Somewhere between clamoring up a rock-strewn mountain and lyingdown beneath the vast starry heavens, twenty-eight Eastern studentscame to the realization that the natural world deserves more of ourattention.
The weekend of the ninth, these freshmen honors students engagedin a five-mile hike over the Selkirks, a north Idaho mountainrange.
Accompanied by Honors Program director Perry Higman andprofessor Jonathan Johnson, we traveled both smooth, forestedtrails and rocky, open terrain.
“I’ve been hiking through these mountains for years,and always wanted to take a group of freshman along,” saidHigman, when asked about the inspiration for the trip.
The trek, dubbed “Die in the Wilderness” by the mostrecent team, has taken place for six years, and is dually sponsoredby Eastern’s Honors Program and EPIC Adventures.
The drive up to the starting point was beautiful, but it wasduring the initial hike that our awe of the surroundings began.Mountain crags shot up in all directions, shimmering lakes sparkledin the afternoon heat, and as the sky darkened, it gave way to anincredible sunset.
Brittany Tran, one of the participating students commented,”there’s nothing quite like eating dinner on a rockyterrain during sunset, after a challenging hike.”
Once our eleven tents were set up in a small clearing at thebase of a sheer cliff, some tended sore muscles while the livelierhikers engaged in a game of frisbee.
Soon, portable cook stoves were brought out, and messes of twoto four people prepared various exciting meals, many consisting ofthe old college staple, ramen noodles.
Our bellies full, and the night growing colder, we retreated toour warm sleeping bags until Sunday morning brought in a chillingfrost that caused us to shiver in the pre-dawn cool.
refreshed, we ate a quick meal, packed up and split intogroups, some to return to the vehicles and others heading up thesteepest part of the journey, a hike to a viewpoint of ChimneyRock.
So energized was the latter team that the forty-minute trip tothe apex soon turned into a race.
Upon reaching the summit, we gazed breathlessly at Chimney Rock,a massive stone standing upright in the bowl of a valley, andsnapped pictures with reckless abandon.
When we had taken in all the scenery we wanted, we took thetrail back down and met up with the rest of our team by thevans.
Because it was past noon, and everyone was getting hungry, wedug into our packs and shared a smorgasbord of salami, cheese,crackers, bagels and trail mix.
We had all succeeded in our adventure, and everyone bubbled withexcitement.
“‘Die in the Wilderness’ really opened my eyesto a lot of outdoor activities that this area has to offer, and thecamaraderie shared with the other students was great!” saidDan Mills. “I was exposed to other students totally differentfrom me, but by the end of the weekend we were alltight.”
That seemed to typify what everyone was feeling. In two days,twenty-eight students were exposed to backpacking, introduced towhat EPIC Adventures and the Inland Northwest have to offer, andestablished a bond with their fellow students.
The trip has become a rite of passage for incoming honorsstudents, and it seems to be improving every year, as well.
As we were unloading the vans after arriving at EWU, PerryHigman said, “This is a great group we had go this year, andit just keeps getting better each time we go. I can’t waitfor next year.”