The months of September and October always represent themselves to me as a significant feeling of change to come. Fall itself is a transitional season. The days get shorter, the air gets cooler, and the trees turn from green, to orange and red, to barren. People layer up, stashing their swim trunks and sundresses in exchange for hoodies, jackets — and where we live — umbrellas. We eat turkey and give thanks. Many are starting a new school year, snowbirds are planning their getaway, and if you are a fruit picker, filling up the last bins with apples and probably double layering your socks.
As a nomad this is usually the time of year I travel south to escape the chill or to kill some time before the ski season starts. For the past four years I have always been on the road this time of year. But after having returned from a summer in California almost 2 months ago I became one of those who started a new school year. I am proud to say I have a mailing address. This; however, does not mean that I am putting my tent away or trading my habits for a more conventional lifestyle. I am studying Adventure Tourism at CTC, and being an adventure kid opens up my world to all kinds of fun and games. I get to do everything I love to do, but I get to learn how to do it better. I now have the platform to paint a beautiful picture, my picture, and CTC has just added more colors to my pallet.
It was a Thursday afternoon — our third day of class and we were already head first into learning navigational skills and important knots when our instructor Brento informed us that the following day of class would be cancelled. My first instinct was actually disappointment but with an unexpected four day weekend ahead of me I relished the thought of all the possibilities of my new found free time. I figured it was likely that I would go on a hike and see some friends. Luckily I got to do both of those things. I hiked up the road with my thumb and a sign that said “Summerland” because some fruit pickers whom I know were living on an Orchard in the Okanagan for the autumn harvest and they needed someone to bring them salt. It is a weak excuse for travelling so far but there really is no better place to be than an apple orchard during a Canadian fall season. In the mere three days of class I was pleasantly shocked at how much information I was already able to apply to my outdoor life. The tricks and skills I am learning at CTC are very relevant to my outdoor lifestyle. I was identifying to myself the 4 ways of heat loss (conduction, radiation, convection, and evaporation) and what everyone was doing to prevent it. We sat on cardboard boxes and tied up tarps. My new knot tying skills are coming in handy there. The most clever way we kept warm was avoiding evaporation by not sweating and mainly, sitting around chatting. Already I am less amateur in the woods. I brought back with me a big bag of apples sharing them along the way and a pumpkin for the classroom.
The very next day of school we jumped into an 80 hour Wilderness First Aid course. Over the next two weeks we learned lifesaving skills such as how to splint broken bones, stop heavy bleeding, irrigate wounds, combat hypothermia, and prepare victims for a Search and Rescue team to evacuate. Everyone was so into it! Our instructor Allistair is a very experienced professional in the field and had his share of mishaps in the wild. He told us stories of getting electrocuted and of self-rescuing after an ATV crash that left him with a broken back like he was telling us how he likes his coffee in the morning. The course was tough and I was so proud of myself at the end to shake Allistair’s hand and receive my 80 Wilderness First Aid Certificate. You never know, I could save a life one day. After the course a classmate hosted a potluck at his house. We are all bonding and becoming friends.
The very next week after Thanksgiving our Gear Presentation Project was due. I had been working hard on my project which focused on Water Treatment in the backcountry. This is a topic I have particular knowledge of having spent lots of time hiking long distance trails. Every hiker knows the importance of clean drinking water. I spent hours collecting information and put together a PowerPoint presentation with some pictures from my own experience. I loved watching my classmates talk about tarps, tents, stoves, sleeping pads, and lots of other great gear that we will be using throughout the course of our careers. Team by team I watched them present until it was my turn. I felt confident in my preparation as I pulled up my slideshow and gathered my notes. As soon as I stood up there in front of the class I became a deer in headlights. I tried to speak but my voice was shaky and weak. I looked down at my notes and all of a sudden it was as though they were written in Japanese and I don’t read Japanese. Did you ever have a dream where suddenly you are naked in front of a bunch of people? Well, yah. These aren’t even strangers! They are my friends and classmates. I was forced to wing it as all my preparation went out the window. As I started speaking, my knowledge started to present itself as I found my footing. I told my classmates everything I knew about water treatment and even backed it up with some stories from my experience. I was sure to look people in their eyes as I spoke. I had actually brought a few different filters to show the class how they work and in one last grand gesture I humiliated myself by pouring water all over my clothes! But I am a big believer in laughing at myself or else I probably wouldn’t be sharing this embarrassing story. Brento must have been impressed by my display because I got a good mark on the presentation!
The next thing on our agenda was kayaking. I have never been kayaking before this and am so grateful for the opportunity. I enjoyed it so much that I can say I have found a new sport to add to my list of activities. Next week we are going on a three-day kayaking journey and I can barely wait. I think the smartest and best decision I ever made for myself was enrolling to school at CTC. The skills I have learned in this short month have made me a better person, more polished and professional than ever before. Albeit, the water fiasco was a little traumatizing. Every single day I wake up and go to school I am grateful for my instructor, my classmates, and most importantly — myself. I am building a foundation with the opportunity awarded to me by this scholarship in a field I love and am confident I am learning what I need to know to have a long and fulfilling career. Thanks CTC!