This post is part of our Voices of Trips series, in which volunteers share stories from their own experiences with DOC First-Year Trips.
It’s Hard, But It’s Totally Worth It!
If you asked me three years ago to hike part of the Appalachian Trail, sleep in a cabin, and not shower for five days, I would have laughed in you face. Coming from the suburbs of New Jersey, my idea of nature and the outdoors was the Jersey shore. I could not even fathom the idea of hiking up a rocky and mountainous terrain with a heavy pack, using iodine to clean water I got from a stream, or checking myself for ticks. Nevertheless, I arrived on Robo Lawn in August of 2013, ready for my first real outdoor adventure.
My First Year Trip was Hiking and Community Service. I was extremely nervous. I had no clue what to expect. This is Dartmouth; everybody loves hiking and has been doing it for years, right? Everyone is going to better than me and faster than me, and I’m going to be the sweaty kid in the back holding everyone up, aren’t I? Why am I voluntarily putting myself through this?
To be honest, the first day of my trip was miserable. I expected the trail to be flat and paved (I probably should have thought that through). It was hot and I was profusely sweating the whole time. My frame pack (I had never heard of a frame pack before) was heavy and jabbing into my spine. I’m a swimmer with absolutely no coordination on land, so of course I was the first one to slip and fall and there was blood everywhere. I just wanted to go home, lie in my bed, and eat some ice cream.
What got me through the first day was knowing that I was not in it alone. Out of the five trippees, three of us were completely new to hiking. Us newcomers were just trying to adjust. And even the more experienced trippees and trip leaders also found the hike to be really strenuous. We all supported each other. We cheered each other on. We played games to keep us attentive. We shared stories about our past. We truly bonded.
To my surprise, the next days of hiking were a blast. I no longer had my unrealistic expectations for a relaxed stroll in the woods. I accepted the fact that hiking is a physical challenge and I was ready to take on that challenge. I learned to appreciate the marvelous views of that we saw whenever we reached a clearing. Not only did I enjoy the actual hiking portion of the trip, but I also continued to get closer with my trippees and trip leaders. When the mountain got a little steep and someone was struggling, there was always an entourage for encouragement. If there was a stream with some unstable rocks, we offered our hands out for support. It was all a team effort.
I left that trip learning a lot more about the outdoors and the wilderness, but more importantly, about myself and about others. I can’t expect to excel at something as soon as I try it. That trip was like many of experiences I’ve had in college. It was demanding, I had to learn how to adjust to the new situation, and I couldn’t be afraid to ask for help.