Last year my housemate, Donna, went on a trip called “The GOOSE.” The Goose is actually “G.O.S.E.” and stands for “Guiding and Operating Skills Exam. One of our programs at the school has this final exam, and it is basically a week long back country camping trip where the students bring a couple of clients and have to keep them alive.
When Donna returned from this trip she told me all about it and it sounded AMAZING! So, when I started working at the school I was determined to find out how I could go on this trip. A couple months ago a mass email was sent out from the program director inviting staff and faculty to go on this trip as clients, I responded immediately requesting to go.
Photo Cred: Connor
They ended up having a smaller group of students this year, so they only needed one client, and I was it. It was terrifying at first, the thought of all the attention being on me, but I was still stoked to go knowing I would get to camp and all fearful things are void when the peace of camping is close by.
A couple weeks before we were scheduled to head out I started getting really stressed out. I had A LOT of stuff going on. I was searching for a new apartment with 2 of my housemates, and anxiously re-doing my budget every day to plan for the expense of each new place we looked at, and mentally preparing for my new surroundings then deciding against them and having to start from scratch.
I had this week long trip coming up, after returning I was heading out for a week long work trip in Northern BC, and the week after that was heading to California for my brother’s graduation. The thought of all these things coming up, and the amount of stuff that had to get done in between trips was giving me insomnia.
On top of all these things, I had relationship drama and was trying to process how best to move forward while respecting everyone involved and not being a total door mat.
I knew these things were stressing me out, but I couldn’t grasp the weight of all of these things together, which meant that any time something new came up I would take on the responsibility, because, hey! I had time, why not? What I wasn’t getting was that while I may have had the physical time to take on new challenges, I did not have the mental capacity to put 100% into the projects.
My mind was not aware of the fact that I was crossing the line into anxiety and stress territory, but my body did. My eye started twitching. It happens to me pretty often, as I usually don’t know when I’m over-committing myself until it’s too late. Along with the irritating flutter I started devouring my nails. I usually bite my nails, but it was seriously bad, biting way too far and making myself bleed.
I talked to my friend Robin about it, nervous that I was about to head out on this week camping trip and I’m already so anxious and my body is trying to cope with all this stress. I need some alone time, I can’t spend a week with a bunch of students!! Robin, who has been on the trip before, calmed me by saying that when she was on the trip she found her time to be extremely rejuvenating even though she is an introvert.
I started packing for the trip the night before, my eye now twitching for 3 weeks straight. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was ready for anything.
I woke up at like 5:45am to meet the students at the school and prepare to head out. We crossed the border at 6:45 and my phone was shut off for the next 7 days. It was the most blissful 7 days I’ve had in such a long time.
We drove 5 hours to Forks, WA. When we got there people started mentioning how the town was just a logging community until Twilight happened and suddenly it started opening up Twilight souvenir shops and tours. They pointed out a sign that marked the treaty line between the werewolves and the vampires, and the vampire warning level sign. I then informed them that I read all the Twilight books and totally loved them. I have no shame.
Every time we drove through Forks throughout that week, someone always asked something about vampires and I felt like a wealth of knowledge informing them of the facts about vampires, ::They live here because it rains so much and the sun makes them sparkle:: They have to move every 4 years so that schools don’t think it’s weird that they never age:: The werewolves are only present to protect the land from the Vampires, so once they leave they go back to growing up plain old humans:: etc, etc.
At one point we were driving past the high school and I wanted to see if it was the same school that they used in the movie (it wasn’t). All I wanted was to spot it from a couple streets over, but the guy driving the car insisted on taking a detour to look at it. Then there was that awkward moment when the student got on the walkie talkie to say, “We’re making a quick detour so Shanna can see the high school they used in the Twilight movie…” Like I said, no shame.
Hole-in-the-wall – Photo Cred: Kendal
For our trip we hiked along the Olympic coast, mostly the south side, but we spent a day on the North side to check out Hole-in-the-wall and Chilean memorial. On that day we got to see a bunch of sea anemones and seals and we got to camp at Ellen’s creek which had an awesome spot to sit and watch the ocean.
Most of the campsites we stayed at had a toilet with 2 sides of a fence around it, and nothing but the serene outdoors as your view while you relieved yourself. I, however, spent my entire time processing through what I would do if a bear or raccoon came out while I was sitting there. It was a very stressful time for me, but in the end all my worry was for naught.
Ellen’s Creek – Photo Cred: Dana
That night at Ellen’s Creek I was sitting on a log and the two other girls on the trip came and sat by me. We started having this deep talk about what we want to do with our lives and the one girl, Jess, asked me, “What’s your biggest fear?” I said, “Probably being chased, or people jumping out at me. I’m sure there are things I’d be more scared of, but those are the only things I’ve experienced that have made my heart race the most.” Everyone else went around and talked about some things they’re scared of. (remember this story for later….)
The next day we went back into Forks to re-stock on groceries and hiked down to stay at Third Beach. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a safe campsite and had to hike back out and stay at camp Mora again. (Camp Mora was a general camp ground that we stayed at the first night, nothing special except real toilets which are always nice.)
The next day we hiked back down to Third Beach and on to Toleak Point. This was my favorite day. Of the 7 days on the trip this was the only day that it didn’t rain at all. One other day it only rained a bit, and all of the other days it was either on and off rain or full downpours.
Note the mud on my pants – Photo Cred: Connor
We did a bit of inland trail which was super fun and muddy, but when you’re wearing rain pants it’s almost like your mind is convinced that you can’t actually get dirty so you just tromp confidently through the mud. When we came out on the other side we headed to the sea caves which was one of the main things I wanted to see. On our way over we heard this noise, like a short scream or cry. As we got closer, we found a baby sea otter trapped behind a log and eagles circling overhead.
I. could. not. contain. my. emotions. It was THEE cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Everyone else was like, “Oh it’s so cute” and I was literally just standing there, grabbing my face and wailing.
We needed to head over to the sea caves before the tide came in, but watching the eagles loom overhead, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. A couple other people decided to stay back, the baby sea otter was safe and we could explore the sea caves. As we hopped throughout the rocks somebody yelled “Hey! Here’s the dead sea otter mom!” Everyone started talking about skinning it and bringing it back with them. All I could think about was how this baby was now for sure gonna die without it’s mom to protect it. The guide for the day led me away from the dead mom and blocked my view from it which I will be eternally grateful for.
Photo Cred: Connor
When we got back from the sea caves the sea otter pup was gone. I looked at someone and asked what happened to it, then I told them, “If it’s dead, I need you to lie to me and tell me it’s fine.” They started telling me how the guys that stayed back helped it over the log, and walked it back to the water so the eagles wouldn’t get it. Then people kept saying stuff like, “Yeah, the pup is safe and sound… in heaven…” or “The pup was alive… the last time we saw it….” – Baby sea otter, I hope you are alive and well wherever you are out there!
That night we stayed at Toleak point, which was the most beautiful campsite. It was right off the beach and we all just sat on logs all night watching the sun set. The toilet was a 3 minute walk down a path, and since it was dark I asked a couple of the other girls to walk with me (also, because no one likes to go to the bathroom alone, ESPECIALLY me. I don’t know why, I think there is just comfort in knowing if you walk back with someone people are less suspicious of you. But if you walk back by yourself people are like, “Where were you?” It’s quite intimidating)
These 2 girls and I are walking and suddenly Jess jumps out from behind a tree and screams, then she sees my face and is instantly horrified and starts apologizing profusely and telling me that she didn’t know I was with them or else she would have never done it. I smacked her, and my emotions started to overcome me, my eyes started watering and Kendal yelled, “Jess, you made her cry!” I wish I could say, “No, I just had something in my eye.” But there was no fooling them, my emotions were so intense, my heart racing so fast that it was an entirely natural reaction for my eyes to water! Stop judging me. I am proud to say, however, that I did hold them back, and no tears fell down my cheek. Keep in mind that I did say my biggest fear was people jumping out at me.
The next day we got to sleep in and hang out on the beach for a bit waiting for the tide to go down. We hiked some more inland trails, some parts were a bit more terrifying than others, specifically the parts that were steep dirt hills with ropes to hold onto so you don’t plummet to your death.
At one point, I had a guide walk down a hill holding onto the rope in front of me, and at the bottom of the hill was the top of a wooden ladder that I had to climb down, again with ropes just hanging there, falling vertically, reminding you that if you slipped and weren’t holding onto them, that you would die. I stood at the top of this ladder and looked down, only to see the program director with this huge smile and giving me a thumbs up.
And as people followed me down and we all met at the bottom I kept saying, “Man, wasn’t that scary!?” And they all appeased me and said that it was, bless their hearts.
Photo Cred: Connor
That night we stayed at Mosquito Creek which sounds grosser than it was, I didn’t see any mosquitos. There was this one particular spot in the campsite where there were openings in the trees and it overlooked the ocean. I sat there for a while watching the waves, hoping to see a whale (which I did not) and thinking about life. Meanwhile, all the students were explaining their first aid procedures from earlier to the examiners.
I sat there thinking about how much I love my life, and how many opportunities God gives me to do exciting new things. I thought about how much I love camping and the ocean, and being in God’s creation. I thought about how if my situation in life was any different, if I was married, had kids, or had a different job, how it would have been incredibly more difficult to find the time to experience this. I thought about how much I loved being disconnected from the world. And then I realized, my eye hasn’t twitched all week. And suddenly was overwhelmed with joy at how awesome God is, and how one week away from life can calm me down.
Later that night, I was freezing and had tons of layers on. Two students were making funnel cakes for dessert and I was watching it in fascination. They gave me the first funnel cake and I held it on a plate in my hand. I looked at the funnel cake, then at the glove covering my hand, then at the funnel cake, then at the glove. I started wiping my hand on my side trying to push the glove off (still not sure why I didn’t just set the funnel cake down, maybe it looked too good to set down?) and then the one student said “here” and held out his hand… PROBABLY to hold the funnel cake, so I could take my glove off. However, still determined to not let this funnel cake out of my grasp, I held my hand out and he took my glove off for me. Is this the epitome of laziess? Maybe.
Photo Cred: Kendal
The next day we started hiking to oil city. It was a lot more inland trail and on and off rain, but I loved every second of it. When we got to Oil City I was told we could either camp in the rain (which was down pouring) or hike the half mile back to the van and head home. I said, “I really like camping…” So the guide started to look for a campsite. While he was gone, some of the other students came up to me and were like, “Really? Are you sure? Do you really want to camp here? It’s gonna keep raining… ARE YOU SURE?”
Luckily, the guide got back and there wasn’t a campsite we could stay at so we had to move ahead anyway. We were gonna spend another night at the Mora campsite, which if that was the case I would rather go home anyway. However, on our last little trek back to the van there was a creek that was like 5 feet wide. Everyone walked across it on rocks. When I got there, I stepped on a rock, which my foot promptly slipped off filling my boot with water, and since it was the end of our journey anyway I decided to just tromp through without care of how wet my socks would get.
By the time we got back to the van it was decided that we would travel back to Abbotsford that night.
We all changed into our van clothes and hopped in nice and dry. I sat in the front which I got the entire time in an effort to save me from car sickness. After I hopped in Harry, one of the interns, told me that he thought I was a natural hiker which I laughed out loud at. Anyone who knows my experience hiking in New York knows I was a vehement hater of the activity for most of my life. Then the director, Chris, started agreeing with him and the two of them started talking about how I didn’t have any injuries and how I didn’t complain during the hike (which is also something that would have never happened on a hike in NY, I would have used any air that I had to complain about the hike which is probably why I was always so winded at the end). However they came to the conclusion, it was super encouraging of them to say which I thank them for.
We got home at 5am on Sunday and I went into my room and fell asleep. I woke up at 11am, and I kid you not, my eye started twitching again within minutes of waking up.
I learned and saw a ton on this trip and enjoyed my time immensely. I cannot wait to go on my next backcountry camping trip. I even got a dehydrator at MCC for $6.75 and am currently giving it its first test run dehydrating apples as I type. Once I master this, I will dehydrate everything and be fully prepared for all my meals.
But my absolute favorite parts about this trip (other than the super awesome students that I got to know) was being able to just sit in peace enjoying all that my creator made for me.
Photo Cred: Josh