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Monday, November 5, 2012

Winter Orientation

Before coming to Prescott College, I had been on a few comfortable weekend camping trips and some day hikes. Orientation, therefore, was a bit shocking, and the most physically challenging experience of my life. And it was worth every second.

I came to Prescott last January, so I did the winter orientation, which is nine days in the Grand Canyon and nine days in the Superstition Mountains. I had never seen the Grand Canyon before, and sometimes I still feel like I barely have (that thing is HUGE). Those of us who hadn’t seen the Canyon before chose to be blindfolded as we approached it so we would be surprised. One of my favorite shows is Parks & Recreation, and I was all ready to be a smart-aleck and quote this scene:

Instead, once my blindfold was taken off, I stood there, jaw on the ground, staring at this unbelievably vast expanse for about two minutes. I was speechless.

That’s me having my mind blown by the beauty that is the Grand Canyon.

Whenever I tell anyone about my experience in the Grand Canyon, I have to use the word unbelievable. Because it is literally unbelievable. I spent nine days in it, and I still don’t believe it exists, that’s how unbelievably gigantic and gorgeous it is. It just doesn’t end. Have I expressed to you enough yet how big and beautiful the Grand Canyon is? Probably not. I’ll move on anyway.

My first couple of days of orientation were a bit rocky (pun intended). My trekking poles broke (because I got cheap ones – if you want good trekking poles, invest in good trekking poles… and keep the receipt!), my Camelbak got poked by a cactus and broke (bring HARD water bottles, at least 2 liters. Things get pokey out there), and a few days in, my Achilles tendon started acting up (BREAK IN YOUR HIKING BOOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! never enough exclamation points). Luckily, my orientation group, my family for those three weeks, helped me when they could. My least-broken pole got taped, one of my instructors gave me her extra Nalgene bottle, and a girl in my group had salve to make my ankle feel better.

This leads to the thing I loved most about orientation… Your problems seem so small and insignificant next to 1.7 billion year old rock. In the canyon, you can literally see time pass in the rock layers, and it puts your life into perspective. Some people might not like feeling small and insignificant… but I love it. That realization only made me more passionate about my goals at Prescott College (Environmental Policy) and made me feel more connected to the Earth.
I also appreciated this realization because, in the three months before orientation, my last and closest grandparent died, my childhood pet died, and my boyfriend of 2.5 years suddenly left me. It was rough. And orientation was undoubtedly the best thing I could have done to heal myself. I walked out my problems. I walked them out next to ancient earth, and it put everything in perspective. Our problems come and go, but the Colorado still rushes on. It’s hard to feel bad for yourself when you wake up next to wonderful new friends and this is the first thing you see:

Photo Credit: Autumn Chase-Dempsey
Photo Credit: Lacey Stone

Yeah, it’s just a little bit gorgeous.

Orientation is different for everyone because everyone comes to it with different experiences. I had little camping and hiking experience, and used orientation as a kind of therapy. Others are very experienced, and it might mean something different to them. But no matter your experience, unless you lose all of your food and clothes and your tent burns down, I don’t know how you can’t have a good time on orientation, and probably learn a lot about yourself in the process. (Especially on solo!) I am thankful for every moment of my Prescott College orientation, even the rough spots, because I grew from it. It helped make me who I am today.
Photo Credit: Lacey Stone

My wonderful orientation group!

- Ruby Teegarden

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