Friday, May 11, 2012

Hiking Tanglewood

Yesterday morning, our Outdoor Adventure class met at the bus stop, and carpooled to Tanglewood Nature Center, a local hiking area.  Carrying our backpacks, we began trekking the 3.5 mile Red Trail through the woods.  The hike began smoothly, we were all walking at the same pace, joking, and laughing, the ground was slightly muddy, but level and easy to travel.  Then, about a quarter of a mile onto the trail, the terrain changed, and the class began to split up.  We encountered what seemed to be an 80 degree angle of a mountain to climb, that seemed to go on for miles.  The chatter slowed, breathing grew heavier, our pace slowed, and breaks were taken frequently.  Somehow, we ended up dividing into two groups, and traveled separately.  After what felt like a lifetime, we reached the top of the hill and the view was spectacular. 
We stopped for a moment to rest, and enjoy the view before continuing on our way down the mountain.  With the parking lot in sight, we emerged from the woods to find, to our surprise, the other group exiting simultaneously from another trail.  Laughing, we tried to figure out which group had made a wrong turn, and where the wrong turn was made as we returned to the vehicles and headed back to campus.  The hike was difficult, but the group we have made it  enjoyable and I would definitely be interested in hiking again in the future.


One of the activities that the term three, Outdoor Adventure class participates in is the adopt-a-highway program.  Our coaches spoke with the Highway Department and arranged for our class to clean about one mile of Route 17, and they would supply our class with safety equipment and cleaning supplies.  Usually our class meets Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, but we agreed to clean the highway on Wednesday in exchange for having no class on Friday.  Wednesday morning, we all met at the bus stop, to find two Elmira College vans ready to bring us to the highway, and we were waiting on a representative from the highway department to bring us hard hats, vests, gloves, and waivers.  There was a miscommunication with the highway department, and we ended up being delayed about an hour before departing, which was fine with us because we were able to eat breakfast while we were waiting.  We were brought to a portion on the side of the highway that was steep, and covered with litter and trash.  I have driven that portion of the highway dozens of times, and have never noticed the amount of garbage that was sprinkled on the side of the highway.  Dressed in orange vests and yellow hard hats, our class, in an hour and a half, cleaned about a dozen garbage bags FULL of garbage from one mile of the highway.  As we cleaned the highway, passing cars and trucks honked and beeped and shouted in approval, thanking us for devoting our time and energy to helping keep the environment clean.  It was a rewarding and eye opening experience, and I urge others to take part in adopt-a-highway program. 

Hawaii Class

My term three outdoor adventure class is unlike anything I have experienced in my life.  We have one camping pack and one day pack that we can bring, which seemed reasonable at first, but since we received our packs, we have accumulated more and more items every class that must go on the trip.  Recently we received our sleeping bags, tents, poles, tent flies, stuff sacks, canned food, pack covers, and waist bags that all must come on the trip in addition to the 30+ meals and clothes that have to fit in our packs.  We are all starting to wonder how we will fit everything in our bags, and how we are going to be able to carry everything for the duration of the trip, but our coaches keep reassuring us that it will happen.  A few classes ago we were assigned tent mates and tents, and were told to distribute the elements of the tent, including the tent, poles, and fly equally among ourselves.  I will be tenting with two other people, whom I have not met until this class, and I was assigned the actual tent to carry for the duration of the trip.  The last assignment we completed was a complete, thorough list of every breakfast and lunch we plan on eating while we are in Hawaii.  The challenge with planning meals is that we have to find food that does not crush under weight, melt in heat, spoil or go bad within 10 days, does not need refrigeration, does not need cooking, is compact and able to fit in small space, is not too heavy to carry, and has the nutrition we need to sustain ourselves.  This trip is much more complex than I originally expected, but it is teaching us to appreciate the small luxuries in everyday life that we often overlook, and I look forward to learning how little people can live with and how values change when shelter, food, plumbing, and hygiene are reduced to the basics.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Term 3

This is my final term 3 at Elmira College, and so far, it has been a blast.  Term 3 is a lot of fun because students have time to do things with friends in the area that they do not have time for during terms one and two.  Since students are taking only 6 credits for term 3, we have time to relax, travel, and in my case, work more.  I work half a mile from campus at Family Video, where I have worked all three years of college part-time.  In term one this year, I even completed my required internship at Family Video where I was taught all aspects of management and operations of the store and the company for 260 paid hours.  Now that I am taking only one class, I am working more hours to save up money for after-school expenses.  I also plan to work for Family Video as a manager in training (MIT) in the Buffalo area after graduation, and then manage a store in the area.  I am starting to get sad about leaving Elmira and the comfort of the "Purple Bubble" in just a few short weeks.  It seems like just as soon as life settles down and becomes manageable, it takes another turn and becomes scrambled and hectic again.  Hopefully the transition from full-time college student to full-time employee is not too much of a shock.  I plan on spending my last few weeks at Elmira College with my friends, and co-workers enjoying their company both on and off campus and on and off the clock.  Thinking about how much I have accomplished in the last 3 years seems unreal, and if I had the stack of papers and assignments I have completed  placed in front of me at high school graduation, I would have never thought it was possible.  The biggest lesson I have learned at Elmira College is that there really is no limit to how much one can do.  I won't lie, there were times when my heart was racing as the midnight deadlines approached for freshman writing papers, and tears flowed from my eyes when I saw the clock at night and the list of things I had to complete before going to bed, and I was frantically chipping away at assignments during my short breaks between all 6 classes and part-time shifts.  But somehow, everything was completed, and there was even time for some TV, naps, meals, outings, and hobbies in between.  People are capable of how much they are willing to push for.  It is OK to break down and freak out momentarily, and it will inevitably happen, probably more than once; but as long as you don't lose sight of the end reward, and just put your head down and get it done, you can do anything; absolutely anything. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hawaii Bootcamp

On Tuesday's class we were measured and fitted for our camping packs for our Hawaii trip.  We had the length of our backs measured and then we were assigned corresponding backpacks.  I got a green pack (my favorite color!) and then when choosing our day packs, she let the 21-year-olds go first, so I got first pick (I picked a green matching day pack of course).  For the other half of our 3 hour class, we were working out in our hiking boots to the assigned workout routine we were given which included...

20 minutes of yoga
  • Video in the gym
20 minutes of cardio
  • Treadmill jogging at 4.6 or greater or walking 7.0 incline at 3.0 mph
  • Elliptical manual resistance at 10
20 minutes of weight training
  • 4 sets of leg presses
  • 4 sets of calf raises with weights
  • 10 step-ups per leg carrying 40 pound weights
  • 10 lunges per leg
  • 4 sets of shoulder presses
  • 4 sets lateral pull-down
  • 3 sets of 30 second wall sits
And we did it all in our hiking boots!  Which apparently is nothing compared to tomorrow's class because we are going to be working out in our hiking boots again WITH BOTH our day pack and our large camp pack FULL with 30 pounds.  She thinks we should simulate the actual daily experience of carrying our bags with us while hiking over lava, and walking for miles with extra weight.  Hopefully we will all live to see Hawaii :)

Spring Break

This week we all came back from our much needed spring break to start term 3.  I spent my spring break with my boyfriend visiting Niagara Falls, Canada, and it was a blast.  We had visited the falls once before during a mid-term break, but only from the New York side, and the Canada side is definitely much cooler.  Anyways, so we all moved back to school Sunday night, and unpacked our summer, term 3 clothes to wake up Monday, April 23, to snow covering the daffodils, irises, and grass.  Walking around campus Monday was comical since almost none of the students (including me) had clothes for snowy weather, so many students were wearing shorts, flip-flips, and short sleeve shirts and were shivering miserably around campus.  Monday was also the first day of our Outdoor Adventure class which travels to Hawaii later in May.  Our professor made it clear to us that this would not be a tropical, relaxing vacation, but more of a survival, physically intensive, camping trip to teach us the bare essentials of survival, and how to live as minimalists.  We were told that we will be hiking constantly sometimes dozens of miles a day, snorkeling in famous reefs, and camping in desolate campgrounds.  In order to prepare us physically for this trip, she explained that we would have to exercise during every class, and start counting our daily caloric intake to make sure we pack enough food to sustain ourselves.  We would only be allowed to pack what we could carry throughout the entire trip; no more than 50 pounds of food and clothes for our larger camping bags, and whatever we could fit in a small day pack.  This is definitely going to be a once in a lifetime trip!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Today is it, I have one more final in 2 hours, then I hand in my take-home final for night class, and I'm done. Done? I don't know when it will sink in, but after tonight, I only have a trip to Hawaii standing between me and my Business Administration degree. I have so many emotions now, it is hard to explain them all, but most of all, I am extremely proud of myself. Many people doubted that I would be able to complete college in 3 years, while working almost full time off-campus, but those people have motivated me the most these last 3 years, because I wanted to prove them wrong; and I did. Yesterday was one of the proudest days of my life, because my professor was handing out our last few graded papers as we sat down for our final, and when he came over to hand me my paper, he smiled, and shook his head, and said,"I have no idea how you did it, but you did it, it's over," and one of my papers he handed me had a little note on top that read,"Excellent paper Emily, and you did great work this term. You did it somehow and I had my doubts, but you proved me wrong for sure. Hope term 3 is no stress."

I thought to myself, 'These are the feelings I have worked so hard for the last 3 years to have,' and I even teared up a little as I started the final, overwhelmed with pride and sense of accomplishment. These last 3 years have been one hell of a roller coaster ride, but do not regret anything, and I would not change a minute of it. To the current students at Elmira, and the incoming freshman, I would say, there are times when giving up is very easy and tempting, but the end reward is worth every sleepless night, every word on every paper, and minute of being homesick. In times when you feel overwhelmed and like your drowning in an ocean of work and papers, remember to relax, stay organized, and take it one assignment at a time. One of my life mentors once told me, "The world is full of people who will tell you no, can't, too hard, not possible, too complicated ect. You have to remember that anything is possible if you have the strong enough desire to make it happen."