The Mountain Classroom group spent last week alone in the hills nearby Cascabel, AZ. It was a unique opportunity to be on solo for four nights on a beautiful stretch of desert preserved by the Cascabel Conservation Association. We prepared for our introspection by studying neurons and the quantifiable benefits of mindfulness, reading Herman Hesse's Siddhartha set 2500 years ago, and discussing traditional Lakota ceremonies as written about by Albert White Hat in Zuya.
Discoveries on Solo:
Grayson '18: “I discovered that in complete isolation I can produce the best work I have done in a while. My mind was super clear.”
Matt '17: “I found that with so much time by myself the systems I was discovering for making a home, eating food, and doing school work worked very well for me.”
Drew '17: “I discovered the desert that I thought was very hot can be very cold.”
Jaz '17: “I discovered that reading can be fun if I just engage myself in the book.”
Catherine '17: “I rediscovered a love for writing.”
Sadie '17: “I realized that my mind goes way too fast for me to keep up with. So, it was nice to spend five days alone and figure out how to slow it down.
Scott '17: “I discovered how fun it is to journal every night and debrief the day.”
Jon '18: “I discovered that I don’t know the true value of teamwork unless I am by myself in Arizona’s desert.”
Alfie '18: “While on solo I figured out how to forgive myself.”
A few years ago I participated in a solo in the Adirondack Wilderness. It was only two days compared to the five days we will begin on the 21st. When I went on my last solo I was able to relax and sleep. The time allowed for all the muscles in my body to relax and I reflected on my life. With no one else to talk to all I can do is think about if I am doing the right things in life. There is plenty for me to reflect on even though my life has only been nineteen years because in my life there is not a lot of time to be by myself and slow down.
All of Mountain classroom has prepared me for solo. Since December we have travelled through the United States and Mexico learning about meditation and fulfillment. These two ideas are crucial to the solo experience. Mediation will allow me to get into the mindset of self-reflection, and fulfillment can be the result of spending these days by myself. In addition, as a group we have learned about meal planning and buying food with a budget. It is these small lessons that made it possible for me to plan a set of meals that will be nutritious and make me feel great. I decided against pepperoni at seven dollars and went with tuna at two dollars. I can’t wait to see how I feel.
Our facial hair is at an all time long. The whiskers are starting to get scruffy, even though many of us boys are new to growing facial hair, and a few are starting to actually look like mountain men. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but my beard might be the best. Five days alone in the Arizona wilderness seems to have rapidly increased the rate at which our face follicles produce hair. Certain boys, like Alf, are still trying to count their hairs in the bus mirrors without any success. Timbah has us all beat with his full, dark man beard.
Solo has the potential to be a huge turning point for many of us. It can bring huge improvements to our quality of life if we push ourselves to connect with who we are. Coco and Timbah have both experienced these benefits and told us hints on how to get the most out of our five days. Timbah taught us a few meditation techniques to help us focus on one thing and begin to think deeply.
My solo experience started out rushed with rain coming in just as I reached my site. The clouds were dark and rumbling and the wind was trying to knock me off my feet. I struggled with my tarp, got fed up with it and I called it good. The rain stopped pretty quickly though and I was able to actually get my tarp nice, tight and cozy. Ok… maybe it wasn’t cozy, but it was better than nothing. I spent my days eating food and attempting to get better at juggling my hacky sack. I got really good at eating food without seeing much improvement in the latter. I never really got too lonely as most of the prickly plants kept trying to make friends with me by grabbing on to my clothes and tearing them to shreds. Note to self: this is not a good way to make friends. However, I did make friends with the biggest saguaro cactus I’ve ever seen. It stood tall right at the edge of my site and I got to see it every day when I made the trek to tie up the bandana that indicated I was well to Coco and Timbah. The days seemed short, but maybe that was just because I was going to bed at 6:30 trying to stay out of the cold. Either way it didn’t seem long enough, but at the same time, it was also too long. I missed the group and all the laughs we have together. Getting to see all their slightly changed faces after was a relief, especially knowing that we were all safe. Drew Donaldson and Matt Mackenzie are here now and taking over as our Fun Officers for the weekend. I can’t wait to tell them about my experience.