I took a whitewater rafting course with the NationalOutdoorLeadershipSchool during the summer before senior year, mainly because I was sick of boring summers, and finally wanted to do something productive and exciting while I’m still young and stress free. That two and a half weeks turned out to be one of the most challenging yet amazing experiences I’ve ever had, and it was worth every penny I took from my savings account.
I had planned to travel to the rural town of Vernal, Utah from New Hampshire on my own, but luckily I met the majority of the other participants at the Denver airport. We flew into town, dined together, and all stayed at the Lamplighter Inn that night before our course begin. The instructors picked us up very early in the morning and brought us to the school’s base. From there, our adventure began.
Our group traveled down Desolation and LadoreCanyons in kayaks and rafts for an average of eight hours a day while learning how to maneuver through rapids, and camped on beaches along the river. We lived with nature while practicing Leave No Trace techniques that included dumping all our liquid wastes in the water, and taking solid wastes with us. The instructors gave us environmental classes on a daily basis that taught us about the ecosystem we were in: from how the geography was formed to how the specific climate and wildlife affected the way we had to act while staying there. We were also given ample opportunities to develop and grow our leadership skills, from simple acts of organizing a dish line to being Leader of the Day. One of the most challenging aspects was being able to put group work before your own issues, and being willing to always do more than your own share.
What I thought made this trip absolutely unforgettable were the people I met: there were two girls including me, nine boys, and four instructors. Everyone on the trip came from different parts of the country, and all had cultural differences just from living in different regions, but I’ve never seen fifteen people with so much diversity getting along so well. Coming from a rural town and small school myself, it was so refreshing to meet new characters that had unusual interests in their lives and were influenced by almost a different society.
“Let’s make it happen!” our lead instructor would always say. The phrase had flowed its way into the memory of all the participants on the trip, and is the representation of all the hard work, excitement, and determination we shared on the adventure. The course not only offered outdoor living and leadership skills, but it also gave me invaluable social growth and attitude.
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