HMI Gap: Just A Normal day

A student reflection of the time Wilderness & Conservation 2 spend at their basecamp near Moab, UT.

Written by: Cole Norsworthy

You wake up to one or two bright stars remaining in a dark blue sky. You turn over in your sleeping bag. To one side is your family. You’ve spent days that feel like weeks with these people. Not because it feels long, but because you do so much every day, you pack it with miles of hiking, the most beautiful aspen trees, wide open canyons, and endless mountains. You love them. You turn the other way and see the pink brushing the clouds. The sun hasn’t come over the mountains yet. The sound of guitar strings gently grabs your attention. Our treasured honorary human alarm clock, Miles, wakes you up to the Beatles. You finally have your clothes on, ready to run. You leave up the seemingly endless dirt road. The first few steps are cold. Frozen in fact. Feet, legs, arms, everything frozen. But with each step the ice seemingly shakes itself off. And with each step the view becomes more stunning. The sun hasn’t yet risen but the valley below is pink with light. The distant Henry Mountains rise above everything in the horizon. Of course, your run hurts, but knowing everyone at base camp is serenely waking up brings you peace. And they are making a beautiful breakfast on a luxurious two-burner stove. You get to your turnaround point and take a second, maybe a minute, to enjoy the view. Filling your lungs with the best air you have breathed. And filling your eyes with the most beautiful canyons and valleys.  You return to a field of almost empty sleeping bags and faces eagerly asking about your run. They care because you care. You are part of a community which has only grown tighter.

After a warm breakfast, it is off to the “crag,” a new word you quickly fall in love with. It means it’s time to climb, time for all the victories and losses that come with it. The group quickly packs the bus. We call the bus Jean-Pierre. Everyone carries their own piece of group gear. We don’t leave any area until we have counted every single piece of group gear. We refuse to lose anything. The trip on Jean-Pierre is hype to say the least. Music blasting, your mind racing, wondering what routes to climb. Once off the bus and finally there, you watch in awe as Nicholas and Shona seemingly strut up the wall, climbing with style, lead-climbing with style, tying ropes into anchor points at the top so we can safely climb. Someone screams “helmets on,” and the day has officially begun. The mad dash to climb and belay begins.  Climbing is like a big puzzle, one where your hands and feet are the pieces. You gently or sometimes not so gently slide them into holds, cracks, and crevices. Sometimes you need to smear when the wall looks blank. On the blank sections, you will need to trust the puzzle pieces more than ever, and more than that, trust your belayer, ever present and listening carefully to your every word, guiding you up the wall. Ready to catch you when the puzzle pieces don’t quite fit. The feeling at the top is indescribable. Here, you take several deep breaths, trying to comprehend what you just did, all while seeing the world from that beautiful rock’s perspective. On one side is a valley opening up so wide and far you can see the town of Moab dozens of miles away. To the other side you get to revisit the aspen trees you fell in love with in Colorado. It’s amazing. You slowly descend, trusting your belayer every step, your family loudly cheering for you at the bottom. High fives and smiles all around. The final command between you and the trusted belayer is said: “Belay off,” and you are ready for your next challenge. The best part is that it was only the first climb of the day.

You get back to camp, and the snacking begins. Dried mango slices, fresh watermelon, and pineapple and of course, Sour Patch Kids. Everyone goes off to take baby wipe showers and improve their relationship with Doug. After that everyone’s favorite time begins: dinner. This is our community at its best (or on Jean-Pierre screaming lyrics to songs we thought we’d all forgotten). Everyone again cooking together on our luxury backcountry stoves. You may eat pizza, pasta, stir-fry, burritos, quinoa, sometimes mixed with “freshies,” our carefully picked and praised fruits and vegetables from the local market. You sit down and are immediately surrounded by everyone, eating happily together in a close circle, only stopping conversation to get seconds and thirds. After that we clean and clean hard. It’s always a group effort. Grabbing snacks, tea, and hot cocoa before our evening meeting. This is another place our community truly thrives. You feel safe here. You share everything from your dreams, countless life stories, to our favorite sounds, liquids, and worst/best “dad jokes.” The night is sadly close to being over. After getting the plan for the next day you grab a final snack. After that everyone drags their sleeping bags out into the chosen sleeping area. You do a read aloud of Harry Potter every night. It puts you to sleep, staring at the stars you woke up to. You can’t wait to wake up next to your family. And do it all again.