Noticing the Unnoticed
Tanner, CS15, Oak Creek, WI.

I couldn't pick just one specific goal for exploration week. My main objectives were to preserve nature and just enjoy life in the moment. A few key aspects to my goal were to take photos rather than items from my Pictured Rocks backpacking trip, follow the "Leave No Trace" principles, and to leave the distraction of my phone back at my dorm so I could have better focus and reflect on my surroundings.

In many ways, my goal of preserving nature and living life in the moment connects to my land ethic of being "equal to the environment." One way is by taking pictures rather than items. This helps keep me and my environment equal because I won't be taking anything from it which would, in a way, make me the higher power by "stealing" from the lesser. With pictures, I can still capture the moment and preserve it forever without taking from the environment. Additionally, it could help me show others the true beauty of nature and inspire them to go on trips and take action, like me. Perhaps my photos will encourage others to preserve and hopefully grow a passion for protecting nature and its beauty as well.

The "Leave No Trace" principle is important me too. By leaving the area the same or better then when you first arrived it will help maintain the health of the environment and the relationship you share with it during your experience. Finally, keeping the distraction of my phone at home rather than with me on the trip helped me strengthen my relationship with nature. Without that distraction, I feel that I was able to have a better connection to and appreciation for the environment and the beauty it most plainly set before me every day. Using a journal and taking photos allowed me to take in and remember moments and personal reflections better than if I had been preoccupied with my phone.

The Conserve School learning goal that connects to my personal goal is the first one, "Appreciates and experiences the wonder of nature; values fundamental, life-long connections with nature; and expresses those connections in creative ways". Both parts incorporate the aspects of appreciating and taking in the moment being shared between you and nature as well as creative ways you can share your experience like through photography or art.

My goals affected my experience on the Pictured Rocks backpacking trip in numerous ways. The most important part of my goal to me on this trip was the break from my phone and all the social distractions it causes me in my everyday life. All the time it takes from me that, without it, perhaps I could have gone and enjoyed a nice jog through the woods on local trails or a bike ride through my community. Losing this distraction helped me to be more in tune with and observant of the natural beauty that's becoming more and more unnoticed by my generation.

With every blink being a mental picture and every step being a new adventure I was able to become happier and more observant on this trip. It made me feel better both physically and emotionally. It also gave my eyes a break from the blaring light being generated by a small hand held screen just inches from my face. It allowed me to get deep into thought about nature and reflect on ways I can help make an impact. I could think about all the negatives and positives in my life and, in a way, the true reality of being me and living the life I have today.

The photos from the simple camera I traveled with will be visual aids to all my peers and to me in the future, showing what we need to fight so hard to preserve and continue enjoying for our generation and generations to come. "Leave no trace" betters the environment and keeps it healthier and more sustainable. Abiding by this saying in daily life would also help us make less of a "footprint" or impact on the earth overall, not just in the wilderness, but where we live and breathe today.

It makes me feel at peace knowing I'm doing my part and contributing to a solution rather than being part of the problem with today's environmental troubles and challenges. It helped me create a healthier, more sustainable and equal relationship with the world. I like the goals that I set for Exploration Week and I would not change them. My goals helped me keep a well-rounded and balanced relationship with the environment. My goals kept me more aware of and in-touch what's going on in my surroundings too, which I feel helps me be a better individual and steward.