There is More in You

| by Allison Allred |

Outward Bound was one of the fastest, slowest, most difficult and most enjoyable 14 days of my life.  It was full of highs, lows, great friends, and unforgettable experiences. It is difficult to describe exactly what an Outward course is about, but for those that don’t know, it is an adventure-based experience, and for me, it was in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.  The Outward Bound program uses the outdoors to push participants to their mental and physical limits in order to help them realize their personal capabilities and full potential.

In August of 1996 I began this great adventure with six peers in the North Cascades National Forest near Ross Lake.  It was an extremely unique environment, cut off from any external influences such as the internet, news, and normal day-to-day life.  It was difficult at first, I had never been completely separated from the rest of the world, but without any distractions it enabled me to completely live in the moment and make the most of all the opportunities and challenges.

It is easy to tell you what the worst day was. It stands alone as one of the single most depressing, cold and physically and mentally demanding days ever. We were on day 4 of our hike in the North Cascades.  Despite the fact that it was August, there was a lot of snow on the ground.  We were up at 4am and started walking at 5am because we had a lot of ground to cover that day.  Just before reaching the second peak, it started to bucket down with rain. We were exposed on the ridge of the mountain, soaking wet and freezing due to the strong winds. Even after putting on thermals, wool jerseys and waterproof clothes we were still soaked through and it stayed this way for the next 8 hours until we set up camp in the dark.  The rain soaked through some of our packs into our sleeping bags.  Let me say that a wet sleeping bag equals absolute misery because, when you are in the mountains and the sun hardly comes out, the sleeping bag never dries.

It is too difficult to say which day was best as there were many, but the highlight of the trip for me had to be the solo time.  Half way into our second week together, all seven of us were guided to different locations to spend 24 hours alone in the forest.  After setting up my Solo site, I just sat and observed my surroundings. It was exquisite.  Huge Douglas Fir trees stood all around me and a small stream gurgled in the distance.  I spent that afternoon and evening writing in my journal.  This was the perfect opportunity to reflect on my Outward Bound experience thus far, as well as reflect on my life.  I thought about that challenging 15 hour day hiking on the peaks and realized that, “my team taught me that I had a lot more potential than I thought and that helped boost my confidence to tough it out for the rest of that day.” Then I got in my sleeping bag and closed my eyes.  It was the first time I had ever been alone for such a long period of time and it was peaceful.

The Outward Bound motto is “Plus est en vous” which means “There is more in you.”  If you had told me that I was able to wake up before sunrise, hike for 15 hours a day, spend nights alone in the mountains, run for 10 miles and make good friends in only two weeks, I would have never believed you. I would have even said that it was impossible.  After two weeks away from civilization in The Cascades and in the bubble that is Outward Bound I was aware of how much more I was capable of achieving. I could say that I had done it all and much more and enjoyed every single moment of it.  In fact, I valued that experience so much that I participated in another Outward Bound Program in Northern California two summers later!

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