This Sunday, after one hour of sleep and a two hour drive to Boston, I boarded the early morning flight to Vegas with all but two of my Mountain Classroom mates. The flight was long, long enough to do some real thinking. I sat in my seat, contemplating my decision to go on this trip. Was I prepared?
I had brought all the essentials: backpack, sleeping bag, clothes for hot, cold, and wet conditions. I was pretty sure I had everything I would need to stay relatively comfortable. So, physically, I was prepared. Mentally, I still had my reservations. I had not yet convinced myself that I could do this. The trip is a fully immersive outdoor experience, there will be many challenging front-country and backcountry treks. While taking on all types of weather, I will be tasked with keeping up with my school work, and more importantly, maintaining my status as a supportive and attentive team member (That status is achieved by simply going on this trip, I do not lead any more than my peers, however each of us is equally responsible for the functionality of our group). So as I sat in the plane, I felt worried, but I was still excited. I had expected to have some doubts, so I was not blind-sided by these sudden reservations.
As planned, we landed and made our way to baggage claim. Erica and Quinn found us hanging with the limo drivers in the pick-up area. With a few hi’s and hello’s, and a goodbye to our phones, our journey officially began. We pulled into the campsite at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation and I was immediately overtaken by the surrounding terrain. Behind our camp laid a vast desert floor, shrubs and the occasional cactus lined the ground in a pleasingly ordered fashion, each sprout of life given a roughly five foot radius of space for which it could garner nutrients from the desolate soil. To our left and right stood two towering rocky plateaus, they gave us the impression of being totally secluded from the nearby city. Finally, in front of us stood the grand towers of the Red Rock Canyon. Striking mountains of multi colored rock, centuries of different rock eras on display before our eyes. The defining color of the region, red, was painted across these pillars of rock. It was striking, absolutely one of the best views I’ve been able to witness. My initial worries for this trip had begun to dissipate. Luckily we would be spending the next week here as we quarantined in preparation for our journey.
Because of our Covid regulations for this week, we slept under the stars, with no tent. Luckily the temperatures stayed comfortable and I was able to enjoy each night with my head out of my sleeping bag, staring at the bright night sky. We spent the first couple days getting situated, learning the roles of the ten separate daily jobs, figuring out how to use the stoves, and we also had the intros to our different classes. We even had to learn a different way to brush our teeth. As the days began to tick by we all started to get accustomed to this new experience.
On the third day of our new desert life we got to go on our first climbing expedition! Most of us had never climbed before and at the start it definitely showed. Quinn and Erica made it look easy and Baxter and Camden showed off their experience as well. On my first climb, I was able to get about halfway up before Annie had to pull the rope tight to stop my feet from losing their grip on the slippery rock face. After another hour of climbing I began to sorta get the hang of it and I was able to reach the top of another climb without the assistance of the rope. I left the three hour session feeling incredible, scaling these rock walls had brought me a totally new high filled with adrenaline and an awesome feeling of success upon reaching the top of the climb. Many of us agree that that was a super time, I cannot wait for the next climbing day.
As the week came to a close, we got our Covid tests and headed into town to do some food shopping for our upcoming backcountry expedition. We were productive and thoughtful in our food planning/shopping and the whole day went very smoothly. We now turn our eyes towards Escalante, Utah, where we will trek into the Coyote Gulch Canyon. I’m excited for the new experiences to come, for the next months to be filled with journeying, laughing, exploring, and learning.
- Nate '21