A Tale of Two Trips: Seniors Bonding Despite COVID-19


Drop Line ride at DollyWood

Liz Sinigaglio and Rileigh Juba

Senior Survival: A Review

By Liz Sinigaglio 

In replacement of the week-long event known as Senior Survival, CA’s Senior class instead ventured  to Cohutta Springs for a school day’s worth of bonding. I’ll be honest, as someone who has never been to Cohutta, I was a bit out of my element. However, teachers in attendance seemed to make sure that friends stayed with some of their group. This allowed for optimal integration with other groups while still having at least one person you’re comfortable with. 

The day kicked off with a short worship service and the subsequent splitting in two of the class. From there, everyone moved to either the middle of the woods or a very large field. These were the two main events, both meant to strengthen bonds with everyone, including outsiders of the class!

Those in the woods were met with a team building challenge of epic proportions: making their way across risky terrain without touching anything on the ground. They were given a handful of objects to choose from as well as the ability to make a team, that’s it. 

On the contrary, the students in the field had a short exercise in communication (without using words), trying to move everyone into the correct order by age as well as a sort-of arm link strength game. After, there was a quick worship thought with everyone split into even smaller groups, and a subsequent quiet time to spend in nature with God.

When both large groups met back up with each other, the time for lunch had come! Together everyone made the steep trek from one side of camp to the other with the cafeteria. Inside, the workers had readied a lovely lunch of spaghetti with some of the best cookies I personally have ever tasted. There is nothing like the sound of several dozen hungry young adults swarming the buffet tables, chatting amicably and clacking plastic plates all over. Quickly, everyone ate their portion (some going back for seconds) as they discussed the events of the day with friends.

Now that appetites were generally sated, the final event was set to begin. A hike in the intense afternoon heat right after lunch, while intended for bonding, ended up being fairly exhausting. Most people were too busy dying from heat or thirst to do any real socialization, especially outside of their own friend group. Personally, I listened as the conversations around me died and we all lapsed into comfortable silence (and panting). Despite this, the scenery was very enjoyable.

Fortunately, since this was the last event of the day, everyone was able to walk straight back onto the buses and pretty much collapse into their seats. Several people took that opportunity to take a cat nap on the way back to the school. Just like that, the day was over.

All of us have been upset about the lack of class events due to COVID, and Senior Survival was no exception. However, thanks to our teachers, we at least got to have a good time through a well-organized day for the senior class. We are sad we didn’t get the full experience. Happily though, we all bonded and got to know each other better, as well as spent some time with God. 


A Tale of Dollywood

by Rileigh Juba

Needless to say, the faculty took pity on us. We were given yet another opportunity to skip school and, hopefully, get some real bonding time. The entire senior class woke before the sun to get to school and await the arrival of two Southern buses. We got our temperatures checked and bracelets on, happily chatted with friends, and paid our dues as we stood. Once everyone had arrived, we began our two hour drive to our all-day field trip. A few minutes into the drive, however, the bus I was in experienced some malfunctions; we pulled to the side of the road, then back on our way we went. I’ll admit, walking off of a busy highway into a bus full of music, banter, and games gave me a mega dose of nostalgia.

In direct contrast to their previous methods, the attending teachers allowed us to choose our own groups, in which we would stay for the duration of our trip. Immediately after getting off the bus, the groups assembled themselves to go through the screening that allowed us through Dolly Parton’s gilded gates. {Disclaimer: Gates are not actually covered in gold.} A quick stop in a rancid, humid bathroom set us up for the rest of the day. Off we went to explore every nook and cranny of the country music-themed theme park.

My group of friends almost immediately ran into another that happened to be on the same mission: to ride every possible ride. We covered all of our bases, from the drop tower to the pendulum ride to the good ol’ loop-de-loop roller coaster. As our steps grew fainter and our heads lighter, we knew we had to stop and use our vouchers for some lunch. It wouldn’t be wise to choose a restaurant all willy nilly, so we decided to scope out our options. Perhaps we were too full of hubris, for we traversed nearly the entire 150-acre theme park in search of sufficient food. At the end of it all, we ended right back where we started, going in on some pizza and soda.

Rejuvenated, we picked up where we left off, attacking whatever rides were left and jumping back on to our favorites (ie. Mystery Mine, Tennessee Tornado, and the Wild Eagle), now getting snacks along the way. Mrs. Parton has made sure to stock the park full of any sweet you can think of: funnel cake, Dippin Dots, toffee, candy apples, and milkshakes to name a few. We walked a little more to try to catch the famous Dollywood Express, but so many other people had the same idea, we decided to cut our losses. Instead we rode the carousel, a classic ride (that may or may not have thrown out my hip), to enjoy the day’s dwindling down. 

With about an hour left, we made our way to one of the sweet shops and devised a plan. If we wanted to shove our last snacks down our throats, hit as many  of our favorite rides as possible, and make it back to the gift shop by 6:30, we would have to speed walk like no one ever has before. We revved our weary bodies up and shot in the direction of the nearest ride on our list, hoping for a short enough wait time. While there wasn’t much luck at first, a grand prize awaited us in the form of the Wild Eagle (for what would be our third go-round). A quick check revealed a wait-time of five minutes, and away we went. I must recommend going after the sun has set, sitting as close as possible to the front, and holding on to your stomach as tight as you can. Exhilarated, we flew down the steps to get to ground level and took off with barely any time to get our bearings. Away we sped, weaving through the slow-walking elderly, still-standing parents, and wandering toddlers alike. Nothing could stop what turned out to be the two of us, as we walked so fast and so skillfully that the rest of our group got left behind.

We made good time, arriving at our destination only a few minutes past. But no one was there. A cursory glance proved we were the only faces we recognized, and so we went through the gift shop. Maybe the rest of our class was waiting on the other side. Walking through the expansive gift shop, however, I realized that I would have nothing to show for the trip that I took, not even my lunch voucher (that I had somehow lost throughout the course of the day). The gaggle of teens I had hurried in with continued on their course out the doors as I grabbed a little trinket to bring home. I got stuck behind an older couple apparently buying a t-shirt for every family member they had, but I was worried about nothing other than joining the group a little late. 

I finally got my little fridge magnet checked out, then rushed out the doors to join the wriggling mass of people in line for a trolley that would take them back to the parking lot. I looked around and walked to the end of the line before realizing there were no familiar faces. A few phone calls to my peers told me I should not be in line, but on the bus (thanks for that). Confused, I stood by and waited for Mr. Beasley, who was said to be searching to reunite me with my fellow seniors. A few minutes and texts later, I was prompted to simply ask an employee for help. That I did. He directed me not to the end of the line, but through some barriers to lead me to a top secret, wide-open space where all the field trip kids had met. Lo and behold, there was Mr. Beasley haplessly searching for whatever he could find of me. I walked up to him, and together we traversed the steep terrain that was the Dollywood parking lot, all the way to the top of a hill, where both gargantuan Southern buses stalled and a few of my friends paced. After a dramatic embrace, I sheepishly entered the bus I had come in on to find that everyone had been waiting on me. While I admit it did feel nice to walk in to a hero’s welcome, I would have much preferred getting onto the bus at the same time as everyone else. Word to the wise: do not get separated from your group.