Thursday, December 4, 2008


Solo was my most dreaded event that I knew was going to happen at some point during our 50 days. I also knew that it would be no longer than a 72 hour period. About half way between the length of the course we were told that we were about to be put on Solo. At first, we had been told that we would be there for only about two nights and a total of 48 hours. This had been pretty exciting to me since I wasn't looking forward to spending the night alone in the dark. As we were getting prepped for the event, we were informed that Solo had been lengthened to three nights and closer to 72 hours. The only reason that I didn't completely freak out is because my biggest fear had been encountering a bear during this time, but the earlier incident with a bear had eased my mind about that.
At Outward Bound, Solo is extremely important. Every one has to go through it, no matter what the length of your course. For the first day our journals were taken, our limited amount of food was taken, and for the entire time our knives had also been taken for safety. We were encouraged to use this time to think and just be with ourselves. A lot of people in my crew were definitely looking forward to getting away from each other. We were also given a small tarp big enough for one and only three strands of cord to put it up with. This meant that we would have to get creative in setting up our tarps. We were given two writing assignments that we wouldn't be able to start until the following morning when our food was returned to us and we were also instructed to make a "mailbox" for food and water to be picked up and dropped off in.

Once we were put on Solo, I built my tarp using hair ties, the cord we had been given and shoe laces. Then I built my mailbox and tried to get creative. I attempted to sit outside, but couldn't keep my eyes open so I went under the tarp to take a nap. It started to rain and rained for the next day and a half. I got through the first night without waking up and eagerly awaited my food and journal. We were allowed two bagels, an apple and a small block of cheese for the whole time. I attempted to pass the time with writing, but somehow that went really quickly. I also tried to think about really important things, but somehow the only thing in my head was the song, "She'll be coming around the Mountain when she comes"...over and over and over again.

The next two days seemed to take forever. Being confined to a small area in the woods where you can't see or talk to anyone else is sort of depressing. I guess if I had been able to be more reflective in my head I would have enjoyed it more. I am pretty proud of myself that I managed to get through the whole thing without too much trouble.

Cabin Fever

During the 10 days that we stayed on base camp to obtain our Wilderness First Responder certifications, we stayed in very small cabins that each had 12 bunk beds. This was pretty much the only time where both crews were together for an extended period of time, but we still were split into two separate cabins and interacted mostly with our own crews. Try to picture the smallest possible structure that could fit 12 very narrow bunk beds and you might get an idea of what it was like. Add 12 large backpacks scattered around to that and things get even tighter. Luckily by then we had become fairly close as a crew and the close quarters were something we had become accustomed to. However, it is nearly impossible to be quiet in an all wooden structure. Chances were you weren't falling asleep until everyone else did and you were waking up with the first person to rise, which most of the time was about an hour before you yourself actually wanted to get up. It was one of those situations where the quieter you try to be, the louder it comes off.
There were several people in my crew who also snored. Out in the wild, this was not such a big deal because the sound had far to travel, but in the cabin it was a constant and intense hum of snoring. Thanks to my childhood and my Dad, I have some sort of innate ability to sleep through the worst of snoring. However, some of my crew mates were not quite as easy going about it. We also had some sleep talkers, but again I was pretty unaware of any of that.

The entire time during WFR felt like summer camp a little bit. It was definitely cramped at times inside the cabin, but it was also another really great bonding time for our crew. During this time, my crew realized how insanely organized I like to be. I had my clothes all neatly folded in piles next to my sleeping bag and I had neatly written our food menu for the week and posted it on the wall next to my bunk so that we could check off meals as we ate them. Needless to say, I was asked to organize lists, food menus and many other things for the remainder of course. The sick part is, I liked it.

It was definitely strange to be 50-100 feet away from Rich during that time and not really have much interaction with him, but we handled it quite well I think. Unfortunately for Rich, his sleeping pad suffered a hole that week and he was forced to sleep on flat plywood for the remainder of those few days. It's amazing what an inch of air can do for your comfort at night.