Disconnecting to Connect
Rowen, CS15, Northfield, MN

In life I find myself caught up in social media trying to capture moments through a lens rather than just experiencing the present; however, on this trip I am determined to not let myself become wrapped up in trying to get the perfect angle. I hope to become more appreciative of nature; appreciative of good and bad moments alike. Personally, I believe that my land ethic ties into this goal very well. I see myself as a community member of the earth and because of this mindset I feel as if I will witness how strong the will of the Earth actually is, for I am just one entity, like a wild animal among the trees. Also, I truly hope this adventure will help me really connect with my peers on the trip in the Sylvania Wilderness.

Now that I am back from the Sylvania and have had a few days to reflect on the entirety of the trip I realize my goal was accomplished, but not completely. While there were moments of awe and fear that overall made me feel more connected to nature, I feel as if I barely connected with most of the others on the trip. I did learn more about a few of them, but generally speaking I felt that the dynamic of the group was too focused on separate goals in which we took different actions to fulfill. It wasn't as if we didn't contribute to the camp chores, we all did; however, it seemed as if after the setting up of camp we all dispersed to discover ourselves and our personal connections to the outdoors rather than tying memories of each other with those of the wilderness.

I remember the first storm and how its wind whipped my face as hail pelted my skin with a cold sting. After the initial worry about the potentially dangerous storm I found myself grinning as I was soaked from head to toe (even through my apparently flimsy raincoat). It was a moment of the sublime as I felt my heart flutter like a bird trapped within its bone imprisonment, and I loved it, adrenaline coursed through my veins and I felt alive. The silence broke as one of the members of my group began singing songs I'd never heard of before (how peculiar). The storm, a looming whirling pool of fear became a fun and blissful memory.

Another memorable moment for me was when we set up camp at "Beaver" on Mountain lake. This campsite had a beautiful sunspot on a pillow of moss next to a tree leaning over the shore of the lake. This was my place. I began spending most of my free time there within the two days we stayed at the campsite. Whether I was drawing, reading, or just absorbing the sun like a lizard on a heat rock I felt serenity. That was my paradise, lake stretched out in front of me and clouds would block on the sun for short times before moving along in the shapes of various animals. I felt at peace with myself at that mossy spot in the sun, and it is now a place I can retreat to in my mind.

My most important moment in Sylvania was early in the morning when fog masked the lake in a murky white, coating everything in a thick veil of wispy mist. It seemed as if the island on which we camped was floating in the sky. The entire lake was concealed by the gentle morning breath of Mother Nature. It was more than serenity, it was more than bliss in fear, it was mystery. It was a mystery so great that I couldn't bring myself to even touch the seemingly milky water on the shore without believing I would slip away from reality and be lost forever in the sightless day. The fog was symbolic to me as it represented the mystery of the wilderness that I had learned to accept during Exploration Week.

During this trip I developed my own sense of environmental stewardship, by understanding even more that these moments are why we conserve what we can; because these moments are what shape us as people and what will shape future generations. Environmental Stewardship in all campsites and places like the Sylvania is a form of respect directed toward nature. Respecting nature includes even simple actions such as properly putting out campfires or picking up the waste of those who previously used the site. Beyond respect for the environment, I seek a bond with the outdoors because I gain a sense of belonging or oneness in a rather chaotic world. What are others seeking? My goal for future trips is to begin to understand why others seek a similar bond with the outdoors.