For weeks I've been putting off writing an entry about the culmination of my NOLS experience. It's so difficult to find the words to describe an experience that is by nature really indescribable. There is no way to convey, in all my ambling attempts, what NOLS and the wilderness and these experiences truly mean to me. I want to write about it in such a way that my family and friends can better imagine my life this year, but it's tiring to attempt such an impossible task and continually come up short. Words are inadequate.
Of course, I'm going to try. But just remember: everything was more profound in its occurrence than in its retelling.
To put it succinctly, our last section was the most memorable, enjoyable and empowering. We hiked in the Galiuros for a week with 2 instructors and then split into three small groups of 5 students and traveled independently for almost a week (an “Independent student group expedition,” or ISGE). During the first week we had a “solo,” an incredibly unique and interesting experience: 24-hours of complete solitude, each student given a small area in the woods. That week was bitterly cold [one might even venture so far as to say “miserable”], but when we left in our small groups the weather suddenly and miraculously improved.
My small group included myself and four friends, one of whom was our designated leader. We hiked and explored and had a relaxed and fun time together. It was the most perfect way to end our course: hiking again, to bring our semester full circle, but now traveling independently and realizing how much we'd learned and changed. As we hiked to rejoin the other groups on the last morning of ISGE I was thinking about one of my favorite camp songs, “On the Loose.” One particular verse had always been my favorite and looking back on the semester it seemed especially fitting for my time at NOLS:
Have you ever watched a sunrise turn the sky completely red?
Have you slept beneath the moon and stars, a pine bough for your bed?
Do you sit and talk with friends, though not a word is ever said?
Then you're just like me and you've been on the loose.
That night we had a campfire, to celebrate our reunion from our separate travels and preparing to say goodbye. Our proctor sang “On the Loose,” and in that moment everything felt perfect.