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MC Trek Report #1

Trek One Report
[TREK is a tremendous leadership laboratory. When faced with randomly chosen groups, varying conditions of weather, fatigue and risk, students overcome fears, learn to pay attention to detail, discover how to get along with others, and quickly adjust to changing conditions.
In the opening orientation semester, first year students are taught the rudiments of living in the field and of survival theory—principles of relevant tools, orienteering, physiology, first aid, living in and off of nature, field clothing and cover, weather, etc.
After training, they begin going out, over the course of their stay on campus, in teams of three or four on easy acclimation wilderness excursions. All students are issued standard Trek equipment that they are responsible for maintaining.
Later, they take much longer Treks with smaller groups including solo Treks. As proficiency increases, so can the nature of the challenges.  As students graduate, veterans of as many as twenty Treks during their tenure at Monticello College, they will be prepared to confidently survive in virtually any circumstance—and indeed craving opportunities to continue such adventures through their lives.
Many current leaders can point to defining moments of challenge or difficulty, moments in which they rose to the occasion, and which helped mold their character. Trek is designed to do just that. 
Each Trek has an assigned mission to complete and a number of obstacles to overcome. For this Trek, our mission was to find the source of the assigned stream.] 
August 29-30, 2012

Ben Filtering Water Near the Source

After a quick inventory of the remaining food in everyone’s packs, you realize that combined you only have enough food for one more meal each and you still have to hike out of the backcountry wilderness.
There’s no need to panic just yet. Water isn’t an immediate issue, having recently refilled from the nearby stream.
But, as breathtakingly beautiful as the mountains can be, the wilderness can be cruelly unforgiving if you make a mistake. It’s no place to find yourself out of food, water, or shelter.
Which way do you hike out? You could return the way you came, following the drainage back down to the parked truck. The path is familiar, water is readily available, but it’s a four to six hour hike.
Last night, coming into the meadow where you camped you scared a herd of grazing cattle further up the trail. Surely, they haven’t wandered too far from an accessible forest service road. There must be a closer way out in that direction. Water might be an issue.
The stream you were following appeared to dry up within 100 yards. Can you carry enough water to reach the road? Or what about a third option. You’re sure that you just need to scramble up and over the ridge immediately to the north.
The Landscape Is Varied and Dense

The drainage appears to have come up and around it.
No apparent water source, and a low likelihood of finding a trail makes you wonder how risky that route might be.
How do you decide which way to hike out? How do you convince the group which is the best way? What do you do if there isn’t consensus? Do you split up? Does majority rule?
Or is a simple plurality enough?
When lives are potentially on the line, how do you govern?
These were some of the great learning opportunities during the recently completed first ever Monticello College Trek. Our expedition started on a dirt road in the Blue Mountains west of Monticello, Utah. A mountain stream passed under the road. Late fall? Southeastern Utah? Looks like a reliable water supply. Why not scout the source? And so began the exploration.
Where’s The Trail? I Thought This Was a Desert

We hiked with full packs up the drainage, fighting brush, thorns, and washouts for the first hour. The foliage and dense under growth are unbelievable. This is supposed to be a desert.
Gratefully, we eventually stumbled across a trail that generally followed the stream.
At lunchtime we walked into a peaceful clearing and sat down to rest under the shade of several large pines.
I glanced up about five or six feet and saw a section of bark that had been scraped away, four clear bear claw marks announced the artist.
Earlier that morning we had also spotted a set of bear paw prints walking across a sand bar.
Base Camp

After lunch we continued our search for the spring’s source. About three or four hours later we hiked into a meadow where the spring branched into three different directions.
We startled a herd of grazing cattle and they ran further up the trail out of any perceived danger. We followed one branch that appeared to dry up within 100 yards. No obvious source. A search of the second branch proved more fruitful.
In the corner of a small puddle bubbled clear water from underground. Mission accomplished!
By then the sun was closing on the western horizon.

We set up camp, cooked dinner, and watched in awe as a beautiful full moon crested the eastern ridge. Soon we retired to our tents amid a chorus of bull elk bugling into the night.
Eventually the star-filled night gave way to the signs of a rising sun and the greeting of the crisp morning mountain air. As breakfast ended, we couldn’t resist the call of the third branch of the stream.
“It’s barely a trickle. Let’s find the source. It can’t be far.” After a couple of hours scrambling over fallen logs and following animal trails up the steep slope we finally returned to break camp and choose a route to hike out.
Trek Team: James Malmstrom – Mentor (front), Ben Brooks (left), Jon Brooks (right)

The scenario played out just as described above. We’ll not reveal our choice of exit. Those questions are left for you to simulate in your own mind what you would do in that situation.
The wilderness has much to teach us that has everyday application in life. Come join us next summer for another grand adventure!
James Malmstrom
Monticello College

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