Chapel Talk by Megan Butts '09, Founder's Prize Recipient

For my Founder’s Prize experience I wanted to choose a program that was going to challenge me in a place that I haven’t visited before. I chose an Outward Bound experience because it was a physical challenge but was not as technical as a NOLS program, another outdoor experience. My particular trip took place in the Elk Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. My trip lasted for 22 days, starting on July 4th.
Before I tell you about my trip, let me give you a little background on Outward Bound to help put the trip in perspective. Kurt Hahn founded Outward Bound in England in 1941, and one of his students, Josh Miner, founded the first United States school in Marble, CO in 1961. The four pillars that were originally established by Hahn to benefit others that attended the school were service and compassion, physical fitness, self-reliance, and craftsmanship. The mission statement then follows by saying, “Our mission is to inspire character development and self discovery in people of all ages and walks of life through challenge and adventure, and to impel them to achieve more than they ever thought possible, to show compassion for others and to actively engage in creating a better world.”  The four core values that my group and I needed to learn while on the trip and then live by were: compassion, integrity, excellence, and inclusion and diversity. The use of these values is what led us to succeed throughout the trip.

Also there were three levels of leadership we were expected to reach before we finished the course.  In the beginning, we had no control and the instructors led us through everything.  The second stage was called Main, and in this stage we had a little bit of control and could navigate with the help of the instructors. The third stage was called Finals;  we had complete control including how far and where we went each day.  The instructors weren’t always there, so we had to make decisions on our own.
We began our journey after a six hour bus ride from Denver to Gothic. We packed our packs and began our trip.   Every morning we would have to get up really early, usually around 6 AM. After that, we would eat breakfast, usually granola and powdered milk, and break down camp. To break down camp we would have to take down the tarps and clean up our site to make sure we left no trace.  Everyday we would have to make it over a pass; that is the lowest point between two higher levels of elevation. And along the way we would usually come across something interesting. Once we got to our destination, then we would begin setting up camp, make dinner, and go to bed, some times around 7:30.  

On the third day we had to climb over a pass that was 12,445 ft. The morning started off well; we made it over the pass in time.  But as soon as we got to the top of the pass, we could see that there were storms rolling in. We needed to go on top of the ridge to get to Ice Cube Lake and set up camp. As soon as we could see Ice Cube Lake in the distance, it started thundering. Our instructors made a quick decision to use our skills that we had learned earlier that day and do snow school down the mountain. This consisted of sliding down the side of the mountain on snow with our ice axes in hand to control ourselves. It was terrifying!

If that wasn’t enough, once we got to the bottom it started hailing. We ran to where we were going to set up camp, set up camp in the hail, and then as soon as we were finished setting up, the sun came out. I was confused… just seconds before my instructor said that it was probably going to snow that night. We were all thankful that it didn’t.
During any Outward Bound program a solo is required for everyone to complete. Solo is where the instructors bring us out to a designated space and then leave us there for, in our case, two days and two nights. We did not know where any one else from our group was and so once the solo was over our leaders came to get us and brought us back to camp. It is designed to give us space from other group members and to allow us to have reflection and down time.
Re-supply is a time where we restocked all of our food, medical supplies, and fuel containers. Once we were all stocked we would continue hiking. Re- supply destinations were already pre-determined so we had to make sure that we made it there on time.  During our trip we had two re-supplies.

Our trip to the second re-supply was very different. We hiked down into a small town named Crystal. Once we arrived at our destination, we found that no one that was supposed to meet us was there. This was somewhat troublesome because at this point our group had reached the second part of our leadership goal and were on Main, where we navigated and led ourselves everywhere we went. We were confused as to where everyone else could possibly be.

After hiking for 11 hours, we were all very tired and really had no energy to continue. Thankfully our instructors said that they were going to hike down to the bottom of the trail to see if anyone was there. By that time it was around 7 PM. We set up camp and ate dinner. By 9 PM there was no sign of our instructors, so we went to bed. In the morning once we packed up camp and our packs, we went to our instructors’ tent to see where they were - there was no one there. We put our heads together and decided that since we had a map and knew with relative certainty where re-supply was that we should hike there to see if our instructors were there; even in the middle of the woods there was no way to contact anyone. We began a short hike down to a river crossing. Thankfully, there we saw our instructors; if they had not been there, we probably would have crossed the river without being as cautious as we were under their guidance. They guided us across the river, and they were very proud of us for doing it on our own. We continued on to re-supply, and that day, about two days ahead of schedule, we reached finals, the last step to leading ourselves. We now could navigate, lead, and do everything on our own. The instructors were always within ten minutes of us, but other than that they were not around.

With about two days left, we hiked into base camp in Marble, CO and set up camp. Once we were all finished setting up, we were reminded of the last of the four pillars that we needed to complete - service. Service is an important part of the Outward Bound curriculum because they want people to give back to others that have helped them. In this case, we were going to redo the community garden for the town of Marble so that we could help them achieve their goal of becoming self- sufficient. The garden that we helped renovate will continue to expand and will be used in the future for the community to grow their own vegetables.  

Our course was wrapped up by doing an adventure course. This was newly designed this year to enable everyone to come together as a group and use all of the different skills that were taught through the duration of the trip. Before we left to go back home we had a last night ceremony where we were given certificates of completion and outward bound pins.

Looking back on my course today, I realize how hard I had to push myself through every day and how mentally strong I have grown. There were days where I just wanted to quit and give up, but I never did. This experience has taught me that no matter how tough the challenge, I can get through it!