To the Wilderness We Go!

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Getting ready for evening circle: We arrived at our campsite around twilight and will sleep in the area behind the trees.

I’ve been away on wilderness training for the past two weeks. It is a necessary step as I move into the field of experiential — and away from classroom — education. Ours was a party of eleven, nine trainees, of which I’m one, and two seasoned Outward Bound outdoor education leaders.

The goal here in the United States as far as wild, open spaces go, is to try to bring these places back to the way they were in the days of the First Peoples. But even the First Peoples practiced land management of some sort. They deliberately set fire to the fields, for example, to regenerate seeds that they later harvested for food. If you want to learn more about their relationship to the land here in the Northern California/Bay Area region, a good book to read is Malcolm Margolin’s, The Ohlone Way. It provides a lens into the untamed wilderness that never really was. The idea of “wilderness” as we understand it today, is purely a concoction of European minds. We are meddlesome creatures. Once we arrive and become involved with the land, the wilderness ceases to exist.

This training allows staff/educators to experience what their students will experience during a backpacking trip. The goal is to better understand and relate to them; most, perhaps all of the students we will be working with have never been camping, backpacking or out enjoying the backwoods, the wilds.

Life at Henry Coe State Park

On the first day of our trip it was nice and sunny. The next day, snow! Then the two days after that, rain, rain and more rain, followed by days of sunshine. Our final day at Henry Coe? Rain and lots of it. But we didn’t complain for it meant the drought was most likely over. We pitched our tarps and slept 4-5 people per tarp, fully dressed in our wet gear and damp sleeping bags, just as our students most likely will in the fall, winter and spring.

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Photo credit: Benson Njau, 2014

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