It’s another batch of NOLS blog entries!

As the students begin travelling across the country to participate in various community service projects, we thought you might enjoy reading another batch of journal entries from the NOLS segment of the Gap Semester Program.  Each paragraph is written from a different student’s perspective.  It is incredibly inspiring to read about their experiences!  We will continue to update our Flickr stream and Facebook page with photos as they arrive – check back in often, and please share the blog with your family and friends!

After a few minutes of mourning the loss of technology on our 3 hour long bus ride to the Absorca’s, our anxiety began to wear off. People were spinning around in their seats, telling stories and playing games. Somewhere in the midst of all the chatter, I forgot to keep missing my family and friends, iPhone, internet and Macbook. This is just the beginning of a whole new way of life, living unplugged.

Today was one of the most enlightening and cleansing experiences that I have ever had. It was a lay-over day and we started the day with learning how to make cinnamon rolls. That was really fun and they ended up being very tasty. I started to think about how I hardly ever had experiences like this with my friends back home. I know it’s only day five or so, but I feel incredibly close to everyone here. It was very powerful.

Our day normally started off at 7 am with everyone cooking breakfast in the tent groups. While the food was cooking, the L.O.D.’s planned the hiking course for the day, which was the hardest day so far.  Going 1,500 ft of elevation was very difficult for some, but was worth every second when we reached the peak. The 30-50mph winds were tough going up, but the nearly indescribable view was worth every ache along the way.  The realization that as long as you keep pushing through something difficult you will eventually persevere and accomplish the goal.  This was about a week into our trip and each group is now into a certain groove with setting up tents, cooking food, hiking, etc. With each new day everyone is becoming more self sufficient and learning to enjoy the little things. Overall, today was a great day of hiking and personally my favorite day of the trip thus far.

Today we didn’t hike, instead we stayed in camp and were able to have a day of rest and relaxation. Although it was a less strenuous day physically, our minds still got a work out with the several different classes we attended. However the coolest part of the day, to me at least, was during our free time.  The day before, some friends and I went exploring for a place where we could completely submerge into the freezing river water. Needless to say we found it, but the huge discovery was the 40ft. water fall just around the corner from our little pool. So today we decided to go back. The waterfall was beautiful, but I decided I wanted more than just a sight, I wanted an experience! So I stripped down to my boots and underwear and went for a shower. The water was freezing but totally worth it. I’ll always remember taking my shower in the waterfall.

Each day at NOLS presents 3 types of challenges; physical challenges, spiritual challenges, and emotional challenges. This weakness and “smallness” really forces one to confront and challenge one’s spirituality. In a culture where our focus is so self-centered and focused on building up ego. Where does the over-powering perfection and strength of nature come in? When you look at our short and small lives in comparison to the wisdom and power of the mountains, our worries seem sort of childish. Through this confrontation of previously held ideals and the realization of the greatness of the world around us spirituality is found and strengthened. Which is one of the most intense emotional challenges in itself.

Today is re-ration day. We get to go grocery shopping for all new goodies. I am very excited to get different types of new food we can make awesome meals. We have some master chefs in all the groups. Different groups have made fantastic pizza, awesome hashbrowns, and delicious brownies. Today we also got to do our first feedback with our tent groups.  For each person we made one positive and one constructive for three different aspects; leadership, technical skills, and expedition behavior. I thought this was really cool because you cannot do something like this anywhere else. It definitely helps you grow as a person.

Before I get into my first fall, I must explain who I am. I am the type of person who will fall walking up stairs (and down), who will fall tripping over their own feet, and who fall on completely flat ground. Gravity is not my friend. On our first day of hiking I was really excited to get started, but that was before I realized the terrain we were walking on. When I think of backpacking I think of happy people walking on grass going on trails up and down hills and mountains. We ended up spending about 50% of the time walking on big rocks, where a stream used to be. We crossed streams that were slippery, (somehow I stayed balanced) and we walked on jagged, big, randomly placed rocks. With adding about 40-50 pounds on my back that I am not used to, I was certain I was going to fall. We were about 45 mins to an hour into the hike and I was feeling good; I stepped over this big tree branch and one foot made it over, but the other did not. I ended up going face first onto these jagged, big, and randomly placed rocks. Normally this is not a big deal to me, but when you have 40-50 pounds on your back, it is quite a bit harder to get up. So I rolled onto my side, and squirmed around trying to get up, but could not. Now, I just met the people I was hiking with 2 days earlier, so seeing me fall was new to them; they didn’t know how to react. I started laughing and explained I was okay, and one of my tent mates helped me up. I ended up with my first 2 bruises; one on each knee. Now every time I fall I just say, “Just another bruise to add to my collection.”

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