Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Wilderness Adventure

For my internship next year I will be a Shadow at the Anasazi Foundation. Shadow is the term they use for therapist. I am so excited that I got this internship since it is the one I wanted before I even started school. Last summer I worked at an other wilderness therapy location and I loved it. It is like a combination of everything I love and want to. I get to do the most extreme camping and hiking, learn outdoor survival skills, make primitive skills (crafts), learn holistic approaches to individual and family therapy, use creative approaches to healing like yoga and story telling, and help adolescents...what more could I ask for. I am so excited to get started.

Before I could start my internship in the fall, I needed to go out for one of their 8 day rotations to see how things are done at Anasazi and get a feel for what the trail walkers (staff) and young walkers (clients) experience. I am not going to lie, this was one of the hardest weeks (if not the hardest) of my life. I thought because I worked in this field already that I knew what to expect and it would be easy, but I was wrong. I slept with only a wool blanket and cover (a thin khaki thing in the shape of a sleeping bag that is basically to make you feel a little more secure and protect you from bug bits because it doesn't really help with the cold) on top of a poncho/trap. The packs we hiked with were about 40-50 pounds and were made by tying up all of our gear in our ponchos and using our sleeping covers as straps. The types of hike we went on were way harder then anything I have ever done before through creek beds, up and down steep faces and even climbed a few waterfalls (with no ropes and packs on). They do not provide water so all of our water came from creeks and cow tanks (seriously the hardest part was drinking that yellow water that had a texture that no water should ever have). I drank more water then I ever have in my life to keep from getting dehydrated during the hikes in the hot sun and to keep hydrated at night so my body would function properly in keeping me warm (or I should say not freeze because I never felt warm). All of our fires were made by busting a coal on a fire board with a bow and spindle (basically 3 sticks you cut down and carve yourself), which is a lot harder then it looks. Your meals you cook in your one cooking cup and eaten with a spoon you carve out of wood. Our food packs were very limited in variety with ziplock bags of things like wheat flour, corn meal, brown rice, wheat noodles, powdered milk, powdered cheese, powdered butter, lentils, seeds, dried fruit, a potato, 2 carrots, sun dried tomatoes, an onion, garlic, powdered gatorade for electrolytes, brown sugar, and salt and pepper. I learned early on that brown rice and lentils were my best friend and ate them mornings before a hike and for dinner after. You thought of food as an energy source not eating for taste but because your body needed it.

They don't allow cameras at Anasazi but here are a few pictures from my experience last summer so you can kind of get an idea.

During my adventure I got extremely dehydrated and fell on the second hike, which I was leading, and got the biggest bruise I have ever had on my knee. When I went to take a break from this hike because I was starting to feel delusional from the dehydration, I plumped down to quickly without looking and my tailbone found a nice little corner of a rock. This made sitting and sleeping very uncomfortable for the rest of the week, which is all you want to do after hiking all day. I cut my thumb open while trying to carve my spoon, which later got infected because it was hard to keep it clean. My pack rubbed my spine raw because of the metal buttons on my tarp. Also, one night when it got below freezing I put a hot rock (a rock from the fire tied up in a bandana) in my wool blanket. At about 3 am when the rock started to cool off, I went to pull it out and it got stuck. So I pulled a little harder and thats when my jaw meet hot rock. Needless to say I did not get much sleep that night haha. These were just some of my bigger battle wounds. When I came home I was covered with scratches, bruises, and bug bites. Here are pictures taken when I got home of some of my wounds.

It is crazy because when you are out there, most of the time you can't believe you would put yourself through all of that. You can't wait to sleep in a comfy bed (basically just sleep period because you don't get a whole lot of it), eat real food (you know the artificial crap), have air conditioning, and be lazy. It is a week of agony and pushing yourself harder then you ever thought possible physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually filled with moments of intense joy

when you make it to your next campsite after a hard hike,

when you make fire all by yourself,

when you finish something you made,

when you create a yummy new recipe,

when you meet amazing people

and build friendships,

when you find joy in the simple things

and realize you don't need TV and the internet to entertain yourself

when you realize you are stronger and more capable then you give yourself credit for,

when you see a positive change in a young walker and know you made a difference,

when others see the change and greatness in you (my pendent I was given called "Open Self" in honor my ability to open-up and share myself with others),

and when you have awakenings

by learning things about yourself

and doing things you never imagined you could possibly do.

Those intense moments of joy and the way you feel after pushing your body and mind to the limit is like an amazing high...

you feel like superwomen because you have experienced something most people will never experience and you now know what you are capable of.