Friday, May 29, 2015

              PAD20 Hiking Trip Reflection
Emmy Bach
         Our three-day hiking trip to Frontenac Park was a fun and enlightening experience. I had not been camping since I was much younger, so all of these opportunities were new and exciting for me. I learned new skills, had fun with my friends, and got to know some pretty amazing people along the way.

                The trip was enjoyable for many reasons, one of these being our menu. It was simple, fairly healthy, yummy, and filling enough for everyone. My cooking group (Sophia, Fatima, Emily, Caylee and myself) took turns supplying and cooking the meals, and all helped to do the dishes afterwards. Another agreeable part of the trip was the weather! The sun was out so it was hot, but there was also a cool breeze so that we didn’t overheat. It was almost perfect, as it got nice and cool at night so we could all get into cozier clothes and be by the fire. It was nice to be out in nature and talk to everyone without the constant distraction of technology, homework or just our general busy lives. It was so much easier to connect in such a calm, laid-back and carefree environment. The atmosphere was refreshing for me. Not only did I get to enjoy the company of my classmates, but also the company of the outdoors, and the beautiful simplicity of its existence. It’s so easy to focus on yourself when you’re constantly being bombarded by things that need your attention, people who want your attention, and all of the things you want for yourself. When you’re away from all of the business, it’s a lot easier to see that everything doesn’t revolve around you. The world exists so wonderfully and beautifully on its own, without human interference.

                My experience on the trip was great on a personal level, and some of this was attributed to my equipment. I had more than enough dry, non-cotton clothing that kept my temperature at an optimal level. My down sleeping bag was perfect, and I brought a packable, inflatable pillow, which kept me comfy at night. I wore shoes that I had already broken in, so I didn’t get any blisters, and they dried quickly when they got wet. The rest of my clothes and most of my belongings were packed tightly and efficiently so that I had the most room possible for all of my things, and thankfully most of these belongings were lightweight and very compact! One of the most important parts of the trip was the backpack itself. I saw many people who struggled to pack all of their things into their bag efficiently, and many ended up off-balance when it wasn’t adjusted and packed properly. I tried my best to help my friends find the most comfortable way to wear their bags, and for the most part it was fine. The heaviest part of my pack was the food, which I put next to my back, so the bag itself wasn’t much of a problem. I learned that good, already-tested and adjusted equipment is one of the key factors involved in making a good trip.

                My very favourite part of the three days was the calm, easygoing part of the trip: when everyone had set up their tents, dinner was done, and dishes were cleaned up. We saw lots of animals – loons, beavers, birds, and other small animals. When we were all cozy in our night clothes and we all hung around the campfire together, it was so great to talk to people that I maybe otherwise wouldn’t have talked to, and to get to know each person a little bit. We really had fun together roasting marshmallows, chatting, and not having to worry about anything else in the world.

                There were many new things for me throughout the trip, and I learned a lot from the experience. Firstly, you can never bring too many matches or other fire-starting materials. We used too many matches on the first meal to try and start the stove but they kept getting blown out so we resorted to dipping a small, quick-burning twig in the alcohol, lighting it with a lighter, and then using that to light our stove. However, our campfire only used one match, so we were proud of that. Another lesson I learned was that if you want to have a fun trip, good equipment (that includes food), a good attitude, and good work are the three most important parts. Good equipment will make your trip easier, a good attitude will keep you going and also help you get along with the other campers (part of this comes from having a good sleep), and good work will make everything go faster, especially if you cooperate in a group to get things done. As soon as someone stops pulling their weight, the group falls apart.

Something I noticed about the trip was that there was not very much teacher involvement. For the vast majority of the trip, we were on our own to do what we needed/wanted to do. It was empowering to have that trust, and it encouraged us to help each other and govern ourselves. For example, around the campsite, our group was pretty quick at packing and unpacking our things. When we got there, we unpacked all of our things and set up camp together quickly, and in the morning, we encouraged each other to get ready right away, and we were fairly fast to make breakfast and pack up. I liked how we had to take responsibility for our own time and actions.

                During the trip, I made mini-challenges for myself to try to be more efficient, or to push myself to try new things. Some of them were personal challenges; some of them were more geared towards the wellbeing of the group. Personally, I challenged myself to go swimming – quite the chilly experience, but I was proud of myself by the end. A few of the more group-oriented challenges included: stepping back from the situation and allowing others to take control (I’m sometimes bad at that); helping others and always keeping an eye out for my classmates; and standing up for people who are having difficulty. I tried my best at all of these things, but I think I could keep working on them. They are good skills for me to practice, especially in such a forgiving and positive environment so that I can use them outside of class as well.

                Although looking back on the trip I have almost nothing but good things to say, there were some things that could have been better. First of all, the wind was slightly inconvenient when we were trying to cook. Second, Caylee’s knee was injured while we were on the trip, and I think we all would have enjoyed it more if everyone were healthy. However, we coped well and adjusted for the circumstances which made us stronger as a group. One thing I missed while I was in Frontenac was the accessibility of everything at home. If we needed something in our packs, it often took a long time and effort to get it out. But then, that is part of the challenge! Fourthly, I had some difficulty sleeping the first night as the insolate pad was not terribly comfortable, but I got used to it, and our campsite was slightly softer the second day. My only real complaint about the trip was that it wasn’t longer! We only got to spend one full day there, and once we had to leave it felt as if the trip hadn’t been three days at all. It would have been perfect if we had gotten four days there instead of only three, but I still enjoyed myself as it was.

                If I had the chance to go to Frontenac Park on the same trip again, there would be some changes I would make to my behaviour/plans. I would have liked to have been more efficient, and knowing what I do now, it would be easier to pack or unpack while food was being cooked instead of doing the two separately, and we could have gotten out of bed more quickly as well. I think I could have been more helpful to other groups as well, like when we were waiting for the second group on the first morning, and offered to do something for them. Since having extra food was an issue, I definitely would have packed less of it! We had a slight issue the first night: we could have hanged our food rope in a sturdier tree, as when we put all of our food together, we couldn’t hang it on the small branch we had picked out. We were left scrambling to find one in the dark – not a recommendable experience. My last regret about the trip involved the atmosphere. Most of the time, everyone was positive and encouraging towards one another, but sometimes the “jokes” got a little harsh. I wish I had stood up for the people involved instead of sitting there and not really knowing what to say (since the people telling the jokes are all my classmates too!). Needless to say, I could have contributed towards dissolving some of that negativity.

                Overall, the trip was fun and I learned a lot from my experience. If given the chance, I would definitely do it again as I feel I could improve even more on the experience I had before.

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