The Reward of Long Courses

‘Hey! All you’ve done today is follow us around and say, ‘What do you think?’’

My students just realized that they had been hiking in the wrong direction for the last few hours, and they were pissed. It was mid-afternoon and there was no way that they would reach their intended campsite before dark. As their Instructors, we had been following them all day, just out of sight but never out of earshot. They quarreled for a few minutes before turning on us.”

An article on 22-Day courses for the OB USA Blog:

Why Are Long Courses So Rewarding?

The Execution of All Things

“and the charms that she got from travel are starting to wear off…”

Rilo Kiley was the soundtrack to the heady Maryland summer after high school graduation. I devoured their catalogue my senior year and that summer their music would drift, familiar and ignored, from the car speakers, barely audible over the open windows as I drove home from work in my mom’s car. Some nights I would stop at the edge of the middle school soccer field—the only place in that flat suburb with a view—and watch the heat lightning thump lazily across the heavy sky. My own veins electrified, my elbows covered in chocolate ice cream smears I wouldn’t find till the next morning. Only with air still and engine quiet would the lyrics reach me. And even then they were poorly filtered through a brain full of excitement, anticipation and fear. I had made my first independent life decision a few months earlier—I would not be going to college that fall—and was drunk on the feelings of freedom and iconoclasm.

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Rocky Soil: My Gap Year

“I cracked under the pressure to get straight A’s in as many honors and AP classes as possible. I cracked under the pressure to have meaningful summer experiences to write college entrance essays about. I cracked under the pressure to serve my community, be a good friend/daughter/sister, make some money and be thin and attractive. I cracked trying to be the best at all of my many extracurricular activities so I could show colleges I was both well-rounded and exceptional. I cracked trying to balance all that while simultaneously experimenting with all the world had to offer, while trying to discover who I was and who I wanted to be. Plus, hormones.” Continue reading

The Friend Zone

“Why couldn’t I have just loved bowling or had a wild passion for Sudoku?”

We were standing at our basecamp under Antisana, scoping the next day’s route through binoculars. Both Tyler and I were on the Ecuadorian Weight-Loss Plan. We had spent the last few days downing charcoal tablets and passing off the dwindling roll of toilet paper as we sprinted to the plastic barrel that was our camp latrine. Despite that, we had continued with our glacier travel training, learning and practicing all we could that week on the blue and snowy ice looming above us. We were exhausted. Everyone was. Continue reading

Out at the Roots

“When we were in Independence I got a sampling of what I’m like out there vs. out here. When you’ve been in the mountains for a while, away from mirrors and pictures and TV and the internet, you have a certain image of yourself. Idealized, maybe, but it stems from how you feel rather than how you feel stemming from how you look. I always come out of the woods to that sinking disappointment that I am not as physically beautiful, strong, thin, etc. as I feel I am. It may be shallow, but it’s real. I’m not looking forward to returning to that constant mental battle.”

I wrote that in my journal this time last year. Sarah and I were staying at a motel in Independence, CA for our last resupply on the John Muir Trail, only a few days away from the summit of Mt. Whitney and the end of our journey. I am frustrated and ashamed to admit that this is not unusual. I feel this way every time I see myself again: after every backpacking course, every climbing trip, every summit and ridge traverse. Continue reading

Liz ‘Snorkle’ Thomas on Hiking Alone

“Despite the cultural taboos, I decided almost 10 years ago to backpack solo from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. Those first few nights camping alone I was on such high alert that the U.S. Army Rangers, who use the trail to practice stealth travel skills, failed their mission. As they attempted to sneak past my lone hammock, I shined my headlamp on them. Dejected, the men disappeared into the woods, their training officer chastising them. Continue reading

Lady Knight

Alanna, the protagonist of my favorite books by Tamora Pierce, cuts off all her hair, disguising herself as a boy, and switches places with her twin brother Thom so that she can move to the castle and become a knight. She doesn’t want to be a lady of the court; she wants to have adventures! Over the next ten years and four books she defeats villains both mortal and otherwise, earns her shield, learns all kinds of useful skills from swordplay to picking locks to magic, makes sweet love to a handsome prince, goes on grand adventures, wins wars and the heart of the King of Thieves, becomes the shaman of a hostile desert tribe, and walks into the land of legend to find the Dominion Jewel, which she brings back just in time to save her kingdom. Naturally, I want to be her. Continue reading