Thursday, July 17, 2014

We Do Not Learn By Standing Still--A personal account of a Colorado backpacking adventure by Jessica Noelke

“Nothing will get in the way of my heart and those beautiful majestic beasts in the West,” was what I kept thinking, over and over in my head. This mantra helped me overcome all obstacles put before me on this journey and allowed me to come back with no regrets.

Girl Scouts of Central Texas took a trip to Colorado on June 12th—the first trip out of the state to be taken with the High Adventure Team label in years—and we made it back on June 19th a little more whole than when we left.

The trip wasn’t short of its own tiny disasters. Moms of the girls brainstormed solutions to our storage space issues due to the fact that our 12 passenger van was actually an eight passenger Suburban (which we lovingly named ‘Princeton’) with “cargo space” leaving us with a serious dilemma of not enough room for 8 people’s packs. The mothers of the girls pulled together and found us a cargo carrier last minute, and frankly, saved our lives from being squished by packs and boxes necessary for a successful trip.

One of the most memorable aspects leading up to the trip was the pushback I received from people regarding multiple things, like weather or physical ability. I had to keep telling myself nothing would get in the way of me and those mountains even if it meant hiking them on my own. Taking from my experience in college—and even high school—when I planned trips like this for my own troop, I’d find myself hiking the trail my myself, and deep down I knew that if I always listened to what others thought was best, I would never move forward. It’s likely that I would still be sitting in that scout house waiting for the storm that never came to pass.

So here I am, post-Colorado, looking back and seriously missing Allyson—a dedicated Girl Scout who became the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of our trip—and thinking about everything we shared: a tent (for eight days), making it through the worst smelling socks on the planet, and the bear attack* together. Allyson, the woman who inspires people through her insatiable desire to explore and always gives her all to everything she does, said to me, “I hope that one day I make a difference in someone’s life”, and all I wanted to do was take her by the shoulders and shake her saying “Seriously?!” I owe this woman the rest of my life, as she pushed and pulled me in directions I never thought possible and taught me how to be a good leader when chaos ensues. When others try to stomp out my fire I know Allyson will be right there fanning the flames for me and herself.

Moving on to the ladies—not merely girls, but ladies who will become important contributors to our communities. They challenged everyone around them as they themselves were challenged in strength, patience, and endurance to hike 24 miles through the Rocky Mountain National Park carrying up to 30 lb. packs on our backs. Some of them learned how to work together, others would exercise their respect for authority, and some were challenged physically. Regardless of the individual difficulties they each faced, at the end of the trip we were all challenged in patience while chomping at the bit to get to sleep in a real bed after taking a very much needed shower.

We volunteered in the National Park clipping and sawing trees and shrubs out of the way of the trail, as well as improving irrigation. The work was satisfying and the view made it all worth it. Not everyone made it—we had to leave a few girls behind with a volunteer. The girls who did make it to the top did not regret the amazing view and also got to laugh as I fell down in the snow on the way back.

“I never want to hike again,” one of the girls said as we drove home through the collegiate peaks after I asked them if they’d like to hike to the top of them. “At least they aren’t complaining that they didn’t get to do enough,” I thought.  

The most memorable times were spent at the old Girl Scout camp we stayed at called Meadow Mountain Ranch. We got to meet their High Adventure Team, and sang Scout songs at the absolute top of our lungs because we had the camp all to ourselves. It bordered the park, allowing us to hike right into the park and take a nap by Copeland Falls and see a herd of elk running through the river. The camp had hot showers and toilets, as well as a pavilion that sheltered us as we ate. Each night before bed, the girls would hang up the bear bag to avoid any surprises in the middle of the night.

Needless to say, I really miss Java, Continental Divide, Brit, Bear, Gator, Tinkerbell, and Zwei, and I hope that we all get to experience more adventures together as the High Adventure Team prepares for its launch this fall.

Come adventure with us. 

Jessica “E-Rock” Noelke, Outdoor Program Specialist

*There was no bear attack. It was just a pair of pants rustling in the wind and in our
sleepiness we thought it was a bear rustling through our garbage.

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