After orientation we drove almost seven hours to get to Big Bend Ranch State Park. We slept at a campsite for two nights before we headed out for our first long hike from Monday to Thursday. Though our three day hike was the most eventful, our time at the campsite did not go without highlights: Nina presented her life map, which made me laugh, reflect and sit on the edge of my seat (figure of speech, I have almost only been sitting on the ground for the past week- to anyone going on a future hike invest in a god damn creek chair!). Other things are definitely worth pointing out as well such as standing by the griddle cooking potatoes and singing Katy Perry and Jonas Brothers with Sally and Jane, cooking with Tyler and Will A and swimming in the Rio Grande for the first time as a group. The two nights we spend at the campsite gave us the opportunity to enjoy a peace that comes from being out of orientation and knowing each other a little better.
Being finished with our packing and preparation, which included a course from Will M. in LNT (Leave No Trace) and a very thorough explanation from out Instructor Maddie on how to react when nature calls while your in nature, we headed out for our first hike. Our first day started out peacefully (besides forgetting my jacket in the car) and ended just as well at a beautiful water hole. We camped closely by a ruin with a stunning view over the mountains, and finished the day with cooking our dinner over a Whisperlight with limited ingredients- which has led to a bunch of creative inventions such as quinoa with cheese, rice with almond butter and chili flakes and lastly oatmeal cooked with hot chocolate.
Our second day was a little less peaceful as we hiked 8 miles as opposed to the 5 miles from the first day. The strains of walking with a backpack all day were beginning to show, examples being blisters, hip bruises/hip burns and back aching. We were also slowly discovering a difference in pace in the group, this led to some of stopping to wait for the others at one of the few waterholes we have seen on our hike. This waterhole was the focal point of what can only be described as a small oasis with green lively trees and running water. After finding each other again, we camped at an abandoned ranch.
Our third day is what I would personally describe as the most eventful. Most of the day went by relatively calmly with another 8 mile hike, which was pretty rough but made easier by unique rock formation, good conversation and grand views. At night we camped on a cliff rock hard ground which made it difficult to stake down our tents. This especially became an issue when a little rain began to fall and the wind started to pick up. I turned around for second only to find my tent having been blown by the wind onto its side. As I was about to tilt it back a huge gush of wind came and took my tent with it. It walked/glided along the cliff and just as I was about to chase it blew over the cliff and into oblivion (thanks Izzy for the precise description). Luckily it was not completely into oblivion as it blew 20 feet over the desert wash and onto the opposite cliff side. Just as I was planning to become really good friends with one of the people with a two person tent, Maddie (our instructor or my hero, call her what you will), climbed down the rock wall with only the light from her head lamp to guide her, up on the opposite rock wall, got my tent which which was pretty much a giant kite at this point and carried it back. So thanks again Maddie! We spent the rest of the stormy night talking in our tents and the next day we returned safely and tired to the campsite we started at. 🙂