Thoughts from Dr. Joe

Colorado Adventure, Part II

Well, the good Lord was willing and the creek didn't rise. I'm back!

Here's more about this Colorado adventure. If you read me last week, you'll remember my students and I were heading toward the Rocky Mountains to learn about western history themselves, and how to survive on the land. Driven by the love of novelty, Colorado opened its doors and we lumbered into the primitive wilderness of the San Juan range. The rain had dampened everything but our spirits.

Our mission was to live off the land in a primitive world that would hone our wits; and where the forces of nature would trim us of emotional and physical fat. It's a chance for self discovery; and my students would learn who they were?and who they were not.

Our first days of hiking were conditioning for what lay ahead - we were to cross Uncompahgre Pass, at 13,000 feet! With compass and map we reached our final base camp. The pass, covered with snow, would make our traverse difficult. To insure our footing on the snow, we'd make the ascent at dawn. The morning came and with a sense of apprehension, my students looked toward the summit. Each step, previously taken, along with lessons of survival, had been an investment for this morning's hike. But most important - what would see us through - were the bonds and the team we had built. "I will see you at the top for lunch," I said. And then I took the first step.

The skies were dismal as we set out. It was imperative that we summit prior to the approaching storm. We'd find shelter in the pines below. As we approached the summit, my strongest hikers broke paths in the snow while the altitude made causalities of us all. With every step we found an oasis, a chance to struggle for breath, a chance to see the handiwork of God. Was it the destination or the journey that gave my students the magic within and outside themselves? I knew the answer and I hoped they did!

I lack the poetry of imagination to describe the cataclysmic reactions of sky, clouds, snow, mountains, peeks, forests, and valleys. I leave that to Whitman and Longfellow. However, John Muir summarized our feelings; "In the midst of such beauty?who wouldn't be a mountaineer!"

So why do we do it? Why do we embrace rain, hail, altitude, arduous hikes, and freezing temperatures? Does it teach us anything? Do we learn determination, patience, invention, accuracy, tolerance, and strength? Do we learn to rely on ourselves and realize we are not small? We fill the sphere and we are part of all there is.

Some of our classrooms aren't classrooms. Know-ledge, especially of self, evolves from different venues. There is more to wilderness than meets the eye, more than timber and rock. There are mental trees and rocks, an imaginative world of origins, meanings, and mysteries called mythology. When we connect to the earth we touch that which is deepest within us. We are genetically linked to ancestors who were voyagers in a primitive world just like we are on this Colorado adventure.

(I'll be back next week for the final story of "This Colorado Adventure." But first?I've got to survive 12 college kids in this wild town of Durango.)

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