Monday, July 15, 2013

Wilderness Orientation

My school likes to torture people before allowing them to take any classes!  Jokes.  Well...I'm not entirely joking.  Prescott College has a Wilderness Orientation for all incoming students - Fresh-persons and transfers alike.  

Under the best circumstances the orientation is 3 weeks of serious trekking through Arizona wilderness that few venture to.  Add on the fact that I was an incoming student in the Spring, meant we got to do our orientation during the winter.  Oh, and I had never backpacked before, nor truly camped, was a great addition.

Our group was lucky enough to trek through the Grand Canyon and Superstition Mountains - something that most people only dream of.  We were 'lucky' in the sense that we were given an incredible opportunity to see some of the most beautiful spots in the US.  The 'luck' didn't really carry over to the weather...

Day 1 - At the Rim of the Grand Canyon

Now, I'm usually a baby when LA gets "cold weather", but winter in the high desert meant something else entirely.  Before this trip, I could count the number of times I have been to snow on one hand.  Now, I'm well into the double digits!

Before I went on this trip we were each given a gear checklist.  Upon reading the list I saw that they were requesting we bring a 0 degree sleeping bag.  
"That's not bad", I thought, "They think that we're going to be around freezing conditions. I can do that."
You see, growing up in New Zealand I have a very skewed sense of measurements.  I can read temperature in fahrenheit, but I have a better grasp of freezing and boiling points in celsius - I mean really...who came up with the freezing and boiling points of fahrenheit!? I was reading the checklist I read it in terms of celsius not fahrenheit!  Much to my dismay, Andrew pointed out that a 0 degree bag meant that we would be in temperatures far below freezing point!  Damn.

Our first night was spent in a miserable -14 degrees - that's in fahrenheit!  Over the course of the next 3 weeks we went through an impressive 92 degree weather change.  Unfortunately the majority of the time the weather hovered at a balmy 35 degrees.

Snow everywhere.  At times it came above our knees...
My group went through an incredible journey.  We lost one team mate around the second day due to a terrible ankle sprain.  We spent the next week and a bit descending and then ascending the Grand Canyon.  We trekked from Rim to river, along the river, and then back up to the Rim. And that was just the first half!

Ami (the girl who sprained her ankle) and me.
It was the first time I had ever seen the Grand Canyon!

Everyone sticking close on the trail
Day 1 - Looking back up while breaking for lunch
For more photos and the rest of the story, click below!

Anne-Marie and me

Me, Elizabeth, and Matt 

Classroom for the day

Not a bad place to stop for lunch!

Even though the sun was shining, it was still freezing!  I'm wearing 3 layers here!

Part of the group...posers
Some days the trail was easy...

other days, not so much

Me and Elizabeth

How could you not pose with that backdrop!?

Cecil showing off her yoga

The girls

That first moment seeing the Colorado River was incredible!

Jacob showing off his frozen sock!

Nezi and I playing around after conquering a terrifying cliff edge!

Anne-Marie teaching the group how to fish on an Alaskan fishing vessel!

We saw a bald eagle!  That day turned out to be the toughest day for us all!

Another view of our classroom.
Sunset over the Grand Canyon
Pack pushups!

The second half we were shuttled to the Superstition Mountains.  I thought we had gotten away from the terrible weather, but the second half proved to be the worst!  The week started out well and then slowly became miserable.  

On this leg of the trip we had to spend two nights alone - I mean completely alone.  No one to talk to, no help from our leaders.  You had to create your own shelter and hang out.  Unfortunately it was on this portion of the trip that mother nature decided she needed to let loose.  It rained for 4 days straight, and then after the rain came the wintery mix, and then straight up snow fall.  Our sister group were hit the hardest.  3 of their solo sites were flooded out and 2 days later they were forced to wade through 4 streams that has quickly become fast moving rivers.

I tell myself after the fact that I could probably have been fine with the terrible weather had we not forgotten our tents.  Yup.  True story.  We left our tent bodies at resupply...all 3 of them!  So we had the pleasure to cuddle up under 2 group tarps.  Seriously...we had open tarps while it was snowing outside.  Awesome.

The end of our orientation couldn't come soon enough, for me or Andrew!  I found out after the fact that our orientation had almost been cancelled 3 times due to terrible weather!  Those jerks!

Despite the horrid weather and challenges we faced it was definitely an adventure to remember.  I may not be the best hiker/backpacker, but I sure am proud of my accomplishments over those few weeks.  It made me realize that I can do just about long as there's a hot chocolate waiting for me on the other side!

My group after completing the Grand Canyon leg of our trip!

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