At The Wetfoot, we are always trying to promote a broader view of leading wilderness trips and of experiential education. This week we are dedicating each day to a different contributor, asking them to share a short post illustrating why these topics are important to them.
Our first post takes the form of a letter written in 2009 by trip leader Ryan Wagner to his participants on the shore of Takahula Lake in the Gates of the Artic National Park, on day 44 of a 45 day, 200 mile hike.
A million questions run through my mind as a leader when it comes to this point in a trip. These are not the usual questions a leader encounters on trail: is this route safe, should we stop to rest, do we have enough food? All these questions are eventually answered and for the most part, short lived. The questions I ask myself now may never really be answered. Did I do all I could; did I pay enough attention to the leadership progression, soft skills, hard skills, and cultural history? Did I step in as a leader too often and not let failure happen? And then the biggest question, did the boys get everything out of the trip that they wanted, are they going home completely satisfied or are there voids that could have been filled with greater attention to detail?
I will apologize now if the answer to any of those questions is not positive. I’m sure I stepped in to take the lead all too often, one of my downfalls and a leadership quality that I will always strive to master. If I left you doubting my leadership abilities, I only hope that you critique me as I have done for you. This way I will continue to learn as a student of leadership.
When I stop to think about it, I don’t believe I need to worry. I have witnessed a transformation in the past six weeks that a parent could fail to see in six months. It is impossible to miss anything out here. Your map skills could be seen getting better with each morning’s map session. Comfort levels on tricky terrain proved to increase simply based on miles covered over time and each of your physical capabilities went through the roof. Simply look back to day one and then fast-forward to day 42. Our collaboration throughout the last month and a half has been incredible. We lifted each other during difficult times, relied on one another’s capabilities, and bonded as best friends.
This is the end of the chapter but not the end of the journey. Remember always, it’s the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top. I am honored to have spent the summer of 2009 with all of you and thankful for the friendships created. May the sun shine warm upon your faces, the rain be light upon your shoulders, the wind be gentle at your back and the road rise to meet you wherever you may go. Godspeed.
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