The students have successfully completed the first portion of the Gap Semester Program! After receiving their handwritten blog posts, the Gap program committee spent time transcribing several entries to get us started. The stories below reflect the first 6 days on the trail, as told from 8 different student perspectives. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
A New Adventure:
Day 1 of hiking
A few minutes after 7:00am, our group met with a wonderful NOLS instructor named Sydney. She taught us how to configure and use the small burners that would allow us to cook our breakfasts and dinners for the next 18 days. We made hot drinks first, and learned how comforting they are on a chilly, early morning before the sun shows her brilliant rays. Beginning to learn the ways of outdoor life is awe-inspiring, and finally our fortunate reality.
Today’s hike was an introduction into the perseverance and need for a positive attitude that this adventure will require. Our hike was around 5 miles on and off trails. We learned to search for the paths of least resistance, whether they were established paths or not. The day was exhausting and fulfilling and I definitely learned the importance of staying well fed, well hydrated, and fully sun-screened. Today was also our first introduction to the motto of “the real work begins when you get to camp.” As much as we would have loved to lie down on a couch and order pizza after our long day: where’s the fun in that? Coming together to set up our “home” for the night and cook our meal (that would have tasted amazing no matter what was in it) bonded our groups and definitely proved to me that pushing yourself when you least want to can yield great results. We all made awesome dinners and got to talk with our cook group about the different experiences that we all had on the trail that day. We all went to bed feeling not just exhausted but rather extremely accomplished.
We did our first major hike today. I think it was around 5 miles. We traveled up in the mountains and on the rocks along the river. I think I prefer mountain hiking – at least at the moment. The river rocks are tricky footing and crossing water frequently takes time. Our leader today taught the group an awesome step for going up steep hills with heavy packs on. It’s called the rest step. Learning that trick kind of opened my eyes to the possibilities of tweaking some of the little things that I do on this trip to be more efficient. Overall- awesome day, challenging, but oh so worth it!
Today was a much shorter hike. Even though it was still 3 miles or so, it was very enjoyable. The landscape here is beautiful. Everywhere you look seems like a picture rather then real. The lack of humidity is still strange to me, since I am from North Carolina I’m used to a constant heat throughout the day with only a slight temperature change at night. Here it gets hot during the day and then there is a dramatic drop in temperature as soon as the sun drops behind a mountain. It’s just very different from what I’m used to. It’s strange to think we’ve only been out here for 4 days. It feels much shorter. I guess it’s because there is always work to be done and everybody is busy. I’ve cooked every meal, which has been fun. I’m learning how to make a variety of foods and it’s really interesting. Tomorrow is a layover day, so we will get to relax and go to some classes. Even though environmental science is not my favorite subject, being around the topic that we’re studying, makes it much more interesting. Just being able to relax our muscles and regain some strength should be great. Hopefully the classes will be interesting and I’ll be able to learn a lot.
This morning, one of our instructors gave us an inspirational quote about seeing the best in every situation. At certain times, positivity can seem tiresome. One thing that I am learning and the quote helped me is that cheerfulness is a choice, and we should always try to “look on the bright side of life.” And just like the leadership skills we are learning, I am going to try to apply this in all areas of my life.
Today was the first day since we started hiking that we had a layover day. That meant that we had a whole day to regain our strength in our bodies without hiking for a day. The best part about the layover day was not the rest that we got, but it was the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with four of my classmates under a waterfall. It was such a serene moment with the bright moon glowing about the flowing falls.
Today was a great day. We woke up early and we did something totally different – yoga. Our instructor set up a yoga class. After, everyone felt so relieved and refreshed. After yoga, we split up into hiking groups. It was nice to hike with these people because it was our first time on the trail together. This group was great. We all worked as a team and the 2.5 mile hike flew by. Our instructor introduced us to a new type of berry, known as red currants. After being in the wilderness for 6 days and eating so much dry food it is literally impossible to explain how amazing these berries tasted. We stayed at a spot for about 45 minutes just stuffing these red currants into our mouths. I am so glad I am here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Today overall the phrase “living in the moment” was really emphasized. I am excited to share more days out in the wilderness with such great people. I am learning numerous qualities from leadership skills to outdoor ethics and I can honestly say I feel I am growing as a person.