When you fall asleep knowing that the next day will be the hardest day of your life, how could you get out of bed in the morning? As the wind tossed snow in my face, jolting me awake, I realized I had no choice.
I was relieved to see the shelter I built the night before, consisting only of a tarp and twine,had survivedthe blizzard. It had been six days since we traveled to Minnesota with [url=http://www.outwardbound.org/index.cfm/do/exp.activity_detail/activity/Dogsledding]Outward Bound for this survival expedition,[/url] and my body was at its breaking point. I nearly cried at the sight of the dogs sitting on the frozen [url=http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gjAwhwtDDw9_AI8zPwhQoY6IeDdGCqCPOBqwDLG-AAjgb6fh75uan6BdnZaY6OiooA1tkqlQ!!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfMjAwMDAwMDBBODBPSEhWTjBNMDAwMDAwMDA!/?ss=110909&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&cid=FSE_003853&navid=091000000000000&pnavid=null&position=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&ttype=main&pname=Superior%2520National%2520Forest-%2520Home/bwcaw/]Boundary Waters,[/url] knowing what was ahead of me. But as I learned the night before, when it was twenty below zero, tears turned to ice before they even fell off your cheek.
After packing the dogsled, I strapped on skis and a 70-pound pack and began my journey. I yearned for relief with each movement, but there was nowhere to go but forward. When I had finally gone two miles, a scream far behind me begged for help. The dogsled had tipped over and was lodged in slush that would soon turn to ice. After backtracking a mile to assist my familial travelers, the expedition went on. We traversed until the sun set, at which point we chose our final campsite.
Under the dim flicker of our exhausted headlamps, the ritual began. Chop down trees; saw and split wood for the fire. Cut a hole through the ice to gather drinking water.Boil it in the same pot you used to make dinner, giving the water a hint of fish stew. Tie knots with frozen fingers to build your shelter, and keep warm by running laps.
It was New Year’s Eve and we sat huddled around our fire, too tired to even talk, eating out of a bowl we would literally have to lick clean. But the frigid night was almost over and somehow I was still alive. My body could hardly move, and I had not showered in a week, or eaten a meal that I would have normally considered edible. Warmth was a distant memory.
Even though all of those challenges had seemed impossible, I had trekked miles across the unknown and survived. As the snow cascaded down from the starry sky onto me, I knew that when I went back home the next day, I would not forget the struggles I overcame. No matter how hard my life will ever get, I have been hungrier, thirstier, and colder. Even when my aching muscles protested, I pushed through the pain. Not only did I learn how tough it could be to be away from home when everything is taken away, but I also learned how much I could grow as a person when faced with difficulties. Throughout my life, I know that I am capable of succeeding.
I am braver and stronger than I ever believed I was.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.