Saturday, August 20, 2005

Backpacking in Southern Utah

I have just returned from one of the most hellish and most rewarding things I've ever been through.

Ya see, for the summer I've been working at a place called the Boy's Ranch, which is basically a recreational therapy type of facility. I work as a sort of councilor at a sort of summer camp. I'm in charge of five 13-14 boys year old boys that have some sort of behavioral problem or another. So at this camp we run games, talk about the learning aspects of trust and teamwork, ect. Well this week the plan was to go on a week long backpacking trip. So we get a list of components we need, which boils down to, sleeping bag, 6 quarts of water, hygiene stuff, and that's about it. The less the better we were told.

So after a 5 hour drive of laughing at farts from 13 year olds, we reach the start off point. Now we didn't have your typical backpacks for backpacking, what we had was a self made pack we had shown the boys how to put together. This consisted of a ten foot square of durable black plastic tarp that we placed the sleeping bags and the changes of cloths in, folded in half and rolled it up and strapped on the back of these out of shape, ceaselessly undisciplined kids. My groups of boys are made up of the really really lazy sorts, and the hyperactive ridlin kids. And so anything you do with them is always a clash of unexpected divisions of this and that. "He's too slow!" "Leave me alone %$&!" (add in colorful language)

So, we set off, and I never would have anticipated the level of difficulty to be as high as the hike ended up being. This was truly an expert hike. There were around 5 or 6 repelling points that were impassable, and getting the boys to repel off 30 foot drops, stepping down a cliff with nothing but a rope holding them was quite the experience. Couple that with 105 degree weather, facing the unknown of where the next water hole was, 18 hour days, beginning at 5 am (to beat the heat), and ending at usually 1 am, hiking in the darkness with only a few flashlights. Now mind you we weren't complete idiots getting ourselves into something we had no idea how to face, we were with two guys that had been doing the hike for nearly 20 years and they knew exactly what they were doing. But despite that, they weren't with us for 90% of the time; they only were there to show us the way as we came to stopping points, and control and channel the experience. And so I had sick kids on my hands, kids that literally had convinced themselves they were going to die. We never really were able to sleep, often on the rocks on a steep incline. And so starting and facing another day was usually deafening to our motivation because of our complete lack of energy. There was a point on the second day that a 2 mile stretch took my group of ten kids with one more councilor around 5 hours to complete. It was that hot and water was scarce. And it really scared me. Holding the survival of people's kids in my hands, being really tough on them to keep pressing on because literally death was nipping at our heels, both me and one of the other councilors had to carry two packs at once because our kids could not physically accomplish it. I don't think I have ever been more tired in my life. We lost kids more than once, had to backtrack in blistering heat. Ugh, gets me tired just rethinking about it.

It was a grueling experience, blisters, dehydration, kids passing out, but holy cow, when we reached the summit of the last ridge, after witnessing these kids do what even I personally began to believe was impossible, I cannot tell you how elated and retrospective it has made me. People were crying, not me, I’m too manly for something like that! WinkBut it was really a sight to behold seeing the kids accomplish what they thought they’d never do.

It was the type of thing you absolutely hate to go through, the type of thing that is so unbearable that you begin to think there is just no end. But it is also the type of thing that upon going through it you will remember for the rest of your life as something that you did that you didn't think you could. High risk, high reward. That's the crazy formula life seems to have set up, and it has always been a tough lesson for me, even when I understand it, to see through and act on, I still find myself being too lazy to achieve what I know I want to achieve.

It's interesting when you face something, especially in these kid's cases, that they couldn't out manipulate, they couldn't go back, the cars were moved to the destination spot on the first night, and they knew forward was the only way, and you find you have to tap into the real stuff, really test what faith really is, put it on the line and see it through, that you come to know things inside of you that perhaps you hadn't given a damn about up until the you had your back against the ropes. I've heard and seen so many people out there be so cynical about the inherent nature of humans, blasting us/them as if we're all going to hell in a hand basket, that this world is doomed. And frankly it is my opinion that they are flat out wrong. That's not to say we don't problems, my kids are a testament to that, but it is my firm belief that people will find they are so much more if they put faith into things that truly matter, things like, family, love, peace, unity, and friendship. I don’t think we put ourselves into situations where we have to grow enough. My own faith has been renewed in what people are capable of, and it's a nice thought in today's world.

So anyhow, I just wanted to share.

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