My STEP signature project was attending the Utah Canyon exploration trip with the Ohio State Outdoor Adventure Center. Over spring break the group of 10 students traveled to Utah visiting 5 national parks. The group hiked, rock climbed and enjoyed the scenic views while at each park. The group learned how to front and back country camp and live sustainable lives while along the adventure as well.
This trip truly changed my view of the United States. I am from Cincinnati and haven’t explored much of our country. Seeing the beauty out west felt like I was on a different planet. I never imagined views so spectacular could exist close to home. It made me excited in seeing that I could potentially move out west post-graduation and be near this spectacular land. This trip was one of the most mentally and physically challenging weeks of my life. I love working out and this trip gave me a goal to work towards. I documented my pre trip workouts on my fitness instagram account, which is linked later in this post. I have never rock climbed before January when I signed up for the trip, but after training in the gym, I was scaling the 60-foot canyon walls in Utah. I had to build up the physical strength to make it up the steep hills and tall climbs that we took on, but I also challenged myself mentally. It is easy to get discouraged or decide that you can’t do something when you’re at the bottom. Looking up at the wall or steep climb in front of me, I could’ve quit, complained or tried to take a short cut. But the entire group decided to stay positive throughout the whole experience. We never complained about the weather, and we pushed ourselves past our breaking points to make the most of the trip. I grew in physical strength and mental capacity learning that I can truly do anything that I set my mind to. A positive attitude goes the longest way.
The relationships I built on this trip will last a lifetime. One of the hikes we went on is called Angels landing in Zion National Park. It is extremely dangerous being that the path gets as narrow as 2 feet at times with a 1000 foot drop off on either side. People have died there recently through their own lack of attention to the trail, however our group decided that we wanted to take on this challenge. We began the trail by approaching the mountain where we were faced with uphill switchback routes. We walked back and forth across the mountain as we walked uphill for nearly an hour. The sun was beating down and we were all tired from sleeping in tents and traveling the last few days. But we encouraged each other to push on. We reached the last 0.5 mile of the trail where the true test would come. Sweaty and nervous, we set out to reach the end. There are chains that you should hold onto for safety. We slowly continued our journey while allowing others to hug around us as they passed. We had to get on all 4’s and climb to get up and over various rocks, while also being conscious to not fall off the course. Throughout the trail I was shaking, nervous, not sure if I could make it to the end. But after another hour of climbing and lots of encouragement, we’ve finally reached the summit. I gazed out on the most beautiful site, it seemed unreal, like a post card. I can compare this dangerous hike to any challenges I face in life. I’ve been faced with obstacles and challenges. However, I know I’ve trained to prepare for these issues. Surrounding myself with positive people, I’ve received the encouragement to get uphill. Life can be dangerous, we take a chance our life in many different scenarios, but the risks we take make life fun. the risks and efforts will pay off in the end with some of the most beautiful things life has to offer.
The trip had a strong focus on leave no trace principles as well. There are 7 principals that campers and anyone visiting a national park should be conscious of when traveling. This helps protect our lands and wildlife from being disturbed. This aspect of the trip changed me because I recognized how the destructive behaviors humans use are impactful to these lands. There is a sense of entitlement when we visit these places, not realizing that we are guests in natures homes. There are things we can do to damage the lands permanently. By learning these principals, I can help properly take care of these limited resources. I’ve changed my behaviors and I know I’ll continue doing so whether in a park or on the street. We only have one earth and I hope my generation can be the one to lead sustainable change so we can live here forever. It was really heartbreaking visiting Escalante and having it pointed out which sections Trump has declared unprotected. I wonder if he’s ever personally stood out here, felt the winds blow around him and the sun hitting his face. I doubt after seeing this land first hand he would reconsider making a quick profit on it instead of preserving it for life, at least that’s how I felt about it.
This opportunity provided me a chance to explore another part of our country and learned that I can do anything I set my mind to. This transformational experience helped me to gain confidence and will be valuable to multiple aspects of my life. Before this trip, I had always admired people who hiked and climbed and knew it would be something I’d be interested in, but I did not know where to even begin. This trip gave me to tools to be confident in those activities. Hiking and climbing themselves provide me with a physical challenge and a stress relieving outlet that I will surely utilize long after college ends. I can continue to develop my physical ability by going to the gym and making friends with other climbers. I’ll be taking care of myself while also doing something I love. As I mentioned in my proposal, I run a fitness based Instagram account as a means to connect to the members of a student organization, CHAARG at Ohio State. I have linked the fitness account so my training for the trip and more photos after the trip have been documented.https://www.instagram.com/k8jennings_inchaarg/?hl=en
I sincerely look forward to my next adventure and would not be able to do it without the experience I gained through my STEP signature project.