visit grows, as well as subsequent visits over a couple days, we find our collective rhythm in the adventure. We both encourage eachother, and ourselves, in more audacious jumps – or more interesting and unique jumps. Understand, at this site the sky is almost the limit – you could etch ever higher upon that rock and jump from a higher and higher point – there is almost no feasible summit since the true top is over 100 feet – a jump I have yet to see anyone take…yet.
Here’s the interesting part – after our group arrives and we spend time there, we first lead eachother to what is obvious, what is most accessible. As time passes, the sun rises and people start to find their own routes up the rock to higher jumping points, the group teaches what is possible, what can be achieved.
In the context of leadership, once everyone feels supported and in a safe environment, we begin to not only explore the possible but also teach those around us what is possible. Leading the way up the rock, demonstrating unique leaps of faith – older kids taking the hands of the younger to safely navigate the rock face. We have to examine both the novel and mundane with fresh eyes, and excitedly share those experiences – it’s only then we can both lead and encourage new climbs and new leaps from high above. Believe me, our work is no different. No group ever got dumber by hiding trails, or hoarding glory. Teach everyone on the path. That’s giving greatness.