By the end of last semester, my professor Rick Stock had convinced me to do something that quite frankly seemed insane at the time: to enroll in a semester long outdoor recreation program. With only a veracious love for nature and dreams of adventure, I decided to cancel all other classes in order to focus solely on the program.
On Tuesday, January 15, our first day out, I was worried about what I had gotten myself into. I had countless bruises to both my body and my pride from hard falls; I was convinced that I would never be able to keep up with the much fitter 10+ guys in the class; I was frustrated by my slow pace and lack of fitness; I had a headache caused by a combination of exhaustion and dehydration; and thus my spirit was almost broken…
Before I could hobble away from the van after that first day (to lick my wounds, cry, and consider quitting), I was invited to join the gang for a post-first-day-out celebratory dinner. And because I was ravenous, I consented and agreed to meet them at the local hot spot Pangaea.
And as I sat around that long wooden table, with people who both intimidated and fascinated me, my whole prospective began to shift. My body was just as spent as an hour prior; however my resolve began to strengthen. The people around me were just as amazing as before, their experience and skill level still vastly surpassing mine, but I could now see myself among them.
I could become the strong and adventurous Denali I had always wished to be. I just had to take control of this experience, rather than letting it control me. I made a decision then and there to become the Denali I wanted to be.
Since that night I have been better able to overcome the challenges and embrace the joys that are a part of my transformative journey. Though, there have still been times that I have felt defeated, scared and completely overwhelmed. The first day raft guiding for instance:
I was intimidated by it all, the quick thinking under pressure, the pushy water, the dangers of the river itself, and most of all the responsibly of the guide. To have other people’s lives dependent on your knowledge skills and leadership? I t was all too much. Again, I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into? I simply couldn’t do. This wasn’t me. I wasn’t skilled enough/strong enough/tough enough...But then I remembered why I was doing this; who I wanted to be.
I decided to try it again the next day. I had a wonderful teacher and began to better understand the natural flow of the river and predict its course. Each day I was better than the next. And so, by the end of the week, my professor Rick awarded me most improved raft guide!
Ever since then I have taken every guiding opportunity I could find. I love the feel of pushy water, the rush I feel when I guide a perfect line or make a particularly tight turn, the mutual accomplishment and adrenaline shared by the entire crew… To say that I am addicted would be a bit of an understatement.
And that addiction has led me to opportunities I could never have dreamed about a few months, even a few weeks ago. Through a great recommendation my professor Saylor Flett, I landed a job this summer working on the Klamath as a guide for Adventure Whitewater www.awwrafting.com. Imagine that; I’m going to get paid to do something I love!
The journey of this year has opened my eyes to the endless opportunities that the outdoor world has to offer.And what’s more is that I now know that I have the strength and confidence to experience that world to it’s fullest. The love and encouragement I have felt all along this semester-long journey has brought me to the person I am today. I was welcomed with open arms and open hearts.
There is one day on the river that stood out above all others. I felt like the entire semester’s worth of experience came together in one harmonious moment, and I felt central to it all: joshing with my brothers and leading my crew.
I feel ready to embrace the world’s wide open spaces. Though I may not have all the skills needed to do so YET but I can and will one day.