Big Climbs & Good Times
Emilia, CS15, Clarkston, MI

When I first visited Conserve School on perspective student day in spring of 2016 I learned about all of the amazing programs and learning opportunities that the school offers. I was told in depth about field trips, class activities, the solo camping trip, and of course, exploration week. Everything about this trip screamed adventure and I was excited for it long before I was packing my bag, picking which trip to go on, and even before I was accepted to the school. I told myself that if I was given such an amazing opportunity like that, to go and explore nature, I would make the most of my experience, and I believe that I have done just that.

In the days leading up to my departure for exploration week, I thought intently about what exactly I wanted to achieve during the trip. I realized that what I wanted most and would benefit from more than anything else was to clear my mind and live in the moment. In my few years on earth I have decided that there are two kinds of people; type A and type B. Type A people need a schedule. They need consistency and structure in everything they do otherwise they may become overwhelmed with anxiety over even the simplest matters. Type B people go with the flow of life. These people live in the now and have learned to find a bright side to any situation.

Along with my very objective revelation of this classification of people I have found that I am a type A kind of gal, and I aspire to change that. Exploration week was a perfect way to do that. Even though we had worked out a set route of travel and packed appropriately for the trip, there are always elements of surprise and conflict involved with trips of that criteria. I decided to take my mind off of it, and focus on all of the beauty and adventure that was in store for me and my group.

Along with my goals to achieve this new level of "wild" (for me at least), I had ideas of how our trip was going to interact with each other, and equally important if not more, how we were going to affect the environment that we came in contact with. As I have stated in the past, my idea of land ethics is an understanding of the importance and complexity of our natural lands, and a drive and willingness to protect them. These morals are extremely important to keep in mind when on trips such as exploration week.

To fully appreciate the natural beauty and wonder of the earth one must learn to respect it for all that it offers. This goal can be achieved through reflection, appreciation, and love for everything around us. Once I prepared myself for everything the trip was going to bring and I was done worrying about everything, I relaxed and jumped in the van, took a deep breath and whispered to myself "here we go".

When we finally got to the trail and started up our first hill, I was amazed by everything around me and how well my body and mind handled all of the new information I was taking in and experiencing. When we got to the first peak, I had my first breakthrough. I forgot about all of the stress I had. I let go of my worries and ignored the aching in my back and feet. Nothing mattered to me except the cool breeze in my face, the beauty of the mountains I was looking at, and the satisfaction and joy I felt upon reaching the top of that first peak. I felt truly connected to the earth under my feet. This would be the first of many of these special moments for me that week, and I was eager to move forward.

Our group knew of all of the struggles and exciting events that were in our near future, but I reminded myself to focus on the day itself. Half way through the trip we reached the steepest part of the section of trail we were hiking through. Everyone was encouraging each other and I felt the closest to my group that I had since meeting them the first week of school.

As we hiked up, the what felt like vertical climb, to the infamous "hacking site", I realized how amazing what we were doing was. I had never been on a hiking trip and I wasn't very confident in my abilities. Despite my fears, I conquered the hill. I was proud of myself and my group, and I realized how important the trip was for me. I learned that nature provides empowerment and that immersing yourself in it through tough situations brings you closer to the earth and those around you.

My third breakthrough came when sitting around a campfire with my group. It had been a long and difficult day of hiking and the few of us that weren't ready to sleep yet sat around in silence for a while. I looked up at the stars and listened to the wind blowing through the trees. The forest has a sense of peace and mystery that cannot be found anywhere else. I felt safe, peaceful, and close to the earth around me.

Spending time in the wilderness completely removed from typical society and community gave me a sense of independence and accomplishment. Working through issues and taking time to reflect helped me to focus on my goals for the trip by giving me a stronger appreciation for the peace that nature provides.

Since learning about land ethics and environmental stewardship I have realized how important it is to protect wilderness. We can learn a lot about the earth and about ourselves by going out into nature. We must practice leave no trace principles and treat the land with respect so that everyone can enjoy nature and learn as they please. Although we cannot control how others treat out environment, we can do our part in conservation and be kind to the places we visit.

This was the first of many adventures for me. I will continue to practice my land ethics on every trip I go on, whether it be in the wilderness or not. I hope to continue to live well and learn as I travel and grow throughout my life. By doing this, I will be able to better communicate the importance of conservation to others.