Monday, February 27, 2012

New Zealand tramping with NOLS - 6 days in

"Something of our personalities has gone into every mountain on which we have spent our strength and on which our thoughts have rested, and something of its personality has come into our own.."        R.L.G. Irving
Bagging 350 kg of food to feed 12 for 27 days!

I am writing this on day 6 of my 27 day "hike". By the time you read this I will have completed more than half of my hike as this is from a letter mailed back to the States. 

I really wasn't sure what to expect from this course and entered it with some trepidation, but so far I am loving it - well, 95% of the time. Sometimes I am just too tired to care!  We hike, on average, 6 hours a day with 50+ pound packs on our backs. It is definitely more physically challenging than anything I have done before --- yes, including summiting Kilimanjaro!  New Zealand is a gorgeous country and experiencing it without any electronic distractors has made me notice the breathtaking surroundings -- the grand vistas as well as the smaller, close beauty -- so much more.
Dingle Burn River
Our days are long but there is plenty that remains to be done once the day's hike is over; including cooking. I can't manage to cook in a fully equipped kitchen and we prepare all of our meals on a camp stove.  Let's just say my first night as chef for my tent was not good - maybe not completely inedible, but pretty close!  After that first attempt, I decided that one of my goals is to master "camp stove" cooking and to produce delicious cinnamon rolls for my tent mates by the end of the trip. Another goal is to stick to my push-up and plank plans. By the final day I'll be doing 135 push ups and a 3 minute plank. I should be leaving New Zealand in much better shape than when I arrived! My third goal is to use some of my new wilderness EMT knowledge - hopefully not because any of my tramping mates need it, but rather by helping to instruct the wilderness first aid portion of this course. I made a start today by teaching about vital signs.  
Lake Hawea

I know I am less than a quarter of the way through, and while the hiking and leadership aspects will continue to push and challenge me to the max, I also know that I will  be rewarded. I am confident that I will have a greater appreciation for the world around me, grow as a person, and find new inner reserves from this experience - as I have from my previous  adventures during this incredible gap year.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wilderness EMT

Head wound Harry
Wow! I can honestly say that this past month has been one of the busiest and best months of my life. I just finished getting my Wilderness EMT, which is a combination of a basic EMT certification and a Wilderness First Responder certification. For 4 weeks we had 44 hours of class a week, class from 8am-5pm and then from 7pm-9:30pm twice a week. We also had one 12 hour shift on an ambulance one weekend, and then an 8 hour shift in the ER in Fresno another weekend. We made this crazy hectic time into a truly great one. 30 strangers came together and formed some amazing connections. I have never felt so at home among strangers and I truly believe that our whole group chemistry was unique in its strength. One of the particularly fun aspects of the class were the scenarios. We would have mock patient/rescuer situations and the injuries were VERY convincing!

Jerome had a nice impaled eye from a hot air balloon crash.

During the same crash I received a sucking chest wound.

At the end of this 4 week course not only do I feel prepared to handle so many more medical problems in the wilderness setting, but I also feel like I gained some great friends. We had fantastic instructors who made spending 44 hours in class a week so enjoyable and 29 other students who made both the time in class and time outside of class a blast. Leaving was a bittersweet feeling, but I know that the friendships made and the knowledge gained will last me years. I'll remember my impromptu ballroom dancing with Tim, crazy night rescue scenarios, listening to country music with a certain firefighter, mancakes and ice cream sandwiches and so many other things. Thanks everyone!

I am currently in New Zealand getting ready to head out on my NOLS course tomorrow morning! I will be backpacking for a month with a group of 9 other backpackers and 2 NOLS instructors. I have already met two of the other backpackers and am so excited to meet the rest!