A huge flash surrounded me, followed immediately by a deafening clap of thunder. I looked across the steep drainage and could see the damage of a split, dead, and smoking tree. The fear already pounding in my heart gave another jolt. My eyes drifted up to the top of the pass, still another mile or more uphill. I looked over my shoulder, ignoring the intense strain on my back, and could see the sun sinking behind the mountains and knew our situation was about to get monumentally worse.
When I signed up for Outward Bound Wilderness I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I merely thought it might be a few miles of hiking each day, followed by sleeping in tents, and I had absolutely no intention of hiking through rain or getting myself dirty in any element. Day one of the course turned out to be a real shock for me, the minute we arrived at the trail head we were instructed to empty the contents of our duffle bags and given backpacks that would carry our shelter, food, and clothing for the following three weeks. It was another shock for me when we were instructed to put only two clean shirts, one pair of shorts, rain gear, hiking boots, and a warm jacket into our packs. Immediately the only thing popping into my head was, “Charlotte, what were you thinking when you signed up for this?”
The following day we were given an “easy” 12 mile hike through a winding valley, and we were also greeted with a thin blanket of snow to set up camp on. This was the first test of my physical capabilities as our group was thrown into the rough life of living in the backcountry in the middle of the Colorado wilderness. Each night we cooked food for the patrol, which included eight kids, and set up two tarps for everyone to sleep in for the night.
A glowing moon shone high above in the cloudless night sky as hoarse voices shouted around camp that it was time to get hiking for the day. My sore body did not want to move out of my warm, dry sleeping bag. The watch on my wrist read 1:00 AM as I rubbed my sleepy eyes. I knew it was going to be another brutal four hour hike to the summit of the mountain we were preparing to climb. I laced up my stiff hiking boots and prepared myself for the bitter cold I knew was about to come. After two miles, two thousand feet of elevation, and four hours later, our patrol walked on the edge of the fourteen thousand foot mountain we had just summated with sixty five pound backpacks strapped to us. I looked out across the harsh landscape of jagged snowcapped mountain peaks and watched as a faint glow of pink and yellow began to appear over the horizon. As the sun dawned, a new thought also dawned over my life as I came to realize that nothing else should matter accept for moments like these.
“There is more in us than we know. And if we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.” – Kurt Hahn. Outward Bound was more than just a physical test for me. It made me push myself to emotional limits and boundaries I had no idea that I could ever achieve. This trip forced me to realize what values and qualities I find important in myself, as well as for the people I am around to possess.
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