Eve’s Impact of Travel: Outward Bound California


Alice Knowlton, Editor-in-Chief

What and where was your trip?

It was the 16-18 High Sierra Alpine Backpacking for Outward Bound California. It was just over three weeks. I left June 13 and came back July 3.

What was your favorite part of your trip?

This is kind of a hard answer because there were so many moments I really connected with. Every day we did so much and we saw so much, and we traveled really far up and over mountains and we slept underneath the stars. Honestly, my favorite parts were just being able to be in that incredibly beautiful place with those people that I really connected with. They were complete strangers, yet from the very beginning of the course we became so close, and that was really special and really important for me.

What would you do differently if you went again, and what advice would you give someone going on a similar trip?

I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I loved every second out there.

For advice, I would just say go for it. It’s not supposed to be comfortable; it’s not supposed to be easy. The course is physically challenging; you’re carrying really heavy packs and you’re doing really technical maneuvering over mountains and you have to be pushed out of your comfort zone physically. Also, you’re going to be living next to strangers 24/7 for however many weeks you’re out there, so it’s not going to be comfortable. It shouldn’t be comfortable. Not going because you’re afraid or not going because you think you’re going to be out of your comfort zone is not the point of the trip. You should do it because you’re uncomfortable, and that’s what pushes you.

Most beautiful spot?

My course was a little bit unique because there was so much snow. We were surrounded by snow, and the most beautiful part of it was climbing up onto this really high peak and looking across the horizon and seeing all these snow-capped peaks, being able to look down into the valleys and on the ridges and see all these crystal-clear, completely see-through lakes that are glacier lakes and so when the ice melts you have these pristine lakes, and they’re beautiful. We swam in a couple of them, and it was so cold, but it was so beautiful. The sun was so hot that the air was dry— it was never humid because we were up so high in altitude. Reaching a really high peak and being able to look over everything and have that incredible blue sky and the white was just incredible.

Any memorable food?

Oh, this is a big one. With backpacking, you carry everything that you eat, so we would have a five day supply, a nine day supply, a seven day supply, where on those days you’re carrying food for nine days. It’s heavy, so you’re carrying a lot of dried foods, like pasta, beans, lentils, couscous, rice, stuff that when you boil water you can rehydrate and then eat.

One of our favorites on the course was obviously beans and rice, but we also had this Thai noodle dish that we always did on the first night of the resupply because it took up so much space and it was such a huge meal. It was two packages of Thai rice noodles, half a jar of peanut butter, sesame oil, and some spice that we called spike. It was called spike because we would mix a bunch of spices together, and we just named it spike, and it was delicious. I couldn’t really tell you the flavor— it’s like its own flavor. At every resupply you would get one apple and one orange, and that would be it for nine days, but we had on the first resupply maybe a head of broccoli that we would chop up and put into the Thai noodle dish and that was a huge meal.

Every meal we had was so delicious because by the end of the day of backpacking you’re so hungry that anything you eat is going to be so delicious. Definitely beans and rice was a favorite for all of us, and the Thai noodle dish. However, for dessert, what we would do is we had these cookies called bickies, where it was like ninety calories a cookie because you just are trying to inhale calories to keep your body functioning. What we would do is we would make this frosting out of brownie mix, hot chocolate mix, butter, and a little bit of water. It was this thick chocolate frosting and we would put it on the bickies with a little bit of jelly. It was so good, and we would just eat those for dessert. It was delicious.

We did a lot of cooking. Naish made a bunch of quesadillas out of some of the tortillas that we had, and cheese, we had blocks of cheese. Food was not a problem. We ate all of the food that we carried, and we had so much food. We ate good out there.

What were the other people on the trip like?

Everyone was so different. We had people from all over the world. The farthest was from Singapore— Varun was from Singapore. He was going to University of North Carolina, so he was doing Outward Bound before his first semester. Naish was from New Hampshire; I was from Mass; Birdie was from California; Austin, Texas was Charlie; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama was Eliza. So a lot of different people, a lot of different characters, and everyone just kind of fell into place. Charlie was really really funny. Charlie could make anyone laugh; he made me laugh so many times. Charlie and Naish really bonded; I really bonded with the girls. We all bonded, but it was like all the different funny characters. We just learned about each other and how to work as a team and we all worked through problems together, and it was great. Our instructors were really really cool. They were all so different and had really different personalities— you would go to one instructor for something and another for another thing. Everyone was just so fun to be around, and so interesting as people. I never got bored of talking to someone. You could always find something to talk about, which I think was really special.

How would you say this trip has changed you?

This is a more personal question because my junior year was pretty rough for a lot of different reasons, and I think I needed to completely leave not only my home life but my school life, my friends here. I needed to really cut ties and leave cause I was getting a little overwhelmed and so I went literally the farthest place I could have while staying in the country. I went to the other side of the country, and I did something pretty wild and out there.

A lot of what Outward Bound teaches is self-reflection, and I think it really pushed me to reflect on what I want to be as a person and who I want to interact with and how I want to put myself out there in the world and what are my values. That’s what I really needed at that time, and I think coming back from it I was really a changed person on my own personal philosophies. All of the stuff that I got really worked up about and crazy about before I left doesn’t matter, and removing myself and sitting underneath a beautiful mountain next to a pristine lake and just being in that spot and realizing that all that stuff back home doesn’t really matter was very powerful for me. It really helped me get out of the funk I was in after junior year and pushed me into a really successful senior year.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I think that everyone should have the opportunity to do Outward Bound. It’s different for every person who does it — this is just my experience — but I think that everyone should have that transformative experience. Really, push yourself out of your comfort zone.

The first day I was there I was really uncomfortable with crossing this really dangerous, intense river. It was rushing really fast, it was above waist deep, and it was scary, and we did it. That was my first day, and we crossed a crazy river. It pushes you in a lot of ways that you wouldn’t even think of until you’re out there. There’s so many different Outward Bound programs, so I think everyone should have that opportunity, not only just with Outward Bound, but with any program that you find. Remove yourself completely; do something completely different. I think everyone should have that experience.

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