- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
My Buck-i-Serv group did trail work at the Palatki Heritage site in Sedona, AZ. This involved laying down material to make a trail more accessible to visitors of the site. Following this, we spent 3 days backpacking and 4 days rafting in the Grand Canyon.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
During the trip I gained a much better appreciation for the work people do to maintain and create trails for parks around the country. From now on when I see a trail at any park I will have a lot more respect for whomever took the time to make it. I also learned more about the importance of preserving ancient historical monuments. The Palatki heritage site contains many markings that are thousands of years old and could easily have been wiped out by one careless person. Which would deprive everyone from the chance to learn from them. I will definitely be mindful of what I do around historical monuments from now on in order to preserve them for future generations. During the backpacking portion of the trip I learned a lot about what I actually need to survive. Not what I thought I needed or what would make me comfortable, but what you absolutely need. I learned that I can get by with only minimal supplies fairly easily. I didn’t miss most of the first world comforts because I was so excited to be exploring the canyon. Finally, I learned a lot about teamwork both from the trail work and from out time out on the river during the rafting portion. Working with a team is crucial to getting big tasks done in a safe and timely manner.
- What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
The trail work we did at Palatki and the trash cleanup we did at Lake Mead were the main things that gave me a good appreciation for the work people do in parks. It took sixteen people quite a bit of work just to lay down a quarter mile of trail and there are thousands of miles of trail just in the local area. Despite the difficult work, it was a great way to quickly make friends with everyone else on the trip. When you are working together for one goal, people will soon start helping each other out with the different jobs and everyone will be sympathetic to anyone who is struggling with the work. It was great to see how quickly everyone came together even though we had only met the day before. While we were gathering rocks for part of the trail maintenance, we found a bark scorpion hiding in the pile. As long as we kept our distance and didn’t do anything to bother it, then it didn’t have any interest in us at all. After a few minutes it wandered away from the pile and there were no issues. This is a very different experience from what you hear about in stories. People play up wildlife to be far more dangerous than they are because many of the people injured were purposely getting in the way of the animals.
The backpacking portion of the trip was a different kind of challenge. We had to carry in our own water to store for later because there is no access to water when we were not next to the river. Backpack space was limited, so we had to make room for the water by leaving behind less essential item, such as multiple changes of clothes or shoes. There was also no cell phone service in the canyon and it was nice to see how unnecessary most of the stuff we do with a phone is. The weather was very hot and during the day there was never a chance to cool down. So I quickly learned to focus on drinking water and applying sunscreen regularly. Because things would only get worse in the desert if I became dehydrated or had to deal with sunburn. Eventually all of this simplicity lead to a pretty regular daily routine of worrying about keeping my strength up and worrying about how we were going to prepare the next meal. It was a very different experience from the busy day-to-day lives we normally experience at school.
On the river we had to work in a group of eight to listen to the leader’s instructions for paddling. This was crucial when we were running the rapids because working together is the only way to get through them safely. There are dangerous features scattered throughout a rapid that could easily flip the raft and send us all into the river if we weren’t careful. When we first started paddling, most of us were out of sync with each other and slow to respond to the leader’s commands. But after a couple hours we were all able to follow the people in the front of the raft and learned how to control the raft smoothly and efficiently. People stopped being concerned about what was the most comfortable position and started putting in a lot of effort to make sure we were steering the raft around obstacles. Overall, everything we did during this Buck-i-Serv trip taught me about dedication, teamwork, and simplicity.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
All of this change is significant to my future plans because I want to pursue a career in medicine. I am positive that I will need to be able to work well in a team as a doctor because medicine is not a one person job. Collaboration is key and in order to succeed I will need to be able to do so. I also think that the ability to thrive without first-world comforts will be a useful point of reflection later down the line. If I ever start to feel annoyed that something isn’t working quite like I want it to, then I can remind myself that I really don’t need that random item to be happy. I can get by with only the bare minimum and I am glad that I proved that to myself during this trip. Finally, the newfound respect for trail work and historic monuments will be something I carry with myself for the rest of my life. It is always valuable to know what kind of work went into making or preserving something you enjoy. So being able to appreciate that effort will help me to go through life as a more grateful person day to day. Because nothing in life is free and it is important to acknowledge those who worked for the things you enjoy.