jacobswellJacob’s Well was one of many on my never-ending list of natural wonders to visit here in Texas. But somehow, in my 25 years of life so far, I hadn’t been out to the small town of Wimberly to see it with my own eyes. Thankfully, that changed last weekend when I attended a volunteer retreat!

I knew it would be beautiful; people in Austin, Texas talk bout the stunning sights all the time, but to my surprise, it was so much more beautiful than I had pictured. I volunteer for an incredible nonprofit based in Austin called The Amala Foundation,which seeks to transform the lives of youth worldwide and inspire them to become leaders in their communities. If you’re unfamiliar with Amala, they’re responsible for hosting the Global Youth Peace Summit in Texas and in California every year, and because of the grace and generosity of the great people of Austin, Amala received enough donations this year to be able to hold the world’s first international Global Youth Peace Summit in Kenya this year.

To ensure that the volunteers who build the foundation of these youth camps are all on the same page, Amala hosts a volunteer retreat, and because life is good, this summer’s retreat took place at Jacob’s Well. I couldn’t have been more excited! Two of my greatest joys in life-being outdoors and Amala- were joining forces.

Volunteers started pouring in Saturday morning. We were lucky enough to call the private property surrounding Jacob’s Well home for the weekend, as the landowners are friends of Amala. Though we had the option of staying inIMG_1073doors in bunkhouses, I was actually looking forward to camping out in the open air because the weather was perfect and we were equipped with 2 new tents, the Kelty Salida 2 and the Sierra Designs Flash 2. So I found a mature Texas Live Oak tree and set up camp.

You know how camping seems really fun and exciting until you start to assemble the tent and find yourself lost in miscellaneous unidentifiable parts and pieces? That’s where my head was before I started, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy it turned out to be. The whole process ‐ for both tents ‐ took just under 15 minutes. Really. That’s it! And it probably would have taken less time if we weren’t also carrying on a conversation during the set‐up process. There were no instructions needed. As soon as you take it out of the bag, it instantly makes sense. The poles that give the tent its structure are magnetic and snap together easily. Both tents felt spacious and roomy with two campers inside. The Kelty tent could easily fit 3 small‐to‐average sized people snuggly, and the Sierra Designs tent, which is a bit larger, could possibly fit 4 people who aren’t scared of getting real close. I was also able to lay downIMG_1075 2 large sleeping pads in the Kelty tent with extra room to spare for our bags and gear.

Both tents also include a rain fly, which came in very helpful the second night of the retreat. Not a single drop seeped in through the top. And an added bonus, the rain fly did a great job of blocking out sunlight when we felt the urge to take a mid-afternoon nap. Tearing down the tents was as easy breezy as setting up. At first we tried to fold everything compactly, but realized that it’s much easier to lay out all the layers flat on the ground, squeezing out all the air, and then bundle the poles and use them to roll up the tent into a cylinder shape. It slides easily into the stuff sack this way.

When Sunday afternoon came around, we splasIMG_1072hed around in Jacob’s Well once more. The cold waters of this well are pretty comparable to Barton Springs or Deep Eddy (two spring fed natural pools in Austin, Texas), but the water is much clearer and the area overall is way less crowded. And there’s a lot more natural wildlife to see such as deer, lizards and birds.

What an easy, relaxing weekend. We’re still dreaming about it. To learn more about the heart of The Amala Foundation and the work they do for the Austin and international youth community, please check out this page. To aid in their efforts, ACK was able to donate 75 Lil Gator Sunscreens, courtesy of Aloe Gator.