My annual seven-day fall backpacking trip with college students turned into a mere four-day trek, due to the Ontario colleges going on strike. The students still had quality time in the bush, distance was made with heavy loads strapped to their backs and the late season’s cool nights and rainy days challenged even the most hardy participants.
Overall, however, it was just an OK trip. It definitely wasn’t epic.
Five years ago, the college’s Outdoor Adventure Leadership program asked me to take the lead on their second-year graduating classes Advance Trip Planning course. The trip was a success—but I came back with a major recommendation for the next year’s backpacking trip. The four-day trip should be turned into 10. They compromised and gave me seven.
I personally believe you don’t become comfortable out there until about the fifth day. The first few are spent getting over your phobias and forgetting about your urban addictions. More time in the woods equates to more comfort and connection to your surroundings. Life becomes simpler, travelling from A to B with all your belongings strapped to your back.
I noticed the difference this past trip. I was glad the students got at least four days in before I had to get them back. (If not, I would have been crossing the picket line.) But I did notice little change in their comfort level with being in the outdoors. They jumped with joy when the bus showed up to pick them up. The previous years when I took students out for seven days, the majority of them just wanted to keep hiking rather than jump on the bus to go home.
Have a look at the video series I put together on the trip. I’m hoping they all get back to class soon. I miss them.