Hello from Tucson! I left Minneapolis yesterday morning and arrived here after a smooth flight and connection in Dallas. I took a shuttle to my hotel and was surprised right away by a few things:
-There are cacti EVERYWHERE! I guess I hadn't expected Tucson to be a complete desert, which it is (at least to a Minnesotan who is used to her 10,000 lakes).
-There are also mountains everywhere-- Tucson is surrounded on four sides by the Santa Catalina, Rincon, Santa Rita, and Tucson mountain ranges (if I remember correctly). It is stunningly beautiful.
I wandered around the neighborhood a bit, but went to bed early to prepare for an early morning.
This morning I met other NOLS students in the hotel lobby around 6:30, and we were picked up by NOLS staff around 7. We drove to the NOLS Southwest base and met our leaders and found out that we were going on trail tomorrow morning (apparently other students had gotten an email notifying us of this, but somehow I never got that--this was different than the schedule they had given us originally). We were then given a tour of the facilities--after talking to my boyfriend Christopher, who left on his own NOLS course shortly before me, I had somewhat different expectations of what the base might look like. From what I gather, this is one of the smallest of NOLS' outfits. Perhaps the most striking was discovering that at the base we sleep in the "tents" we bring on trail, which consist of only one pole and a rain tarp that hovers about a foot above the sand (whereas the base in Lander, Wyoming has dorms for their students). There are yurts for the leaders & staff to stay in, and the central building of the compound is the "ramada" which is an open-air structue with a roof and tables and couches. The base is located on what was once an Arabian horse farm, so there are some horse stalls nextto the ramada that are now used for storage. There's one staff office/lodging building and a swimming pool! (We were too busy all day to go for a swim, but today was the day for it--one of our instructors said it was supposed to be close to 100F today.)
We learned our schedule for the semester and then dove into our first task of bagging all of our food for the first two sections (backpacking and rock climbing). I was interested to see what lunch would consist of, since the kitchen is tiny so I was certain it would also be different than Christopher's experience. Apparently they solve this problem by ordering in-- we had Quiznos subs for lunch and pizza for dinner.
After lunch one of our instructors went through all of my gear with me and then sent me to the Outfitting room to get the rest of what I needed for hiking and rock climbing. We packed our gear for the hiking section, and because we aren't returning to the base in between hiking and rock climbing, we also packed bags with clean clothes for after this section and with all of our gear for rock climbing. We were then divided into "cooking groups" (groups of 4 that we tent and cook with), learned how to pack our packs, and had a talk about the "Positive Learning Environment" that is expected at NOLS. It was a very full and exciting day. We accomplished so much in a ridiculously short amount of time; we prepared everything we need for the next month and a half since arriving at the base 12 hours ago (though it seems like we've already been here much longer than that).
My life for the next semester:
9/14: leave to go on a 22-day backpacking trip in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico.
10/6: transition day (showers!!)
10/7: begin climbing section
10/23: return to NOLS base for WFR, which is...
10/24-11/2: Wilderness First Responder training
11/4: leave for canoeing section on the Rio Grande
11/20-11/21: drive back to NOLS base
11/24: begin Independent Student Group Travel (ISGT) section
12/9: return to NOLS base, prepare for departure home, my birthday!
My address at NOLS:
2751 N. Soldier Trail
Tucson, AZ 85749
I would love to hear from everyone, so feel free to send me mail :) I'll do my best to keep in touch but I don't know if I'll have much in the way of outside communication until we return to the base in October.