It’s not even spring yet, but I can’t help but think about plans for this upcoming summer. And when I do that I start to reminisce about this previous summer.
The highlight of last summer was my 23-day Outward Bound trip in Utah. I spent the first two weeks backpacking through the La Sal Mountains and the final week on the Green River and hiking through the Canyonlands.
These were arguably the best 23 days of my entire life. I was thrown into the wilderness with 12 other strangers, a 50-pound pack and a trekking pole. Now, I’ve spent a lot of time out West and in nature doing hiking and camping, etc., and signed up for this trip 100% voluntarily, but it’s easy to say that I was a little out of my element when our van pulled into our first base camp on Day 1.
Until you’ve been on an extended backpacking trip like this, you can never really be prepared for one. It was three weeks of no shower, no phone and barely even a change of clothes.
Does this sound horrible to you? It might. But trust me, it was amazing.
My favorite part of the trip was day four. We got up at 3 a.m. to hike Mann’s Peak. We started hiking under shooting stars and the sun rose as we hit the first saddle. We stood there in awe as my instructor Brian told us how the Native Americans believed that if you’re moving before the sunrise you are truly alive. That’s the only way to really describe the feeling watching the sun like that: alive.
Cliché? Yes. But it’s hard to put it into words when there were hardly words then to describe it. It was a feeling of absolute certainty, like we were all there on purpose.
The top of Mann’s Peak is 12,234 feet. From there you can see for miles. You can see where the mountains dip into the canyonlands, the tiny town of Moab in the distance and even all the way to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. What I miss most about Utah is getting this unique perspective.
The answers to life, as accurate as you can know it at 16, creep up on you when you’re looking down on clouds. My life underwent a sort of reorganization and my priorities shifted. This was one of my happiest moments and I had no phone or Internet when it happened. I was no longer plugged in, but rather tuned in. Technology allows us to be anywhere and everywhere at once, but in Utah I could only be in one place at a time.
Looking back now, inarguably Utah changed me. I now realize how little it takes to be happy. The apparent need for stuff is actually completely arbitrary. There is depth in simplicity, integrity in spontaneity, and a certain beauty in vulnerability. Yet I’ll admit that these new findings are hard to keep at the front of my mind during the day-in and day-out. Back home, I haven’t been able to reach the same altitudes.
The other day I watched the sunset at Tod’s Point. Awestruck, I proceeded to “Instagram” five pictures of it, which kind of means I missed the point of what I experienced in Utah.
I want to throw my phone out of the window to break free from it. I am so obsessed with it it’s sad. My Instagram and SnapChat obsession is borderline pathetic. I spend more time looking down than looking around. I’m on it so much that the battery can’t even last me through the day. What is wrong with me?
Writing this article even took three times as long as it should have because I’ve been interrupted repeatedly by checking my stupid (just kidding, I actually love it) Instagram and my text messages.
I take back everything I’ve said about my resolutions in the past. My ultimate goal is to get tuned back in, to start focusing on where I am, not where I’m going, and be present in every moment. I couldn’t tell you where my life is going or even where I want it to go, but I now know that I forever want to be the me on Mann’s Peak, up and moving before the sunrise, alive.
(I will realistically still be Instagramming.)
Julie Kukral is a senior at Greenwich Academy.