Girl Scout Destinations are the ultimate adventure for individual girls ages 11 and older! With different trips every year, there’s something exciting for every individual. You will not only acquire new life-changing experiences, but you will also make friends from all over the country as you travel with Girl Scouts from different states.
This past summer, some of the girls in our council went on their own Destinations adventures; three of our Girl Scouts participated in Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, one to the Costa Rican Rainforest and one all the way to Europe! We hope you enjoy this story from Girl Scout Sophie as she trekked through one of the largest mountain ranges in the world!
Sophie Donnellan’s Trip Journal
This summer I flew to Europe, visited France, Switzerland, and Italy, hiked mountains, explored towns, ate delicious food, and made new friends. All of the experiences from the trip were possible because of the amazing opportunities offered by my Girl Scouts Council and ATS Destinations. My travels inspired me to challenge myself more and appreciate our planet in a way I had not before.
The struggles I encountered when hiking made my trip more satisfactory. Before going to the Alps, I worked on getting myself in shape for the intense hiking, altitude inclines, and long distances we would face. Of course, I’m from Chicago so as far as mountains go we were sort of empty handed. I did, however, walk upwards of 10,000 steps every day for over a month leading up to the trip, use the stair climber at my gym, and go on a camping trip in Wisconsin with some hiking a week prior to leaving. Through such methods I physically and mentally prepared myself for the trip. It was, of course, a little nerve-wracking once I got on my airplane and left Chicago, but meeting a group of welcoming girls who were in the exact same boat as me certainly helped.
When the actual hiking started on the second full day (12.3 miles according to my health app) I realized what we were up against. The terrain was very steep and made the distance feel way longer than what I had pictured. I quickly learned that downhills were harder than uphills to some extent and that there were some muscles that I had never really used before. After a very intense and certainly long day we made it down to Les Houches, where we were spending the night. Lying down in the hotel room after the hike felt amazing but I don’t think anything beat the feeling of looking up from the valley and way into the top of a mountain, spotting the refuge we had hot chocolate at just earlier that day. I felt so capable and strong because I had just made it all the way down that mountain! And if someone had asked me before if I could have done that I would have said no way.
Even with all of that accomplishment, the next day brought its challenges. Our muscles were in a lot of pain that walking to the supermarket to get lunch was difficult and another three days of hiking seemed close to impossible. We loaded up on medical KT tape and began our 8.6 miles. Even with a shorter distance the altitude gain was greater but I realized that once you find your hiking groove and really focus on your surroundings the pain and difficulties fade away and all that’s left is 9 girls, 2 chaperones, no shortage of mountains, and the trail. And later that night, after we reached our final destination for the evening, my new friend Lizzy and I even had the energy to hike up to the top of a mini mountain upwards of where the refuge was and watch the beautiful sunset and dazzling stars. The sky was clear and the town glittered in the valley down below. As a city girl, seeing stars is always special and was certainly rewarding that night.
The next day was even longer (16.8 miles) but felt even easier? I realized that I really was getting stronger and better at finding a rhythm on the trail. And with that, I could enjoy and appreciate the stunning views even more and the fact that I was actually hiking the Alps on the Tour du Mont Blanc. By the last day (8.7 miles) the hiking was a breeze and we were all extremely grateful to get on the shuttle and make our way to Courmayeur, Italy. Even so, I knew that really, I could keep going on the Tour du Mont Blanc and finish the second half. Someday, maybe I will. For now I am going to keep challenging myself to find out what I’m capable of because I had no idea that hiking 46.4 miles in four days was on that list.
I am so grateful for the Majestic Alps trip because it was an absolutely incredible way to prove to myself that I am strong, both inside and out. It was the most thrilling and inspiring trip of my life and I am now encouraged to keep pushing myself and to understand the vast beauty of stars, mountains, glaciers, and more that a small portion of the world had to offer.
If you’re interested in going on a Destination, check out the GSUSA website.
Learn more about other GCNWI travel opportunities.