8-17-15. Day Four.
Today began with a gentle shove from a tent mate and the fast realization of where I was. As a group we quickly dressed in all our layers, packed up our sleeping bags and pads, shoved our feet into frost-covered boots and made the 100+ pace hike to the “kitchen.” Breakfast consisted of a lazy bagel smothered in either butter or peanut butter, a handful of raisins and the always exciting gulp of water. After a quick stretch circle, morning meeting and pack packing session, we were studying maps and planning routes in our daily hiking groups. Today we were with Brandon, a young hiking enthusiast who lives out of his car and splits his time between NOLS work and teaching students about backcountry first aid. In other words he is all about the hiking! Together with Brandon our group plotted our 3-mile hike course to our next camp site. Our terrain consisted of steep embankments, on top of which sat huge boulder formations with spectacular views, huge stretches of willows a normal person would use waders to cross, and large rolling grassy meadows. Overall an amazing variety of all the wonderful environments Wyoming has to offer. We left camp around 10 and spent the next 4 ½ hours making fun and interesting conversation, snacking on wildflowers like the harebell and munching on grouse berries. The amount of information Brandon has to share is crazy. He is literally a vault of plant names, map skills, and fascinating nature nuggets (tidbits of info). He spent the morning and part of the afternoon pointing out plants, walking us through scenarios and picking apart mule deer poop. Just a normal day in the woods. At one point we were sitting on top of a knoll on a gargantuan boulder overlooking the drainage of Horseshoe lake and a giant mountain ridge along the Continental Divide covered in glacier ice, boulders in avalanche position and bluffs with struggling trees. I’d never seen anything like it. We stopped, had a snack and did some necessary foot care before continuing on to camp. All in all a wonderful day spent doing rewarding and challenging work with awesome people. -Krisandra Provencher
Journal Day 5 8/18/15
Wow! It’s day five here in Wind River and I can’t believe that only a week ago I was at home in my own bed. It has been a full five days, but absolutely incredible. I’ve been camping before – pretty intensely too- but this is a whole new world in NOLS. Not only have I already learned a ton about camping, cooking and the environment, but I have also been challenged beyond anything before in my emotional and physical limits. So far we’ve hiked through rivers, over mountains, across boulder fields, under fallen tree trunks and through six foot high Willow fields – making our own trails most of the way. We’ve cooked pancakes and pizzas, seen a moose and her calf on multiple occasions, reached 10,000 feet in elevation, and crossed the continental divide. It has been crazy. Lots of fun with a few low spots, but I can’t wait to see what the next 20 days hold. I have moments when I miss my family and home, but I’m coming to learn that the 17 other people here are my new family. One that supports one another well and is also pretty hysterical. This group is pretty awesome to say the least. -Eliza Upton
My alarm rang around 6:45 am and you would think since it was day 3 of college that I’d be waking up for my 8am or to write a paper that was due later in the day. But as I slowly rolled over to hit the snooze button like I normally would I realized I had no idea where I was. I slowly opened my eyes expecting to peer over and see my roommate making coffee but instead I opened my eyes to pure darkness. In a bit of a mild panic I quickly put my hands out (maybe the power in my dorm had gone out overnight.) but all I felt on either side was sleeping bag. A sleeping bag. For college? It didn’t hit me in that moment as I slowly rose to the top of my (bag?) that for the first 23 days of college I would be spending my time hiking in the Wind River Range. No dorm room just a tent and a sleeping bag. Maybe I should be slightly worried since I had 23 days to go and I couldn’t even find my way to the top of my sleeping bag but I was up to the challenge. I rose and made my way to the kitchen to have my first cooking lesson with Brandon, one of our NOLS instructors. Learning to make hashbrowns, not such a bad early morning class. As the hashbrowns sizzled on the fry bake I listened to the chirping of the birds and watched as a chipmunk scattered over a nearby rock. Although my pants were slightly wet with dew I didn’t mind. The Wind River Range is my home for my next few weeks and in the end I’d rather be sleepy at the base of mountains than writing papers. -Lyn Nelson
Aug. 18 – Day 5. It’s crazy to think that tomorrow is already our first reration. So much has happened already, it’s impossible to put in to words. Today was an early morning and another day waking up with cold feet (have found a good solution for this however :D) We made biscuits for breakfast, which were delicious! This morning was a little hectic getting everyone going but the hike turned out to be very satisfying. It was probably by far the longest and toughest hike we’d done this far but I was in a very good place mentally which was awesome. This was also the first day we were given the opportunity to use the map and guide our own way to camp. At the end of it all, I felt very satisfied. I look forward to a day of laundry, self-care and eating (12 days is a lot of food = a lot of weight!) All for now. -Elizabeth McDonald
8/19/15 Sitting here on a ledge looking over the beautiful foliage around Simpson lake I finally find time to take a seat and blog. I’ve never really blogged before so bear with me. We just finished rationing our food and supplies. I was in charge of sorting the maps and that went well. What I really want to talk about this morning is the importance of smelling oils/spices before using them in cooking. 5 days ago our, our first night, I was the head chef and prepared cheese quesadillas for our group. I had the tortillas and cheese all ready and after turning the stove on reached into the oil bag to release the oil. You should know that the bags are filled with containers of liquids of various sizes. I reached for what I thought was the cooking oil and poured a good bit into the fry pan. After throwing on a tortilla and cooking the cheese to perfection, we were ready to eat. At that point I should have thought something was up because of all the bubbles in the pan. The first person to take a bite gagged and spit it out. I was scared, was my cooking that bad? I then took a bite and once it touched my mouth I honestly spit it out. Turns out we used soap instead of oil. Well so far that’s the best lesson that I’ve learned here is sniff before you use. -Jack Kapes
Day 1 of our journey I ended up kneeling in a pretty big pile of dung. Yet even though that happened I found myself having a great time. Everyone was in high spirits and the sites we were hiking through were beautiful! The best part of the day was seeing the sky filled with stars, more than you’d be able to find in any city. Even if you don’t know anything about constellations you could see the variety of shapes seamlessly forming before you. So far I’ve only seen a single shooting star, but we’re only on Day 6 so I’m certain I’ll see at least two before we leave. This adventure is quite difficult but equally rewarding. It’s time to go for now, so I guess I’ll end this with a “wish us luck!” and a “signing off!” -Anthony Fraden
The reminder for ten more minutes rings out. The pace of breakfast kitchen clean up quickens as we rush to meet the deadline of 8:45 to be ready for morning lessons and our plan for the day. It feels like I’ve done this a hundred times. It’s only been 6 days.
I’m not sure if I am jumping the gun but living like this feels all too comfortable. We are here as individuals but not the individuals we were when we began. Generosity and interest in the common good rule the atmosphere on the trail and in camp. There is no indifference or contempt. No jealousy or gossip that plagues young adults our age. We care about food, we care about water, and we care about each other. Without each other we lose this phenomenal opportunity to gain knowledge we didn’t even know was out there.
I know it’s been 6 days but I’ve made friends for life. I’m not 18, I’m a child in a glorious new world that fills me with a fresh sense of wonderment at every turn, and I have 14 new friends to explore it with. -Gabe Thornton
The peaceful morning is interrupted by the chills of the night prior. As I squatted for what was my first poop, the meadow danced under the blue sky. Mother nature, so far, has seemed to be a big tease, changing on us at every turn.
It was one of the more eventful days of the trip so far. This lake we hiked to might just be the best at hide and go seek. We travelled in a hook formation. Even though we passed it 2 hours prior to reaching the camp site. Maybe one of the best bonding moments I have ever had. Great start, hoping for an amazing finish.
The days have gone by so quickly that every day seems to be blurred together. The mixture of blue skies and dark clouds flood the sky. We travel through, over, around mountains. The rock faces might be some of the coolest thing ever, I am just dying to climb them. The positive vibes of the group have help shield me missing everything I left back home – my mom, dad, and girlfriend. I love them and miss them all. I am no longer counting down the days, but rather living in the moment. These people are my family and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Nothing can beat right now.
Shout out to my girlfriend, Mary Grace, happy 1 year!
At the risk of being cliche, HI MOMS!
Everything’s been pretty crazy here. I’ve never been more aggravated to get up in the morning; crazy early and shivering in my tent. This is, however, balanced out by the next 30-40 seconds when I actually step out of the tent and am taken aback by some of the most majestic views I’ve ever woken up to. An interesting dichotomy for sure, and ultimately one that I think is definitely worth the next 19 days of my life. Before we actually left the Noble Hotel to embark on this insane journey, we talked about what we expected to gain in return for each day that we spent here, days that we could never get back. What we didn’t discuss, and couldn’t have possibly understood, was what other forms of metaphorical currency we would have to cash in to reap the benefits of this wild, whacky, and wonderful adventure, like the soreness in our muscles from lugging around these 50lb packs through some of the most untamed wilderness I have ever had the pleasure of traversing, or the absence of a magical box that at one point in time enabled us to eat whatever, whenever, or the luxury of knowing what our “home” will actually look like each day, once we finally manage to get there. But I think through the inherent act of cashing these things in, we gain things we never could otherwise, like the physical perseverance we didn’t know we had, or the not-so instant gratification of holistically preparing and then eating a meal after a long day’s hike, from setting up the stove to munching down on that first bite, or the child-like wonder of what beautiful landscape we’ll have the honor of calling home next, never being completely sure of what might happen. I find myself thriving on the excitement inherent in this level of uncertainty; something I find myself all the more able to enjoy given the assuredness of our group leaders and their steadfast commitment to making sure we’re safe and secure. Yet decidedly and invigoratingly out of our comfort zones; the only way I feel I can truly grow at this stage of my life. I send my sincerest sentiments of gratitude to all who helped me get here, for I know none of us could have gotten to this amazing place on our own.