Cathy Goes Backpacking: Part I
I’m Cathy, from Silver Team, and I have a story.
One of the first things that we, as Explore, do once we reach Montana is a six-day team backpacking trip with our eight-person team. We go in the mountains, along the State Line trail between Montana and Idaho. Because I had never done anything even remotely like this before, I was a bit nervous about a few things regarding this trip, especially when I heard that two people from us first-year students would be leading on each day.
I was not looking forward to this. For one, I have a really slow pace when hiking, and I was afraid of slowing everyone down, or worse, getting left in the dust. I also have very little sense of direction.
I imagined a hiking day that involved me at the front-unable to see the disapproving glares of my teammates behind me; only able to hear their conspiratorial whispering. I would walk, look at the map, and walk some more, only to get us hopelessly lost to the point of having everyone on my team abandon me in the wilderness because I am so useless.
Yes, that’s probably a bit extreme. It’s a good thing, I thought, that the guy I’m leading with knows what he’s doing. Maybe together we’ll be able to lead our team to where we need to go, and I won’t look quite so incompetent. The next morning, I walked at the front to set the pace. There was a path to follow, and that, at least, was something that I could do.
Apparently, though, it wasn’t.
We needed to be on the lookout for a path that branched out to the right, which we missed.
Alright, one wrong turn, no big deal. I didn’t hear any complaining from the rest of the group, even though we had to go quite a ways back uphill to find the right path again. Then, our route took us downhill bushwhacking, which means there wasn’t any path to follow, and we weren’t sure how far down the path was. This was taxing for the group, as there was no shade, barely any breeze, and the downhill was steep.
I was still at the front, I had an idea of where we were supposed to be going, and after another few hours of going downhill we found a path. My first thought was, Hey, there’s only one path on this map and so this is the one we’re looking for. But my student co-leader looked at the map and said that we had to go farther down to reach our destination, so this wasn’t the real path, it was some sort of game trail. So, we followed the downhill side of that path.
Which was in the opposite direction of where we were supposed to be going.
I kept quiet, partially because I rationalized that the other guy knew what he was doing and I didn’t, partially because I was having a hard time breathing, let alone speaking up. After some nice downhill hiking in a shaded area, we took another look at the map. What I said, essentially, was, “This is a path. There are no other paths on this map. This is the path we were supposed to go on.” So, we turned around, and went back in the direction we came from.
I was sure at that point that the team had figured out how poor of a leader I was, and that they would silently resent getting lost twice for the rest of the year. They would never let me live it down.
To top it all off, I managed to again lose track of the correct path, leading the team through the bush uphill. Once again, someone else found the correct path, and by then I lost any of the little confidence I did hold about how the day had gone.
…Stay tuned for Part 2!