Appreciation for a Different Wilderness
Leo, CS15, Washington, D.C.

While on Exploration Week, I hope to experience aspects of nature that I would not otherwise experience back home, be they positive or negative. This goal connects to my land ethic because by having new experiences I will develop a more specific appreciation for the places I visit on the North Country Trail.

With every new experience I have in the outdoors, the more my appreciation and gratitude for them will grow. This connects to my first learning goal because I want to experience new "wonders of nature" that I would not be able to see back in D.C. While I have done plenty of backpacking before, I did certainly have a lot of new experiences while on Exploration Week. Many of them were very good memories, some were difficult, but all had an impression on me.

My absolute low point on the trip was in the middle of our second-to-last day, when we bushwhacked straight through a huge patch of stinging nettles. It was terribly uncomfortable, but after we all forged through, and made it to the other side, we all felt very accomplished. In the moment, walking through stinging nettle was quite unpleasant, and not at all something I'd jump at the opportunity to do back home. In retrospect, it was a nice bonding moment for our group, and definitely brought all of us closer.

My favorite memory of our trip was our campsite on the Big Iron River. I had never camped on a beach before, and I really enjoyed the natural beauty of the gently curving river as it meandered by tall clay cliffs. While we swam in the river, tiny fish nibbled at our feet, and we fell asleep to the gentle sounds of water moving quickly over rocks. I felt very much at peace there; to me, it was the kind of place where I felt I could stay for a long time. It also stood out as a place worth protecting.

On our last day, we hiked up Escarpment ridge to a view over Lake of the Clouds. Michael had told us that it was one of the best views in the Midwest; we would be able to see Lake of the Clouds and Lake Superior in one view. However, that day was super foggy- we couldn't see more than 20 feet down the trail, and at the top we were only afforded fleeting glimpses of the forest below. Yet, I wasn't at all disappointed. I've seen plenty of great views in my life, and I'm sure I would've enjoyed this one, but the foggy, eerie, perhaps even magical view we got was something entirely new, and a valuable memory.

While on my trip I learned that there is still plenty I have not yet seen in nature, and plenty more yet to appreciate. For my next trip, I want to be completely alone. That way, I can wholly experience nature without any outside distractions whatsoever. Then, I can focus entirely on having new experiences.