Explore Week Reflection 2017

January 16th – 20th

Every year between Fall and Spring term, the BP students take a week to explore something they might not otherwise try in the form of a group project. There were three different options, but I was part of the group called Wilderness Expedition.

This workshop was focussed on allowing students to spend time outside in the woods, learning wilderness skills such as tracking, first aid, packing, and route planning. I wanted to do this to connect with the environment, to exercise, and to let go of all the thoughts in my head for a bit. I believe that people don’t spend enough time in nature. I truly believe getting outside can solve some of the world’s problems. Stress, hate, depression, self centeredness, cloudy thinking, even general unhealthiness can all be eased with the help of nature. We as humans are meant to be outside and free, not cooped up in boxes of our own creation. During the week, we travelled to two different areas for snowshoeing, Bolton’s nordic trails and Mt Mansfield.

Our main instructor was Kevin, an avid environmentalist and mountaineer. Lundie, another BP advisor, accompanied us to the mountains. On the first day, we planned our trip. We began the morning with a demonstration of equipment that might be used on a mountaineering trip. Then we read a story by our inspiration, John Muir. It all felt very exciting and hands on. Since I am a naturally curious person, always looking to explore and try new things, I was instantly intrigued. A highlight was when Kevin lit a cotton ball covered in vaseline on fire to show us how easily it would burn in case of an emergency requiring heat. Afterwards, we made a list of the 10 essential things we would bring with us on a wilderness trip and compared it to the generally accepted one. Matt and Mason then went on to plan the routes we would take, while Hannah, Sam, and Savanah looked at animal tracks we might see on our journeys. Thomas and I researched typical first aid scenarios. Some of them included hypothermia or heat loss, frostbite, blisters and splints.

On the second day we hiked around a short distance on the trails at Bolton. It was like the getting into it day. People hadn’t built up their stamina or mental fortitude yet. We didn’t know what clothes it would take to stay warm or what equipment we would need for sure yet. It was cold and we found a lodge to explore. After a while we stopped for lunch under some trees and took off our snowshoes and listened to a story about grizzlies read by my lovely friend Matt and then we ran around laughing and tackled each other into the snow for a bit before heading back. The day at Mount Mansfield we headed out at a brisker pace. We had to break every so often, maybe every ten or fifteen minutes to drink or take off a layer. Snow hiking is harder than you might expect. We didn’t complain though, the teachers remarked on that. We lost the trail briefly a couple of times, and we played a game about tracking, and another about predators and prey before heading on our way. After a long while, we made it to the first rocky outcropping where we could see the view. It was stunning. Looking out from the side of a mountain for the first time always takes my breath away and makes me want to jump off just a little bit. We headed on. One or two more outlooks passed by and we eventually stopped for lunch. Eventually we reached the top of where we were going to make it that day, and we took part in a medical simulation. Matt had “fallen off a small cliff into a stream”, “hurt his ankle” and “gotten his legs wet”. We took off his shoes and snowpants and rolled him into a tarp and sleeping bag burrito. We also practiced lighting the tiny stove. The sun was going down so Matt put his pants and shoes back and we headed out. We basically slid all the way down the mountain on our feet and our butts depending on the pitch and the depth of the snow. At the bottom, we did a silent walk out. I often expect more from things like that. I didn’t realise anything integral to how I would live life in the future. But, maybe my expectations were too high. I did get a lot out of this trip, I just need more time, more similar experiences. At any rate, it was fun to be outside with my peers, especially those in the other advisory who I don’t get to spend much time with. I am always drawn to adventuresome experiences and this time was no different. I can say with absolute sincerity that I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.

I am naturally an outdoorsy person, always searching for new things and places to explore. Wilderness learning provides a base of interest that I can use to spur me forward. Unlike a classroom approach, there are always multiple sources of information and ways to get to it in the outdoors. Also, a physical component makes it much easier to focus on the learning at hand. We didn’t just research first aid, we held a mock injury scenario to practice our skills. We didn’t just read about tracking, we played games that allowed us to look for tracks and identify them. And, we actually hiked the routes that we planned. There is only so much that can be accomplished by reading before a point is reached where the skill must actually be practiced. Also, it causes the knowledge to stick better. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to practice first aid in a real setting, I feel like I could recall the information to do it again if needed. Additionally, it gave me experience to help decide whether medicine is something I am interested in pursuing in the future.

The proficiency I addressed during this week was “integrate knowledge from a variety of sources to set goals and make informed decisions”. Since this week was largely focussed on planning and then completing our plans, I think this is accurate. We used a book by John Muir, the internet, multiple books that Kevin owned, maps, previous experiences, and Kevin’s own knowledge base to help us decide where to go for our expeditions and how to approach the scenarios we came across while in the elements. We had to decide how far to hike before turning back the way we came, what types of clothing to wear, what to bring with us and how to use it in case of an emergency. Although we didn’t hike as far as we were hoping to on either day, we definitely learned a lot about how to brave the cold in search of adventure.

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