Learning a memorable lesson in the mountains
Along with 12 other students, I went to the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness with Colorado Mountain College’s Mountain Orientation class last month. It’s a five-day field course emphasizing wilderness backpacking, safety procedures, ecology, geology, geography and group dynamics. I took the class mainly because I enjoy the experience of backpacking. Though I had been numerous times before, the trips were short, and I’d been with either my family or a tour guide. I set out to learn more about backpacking, and to gain the experience of a longer trip.During the course I learned a lot, from setting up my tent and operating the stoves (which I still have trouble with) to working with other students. We had to work closely, whether as cooking partners or as leaders of the day who were responsible for knowing where the group was, and where we needed to go. All of this involved making decisions together and achieving goals.One component of our reading for the trip was the idea that uncertainty is a pillar of wisdom. While I do believe this is true, uncertainty is both exhilarating and terrifying. I had to confront the aspect of myself that craves knowing what is going to happen and needing to be in control. In the wilderness, many things happen that are completely out of the control of us “visitors.” By the end of the trip, I appreciated being more in touch with the environment and feeling as though I was a part of it.During these five days, I gained an appreciation for silence and solitude. While I love music, in our modern world we are constantly surrounded by sound, and it becomes somewhat of an addiction. I was thankful for the time to hear myself think, and being in a place where iPods don’t belong. The solo portion of the trip was also a wonderfully reflective time. I was mostly undisturbed, and this enabled me to reflect on my personal goals and my beliefs. While I try to do this all the time in daily life, it is difficult to do when there are constant distractions.The experience also led me to believe there is a “wildness” in all of us – a wildness that is sometimes hard to be in touch with when we are surrounded by straight edges, buildings, cars and regulations. I loved how this trip allowed me to just be wild and free. The jagged edges of the mountains, the amazing colors of the sunsets and flowers all reminded me that there is a world outside of the sometimes dull business of everyday life.I learned things from this trip that I hope to carry with me forever. I grew from my relationships with the other students, and hope that I can carry the kindness I tried to practice with them into future situations. I am also carrying the sense of personal responsibility I learned into other aspects of my life. We always had to clean up after meals, so I find now that I do my own dishes more regularly. Because I experienced being free from distractions, I am trying to be more mindful that I am a human “being” rather than a human “doing.” Overall, this was a rich and rewarding experience that I will always remember.Morgan Hill will graduate from CMC in December with an associate of arts degree. She plans to transfer to a four-year institution to study environmental science. This essay is based on a reflective paper she wrote for Mountain Orientation.
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