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The Big City Mountaineers trip has always been a growing experience that affects the lives of everyone that goes on the trip. Most, if not all, of the people that go on the trip grow in one way or another. They grow mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even though everyone changes, I feel that my experience was even greater. Everyone may feel certain things when they go, but no one (at least that I know of) has ever spent their birthday, let alone their sixteenth birthday, in the mountains.
Initially, I was sad about going on the trip. I knew that some of my friends were going, but it still didn’t make me feel a whole lot better. I wasn’t too excited to spend my birthday walking in the woods and eating “astronaut food”. I kept thinking about how I could be in so many other places. I could have been somewhere with showers and toilets. Somewhere with already filtered water and a wider selection of food. Somewhere where my phone would work, or at least the radio or a TV, something to keep me in touch with the rest of the world. I kept thinking about the people that I would not be able to talk to for a week. The people who didn’t even know I was leaving. I felt like I was leaving the country with nothing to look forward to except coming back.
Fortunately, as the trip progressed, I started enjoying myself a little more. I started thinking that maybe the food wasn’t that bad. I realized that I was with some very enjoyable people. I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, this trip would actually be worth it. Then they told us that we would leave the vans and not see them for the next 5-6 days. That must have been the worst news of my life. I had no choice but to go. I couldn’t stay. I was already thousands of feet in the air with no charger for my phone and a limited amount of supplies. I had to hike.
The first day of hiking was not enjoyable at all. I wanted to stop. The only thing that kept me going was that I had no choice. I kept telling myself that the only option was to keep going. I couldn’t go back because that part was uphill too. Even if it wasn’t, I would have had to spend 5-6 days in a van with only two water bottles full of water, a trash bag of food, and no friends. Even if I did have a radio, the batteries in the car would die eventually. I was stuck in the middle of the woods, expected to push not only myself, but other people to the limit.
When I saw that first campsite, Chain Lakes, I wanted to cry. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and I wasn’t talking about the scenery. Just knowing that I didn’t have to go any further until the next day was enough. I didn’t care about scenery. I cared about how long it would take for me to unpack my tent and lay in it. I thought that day was horrible, until everyone started talking to each other and having a good time. I realized that maybe the hike wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe the fact that we were singing on the second half of the hike made it better.
I started thinking that I could have gone on a little longer. It wasn’t that bad. To make the situation better, all of the girls talked until late at night about random things and we really got to know each other. I thought that the day really wasn’t that bad, and the rest of the days would be so easy. I was so wrong.
The next day just happened to be my sixteenth birthday. We hiked again and this time the first part wasn’t so bad. Then we had a rest stop for water and snacks and the flies would not leave me alone. I think they liked the smell of Off (a bug repellant). Then we stopped for lunch and I talked to Lanikque about whatever it was that was making her mad. We, along with Dominique and Ivie, walked ahead. That part was worse than the first day. There were hills and flies. My thighs were burning. I just had to imagine that there was something waiting for me at the campsite. That helped out a lot. We finally made it to the campsite and we immediately set up camp and did our daily routines. Then Darniesha called me down to the lake with her. I thought it was a little weird why everyone started yelling our names and when we came up they were pointing to something that wasn’t there. Then they turned around and had candles in their hands and Ms. Regina had some gingerbread cookies for everyone. I wasn’t expecting them to do anything for my birthday but the fact that they did made the whole trip better.
The next day we did our climb to 10,000 ft. It was a little stressful on some parts because I had strained my right knee and in the process of trying to keep from straining it more, I strained the other one. That day was okay. The talks in the tent made the whole trip seem a lot better than it was.
On our hike back to Chain Lakes, I was scared to climb the mountain. It was very steep, I had on a heavy backpack, and to make it worse, my knees were hurting. The worse thing was when I turned around and Ms. Regina was not there. She was usually right in front of me or right behind me. The only thing that was behind me was a pile of rocks. A very steep pile of rocks. I prayed all the way up the rocks because I knew that one miscalculated step could end up at the bottom of the hill injured. The last day’s hike was long, but I knew that there was a van at the end of the trail. Everyone practically ran when they saw that van. Everyone was so excited to have toilets and showers. That lodge and the restaurant were the best things I had seen in about a week. We got our awards when we got back and I could tell that everyone was ready to go home. I can’t say whether I will ever go on the trip again or not, but I do know that it taught me a lot. It taught me that no matter what, the best direction to go is forward. Going back is not an option. It taught me that many times, the only thing holding you back is yourself. You have to be careful to realize when you are mentally handicapping yourself. It also taught me that when you want something to happen, you have to speak it into existence. You can’t doubt yourself because at the end of the day, all you have is yourself. If you can’t even have faith in yourself, who can you have faith in? The last lesson I learned was that all of your friends, your real friends, are not the problem, they are part of the solution
August 17, 2004