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My summer tale of survival at Bear Grylls academy

Credit: Kidsday illustration / Isabella Kaspiev

Many people have cool or funny summer vacation stories, but mine is the most dangerous. I conquered the Bear Grylls Survival Academy in the Catskills.

The first day I got to the campsite, something was fishy, and I knew this was not going to be a summer vacation. The campsite had two little yurts (a circular domed tent of skins), an outhouse, a big fire pit and an outdoor shower. It was normal the first day, as if we were in a regular camp, but the second day we began full survival mode. We left the camp, crossed the road, rappelled 25 feet, crossed a river and stayed on a big, island-like piece of land in the river.

That night for dinner, we dressed and ate a rabbit. We all had to make a shelter in order to have cover for the night. I decided to build mine out of sticks, fern leaves and my rain jacket, which really wasn’t waterproof. When I woke up, not only was it a little cold that morning, there was a puddle of water in my sleeping bag. I was cold, hungry and wet. I wished I had never said yes to going here.

After a miserable night, we began the next journey. I went hiking up a rocky, muddy lumber trail and then zip-lined over a deep ravine. I was pushed to my breaking point so many times during this trip, but I kept on going because I had no other choice. In survival mode, we learned to build a giant signal fire. After that we rappelled 48 feet down a steep cliff.

The fourth day we hiked up a mountain. We were hiking to a 40-foot waterfall, which we would rappel down the next day. We had to stay overnight on the mountain, and when the sun went away, sure enough, it got really cold.

The fifth day we hiked the rest of the way to the waterfall. The water was moving so fast that it was like the rapids. I was the first one to conquer this beast, and boy, was I proud. I changed so much from the beginning to the end of the hike. I accomplished things I never thought I could. When everyone was down, Ben lit a smoke grenade and I and the other kids got to hold it. The final day had come and I was relieved to see my mom and sister had come to pick me up. That’s how I lived to tell the tale of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy (

Meagan Miller’s students, Ivy League School, Smithtown

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