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NOV. 13, 2014

Trail Tales

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We’re back from our 9-day trek, the students’ longest outdoor expedition of the semester!  We’ve all made it back in one piece, and smiling!  Each of the three groups brought back different stories and memories to share, but here’s a brief recap and some highlights of our experiences.

We set out on Friday and were dropped off throughout Pisgah Forest to begin our respective journeys.  It had been awhile since we had been backpacking, our last trip being Orientation Trek, but everybody seemed right at home as soon as they hoisted up their packs.  They were loaded up with all the food and gear we needed for the first half of our trek.  Over the course of the next five days, the Coyotes, Momcats, and Las Tortugas explored the mountains, valleys, and rivers of Pisgah National Forest.  The weather during our first half of trek was the best we could have asked for, sunny and warm during the day, and clear, starry skies at night.  We waded in chilly rivers, got up early to catch some amazing sunrises, and stargazed while falling asleep.

On day five, some special faculty visitors met each group, bringing in their next supply of food, news from the outside world, and some delicious treats they had made. This second half of trek marked the initiation of the Leadership Phase for the students, where they begin to take on more responsibility.  The routes for the next several days were planned out entirely by the students and the wilderness staff took a step back, allowing almost every aspect of the trip be determined by student leadership.

Working in pairs, each student was given the opportunity to lead the group as Adasehede, keeping everybody on track and keeping up positive spirits.  The groups ventured into new territories, managing to lose and find themselves several times over.  New waterfalls were discovered, back country personalities were revealed, and the idea of “clean” was given a whole new meaning.  All three groups became very close-knit, cohesive, and supportive of one another.

All of this group-wide support was great, because we were all in for a surprise when, over the course of the last two days, temperatures plummeted and a frozen substance unfamiliar to many (snow) made its way into Pisgah National Forest.  This wonderful surprise manifested itself in different ways, from a light dusting in Lower Pisgah, to five inches of powder up in the higher reaches.  The last 24 hours for some were by far the most eventful and exciting, whether it was hiking out into the sunrise or bush-pushing through snowy rhododendron forests just in time to catch a ride back home.  No matter what the experience, all groups came back with great stories to tell and a new appreciation for a hot home-cooked meal.

Grace Brofman, Resident and Wilderness Leader