Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Mountains are Calling . . . Part 2

I'd grown up with people telling me that I was leader, but I never really believed them or wanted to believe them, at any rate.  It was so much easier and less messy to just do what you were suppose to and not worry about what anyone else was doing. This course challenged me to step up and take responsibility for my piers as well as my own actions. NOLS strives to teach leadership skills through adventure. The definition of adventure being: an event or series of events that the out come is uncertain. Being in the backcountry with the highly unpredictable weather of the mountains as well as a number of high to low risk situations that are handed to you daily, such as: river crossings, sloppy navigation, dehydration or hypothermia set the stage for the perfect classroom, where the students were not given the luxury of falling asleep in class unless it would be to detriment of themselves, or of their fellow class mates.

All of these hazards if you will, helped to fine tune all number of leadership skills. As a part of the curriculum each of us had a turn being a Leader of the Day or a L.O.D. Here we were really front and center.  As the L.O.D. we were responsible for getting our hiking group from point A to point B. We had to write a R.A.D plan which stand for Route And Description. This would entail figuring out how many miles we'd have to walk to our next "home" and how long it would take us to get there. As well as how we would go about making our way to the next point. All this was to ensure that we would not become lost.

I loved reading the maps, it felt like the world was at your finger tips. All the topography lines looked like works of art. It might of helped that our R.A.D plans were suppose to sound like a letter or a story, it played to my romantic side I suppose.  So along with the writing of a R.A.D. plan it was your job as the leader of the day to give your team a hiking brief so everyone was on the same page.

While we hiked we could ask someone to navigate and lead, or if we felt competent enough we could do it ourselves.  We had the right if you will as leader of the day to make final decisions (unless of course one of our instructions felt the need to intervene). It was hard learning that there was a fine line between knowing when it was prudent to take advise and prudent to stick to your guns.  If you were open to learning from others and  were willing to trust what you were taught the learning was endless.  To end your day as the L.O.D. you have a debrief of the day, which would include asking your team how they thought you did as their leader and how you could improve in affirmation of your performance. As well as a general discussion of how everyone thought they did and how it effected the team in a positive or negative way.

This was the leadership skill I was most afraid of. For whatever reason I'd grown up alway doubting my decisions and choices. It was so easy for me to second guess myself. I didn't approach problem solving the same way most people did, so I was always comparing myself to everyone else to see how they did it and my conclusion was almost always that I was somehow doing it wrong.

 As the course continued I learned to be comfortable with making decisions and feeling sure of them. I even became comfortable with apologizing for my mistakes and whats more I began to really enjoy taking care of my fellow teammates.  Instead of not taking action because I was afraid what might happen or being worried about how someone else would handle the situation I was able to weigh the risks of what might happen to the likely hood that they would. For the first time in my life I was really start to feel comfortable with the person God made me to be. I was feeling confident and competent in my ability as a leader. I wasn't really afraid anymore.

The Mountains are Calling

In a week or so me and my husband will be heading up into the Wind River Mountains to celebrate our third wedding anniversary (my how time flies).  It's been so long since I've gotten to go back packing that it's getting hard to contain my growing excitement.  It was in my first post that I mentioned being a part of a National Outdoor Leadership School (or NOLS for short) expedition in the Wind River Mountains which are located in Central Wyoming. This expedition has had such a profound influence on my life that it deserves a second and maybe even a third post.

I was nineteen years old and like most nineteen year olds I didn't know what I wanted to do with myself. It was just about a year earlier that my family had moved from south Florida to Lander, Wyoming a town of roughly a 7,000 people (talk about a huge culture shift).  For the last six years I grew up in Homestead which is about an hour south Miami. The most I did outside was surf and play soccer. It was a fend for yourself kind of world, while Lander is the opposite.

We made the move in the month of January not an ideal time to move out west, but we did it. Once I was able to look past the mountains and blue sky that surround the town I noticed that everyone walked or rode their bikes everywhere. As the year warmed up it became even more apparent and I began to hear the word Nolsie tossed around.  I learned to associate it will hippie, yuppie types of people around town.

"Disheveled, yet put together",  as my dad would later call them, because of their paired patched thrift store pants and general sloppy unshowered appearance with expensive big-name outdoor brand

sweaters or jackets.  It's a look I've learned to embrace and even love in its own way, but enough of that for now. How did I get get mixed up with this group? Someone mentioned the school to my mom because they thought I might be interested, though I'm still not sure how they knew.

I was curious about a school that was completely conducted outdoors because I never got along with traditional education. My hopes where quickly crushed once I saw the tuition price for a month long course. There was just no way that I or my parents could afford a course like this.  My worrying was in vain thankfully. They had a specific scholarships for the people in my county since it was the headquarters of the school.

I quickly applied for the Paul Petzoldt Scholarship and waited to receive the letter that would tell me whether I was a recipient of the scholarship or not. It felt like such a long wait, though; I'm sure you've already guessed the outcome. I got the scholarship! and it wasn't just a partial scholarship put a full ride, everything was paid for.  Now it was time to start preparing for a month in the mountains.

A whole month! I really don't know what I was thinking since the longest hike I'd ever done had been three miles with only a water bottle to carry. I would just have to love it, because if I didn't it was going to be one long miserable month.  The day finally came and I was introduced to the "gang", which; consisted of three instructors and ten other students. There were only three other girls.

As an introvert I knew it was going to be a challenge to be around people all day and not really be able to get away for some good quality quite time. I was so nervous after our first meeting. I didn't really seem to fit in, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. I wanted to see mountains and wild places I could only imagine. It was a Monday morning at the NOLS Rocky Mountains branch that we bagged tons of food (literally) and were issued all our gear. Needless to say it was all a bit overwhelming and I was trusting that my instructors knew their stuff. Which could be a challenge when you're told you could only have a couple pair of underwear and no deodorant for the next month.

 By three'o clock we were bused out to Sinks Canyon and dropped off for the night. It was actually happing! We camped that night in the Canyon and were given three very vital lessons, how to purify water along with why it was important, how to properly pitch a tent and last but not least . . . . how to poop in the woods,(I'm sorry there is just no nice way to say it). With these three vital skills we laid down in our tents under the cool starry skies and fell fast asleep.

Day two was one of the hardest days for me, which as I look back makes me laugh since our second day out really wasn't as hard as many of our future days turned out to be. Day two for me was the measuring rod. If I wasn't able to hike up this ridge with 65 lbs now I just knew that I wouldn't have what it took to make it the rest of this trip. Every step was painful, my knees hurt, my back hurt, the backpack dug awkwardly into my shoulders. Oh my goodness! 65 pounds was so heavy!

Every step was hard, but it was also beautiful. Each step up the ridge was one more step away from everything I was familiar with. I was entering places which where completely unknown to me and it made the pain worth every step.  With every step I took the mountains unfolded before my feet urging me forward to see what was over the next ridge. I was hooked or perhaps more appropriately I was in love.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Light at the End of the Tunnel

     Seven long months ago we started building this tiny house. Now's is July and we're just about finished, I'm learning that ranching and trying to build a home at the same time may be conflicting interests; hence the reason I've not written anything this year, as of yet.  
In retro-spec this was not a good idea since now I have to catch up on seven months of building. . .  This house has presented us with many problems, but I can gladly say that they have all been overcome. 
     It was the trailer that ultimately dictated our floor plans, so with some creative thinking we redid out layout and made adjustments to compensate for a lower trailer bed.  You're probably wondering why on earth it's taken so long to build such a small house, (don't worry you are not alone I often find myself wondering the same thing).  There are so many factors that have slowed us down, so I'll just start from the beginning. 
   First off we did not have blueprints. This meant that every morning before we started building we'd have some problem solving to do and then James would draw up the plans for the part of the house we would be working on that day. This slowed down our framing process because we had to figure out our stud spacing for each wall. We ended up building a total of eight walls for the house.  All in all it took us about a week to  build the walls when it should've taken a few days.  
       That was out first mistake not having blueprints the second; which, is probably worse; is that we were picking out our materials as we were building. We got set back about a month with our windows and about an other month our interior siding, but those where just the big things that held us up.  While having five people around to bounce ideas off can be nice and tremendously helpful at times, there is point where all that comes of it is a stalemate.  The more work we get done on the house the more I'm convinced that being able to be objective is a true virtue, as well as perhaps a talent. 
       Then of course there was the distance. Since we're building in a rather remote part of the United States we made several trips to hardware stores as well as an Ikea store up to six hours aways; now, that would slow anybody up, right? The last thing that has been slowing us down is the ranch. It's funny how all of a sudden it's spring time and cows are having babies everywhere you look. The next think you know you're having to brand and cut the little doggies and turn everything out to their summer pastures and if that wasn't enough now we have to constantly move the cows from one well to the next.While the house just has to sit there a half forgot and probably feeling forlorn.

This is what I've come to take away from this experience: If you are planing on coming up with your own design the more detailed they are the better. I would recommend having blue prints drawn up, if not I would encourage you to take the time needed to draw up all the parts of the house; from the framing, electrical (if you're going to have any) to the plumbing, I mean everything.  This will making everything go smoother. Oh! and it's a great, great idea to have a material list written out.
       After your plans are pretty much settled I'd go ahead and start ordering all the major part of the home; such as, the lumber for framing your home, windows, siding, (whether for the exterior or interior), the stain you will be using. An easier way to say this is, order everything that taking weeks to arrive before you start building. This way even if something happens and your order is delayed, it won't set you back.  
       I don't know what I can say about deadlines other than if you set one try your hardest make it happen. Once you get held back it's so hard to make up time especially if you are only building part time. This has been such a serious post and kind of a downer, sometimes that's just how it is, but  don't let all the work involved scare you off. I know it doesn't sound like it, but I've had so much fun helping to build and design this house! You run the house not the other way around, make it yours!

                                    Here are a few photos to show you our progress. Enjoy!