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“OWA is a great experience in a beautiful part of Colorado. All the counselors are really helpful, fun, and flexible. They help you safely step outside of your comfort zone and personalize your experience. I became close with other campers and built good relationships”- Sage, age 14
Austin, TX


Newbs, Veterans, and the Balance In Between

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“How’d you sleep?” Mika asked me as she struggled to keep herself from sliding down the rock.

“Not too bad,” I replied pulling my food bag from the inside of my sleeping bag, “those stars were incredible last night!”

Sleeping on the side of a mountainThe previous night we started our hike around 11 pm with the hopes of two hours later coming across some lakes our friends had told us about. Here the plan was to set up our hammocks on the trees and get in a few solid hours of shuteye. However, as we were still hiking around 2 am, we realized we might be missing something. We hadn’t noticed any lakes and now there weren’t even any trees around. After we tackled a few more switchbacks, we decided to just set up camp. And by that, I mean we just threw our sleeping bags on the ground. Since we were no longer on flat ground, we each had to take a rock and prop it up under our feet to ensure we wouldn’t slide down during our slumber. We laid back on the rocky ground, baffled as to where these lakes were, and had our breath taken away. Above us we were surrounded by the outline of jagged peaks stretching high and above these peaks sat more stars than I have ever seen. Just as we were shutting our eyes, a huge shooting star reached across the sky. I adjusted the bag of food shoved between my feet and closed my eyes. I was in my happy place.

The next morning we awoke to a view of the lakes two to three miles below and the peak stretching just a mile above us. We made our way to the summit, peaking before 7 AM. This gave us plenty of time to goof off at the top and then continue our journey down, laughing at the previous night’s events.

We got lucky this trip. Looking back there were a lot of things that could’ve gone wrong. We had no protection for night hiking. We should’ve found out more information about where these lakes were, like looking for the small trail that cuts to the side. We shouldn’t have slept with our food in our sleeping bags. We might’ve wanted to have something to sleep on between us and the rocks. A lot of things could’ve gone wrong, but luckily, for us they didn’t.

Sometimes, I look back on those days and miss the naiveness of it all. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we sure were having a good time of it. We weren’t aware of the things that go boo in the night, so night hiking wasn’t scary. We knew nothing of the latest gear, so we just took what we had. We climbed a ton of mountains because we weren’t concerned about plans. We just went. We were stoked and it was great!

Hiking with all of the new gear.Now, don’t get me wrong, I think there is definitely something to be said now about the knowledge and awareness I have acquired. We were very lucky that nothing did happen to us in our newbie state. Now I know to not sleep with food in my sleeping bag. Animals can still get it in there (making a very unpleasant experience for yourself). Now I know it’s probably a good idea to carry some sort of protection when night hiking. Now I know sleeping pads and tents can make for a much more comfortable sleeping experience. But sometimes this knowledge and awareness can get in the way. I get too bogged down with what gear I may need or the newest gear out there for the trek. Now just going seems too easy; I always think I need to know or do more to prepare. I’m more aware of what is lurking in the woods through the darkness, making me a little more cautious. I’m still stoked, and it’s still my happy place, but sometimes the knowledge can feel heavy.

My new goal is to combine these two stages to create the best of both worlds: the go go go newbie and the cautious, knowledgeable veteran. Keep the stoke. Take the chill vibes of the newbie, but with a touch of reality from the veteran. I never want to lose that sense of excitement and joy that comes when you’re just getting into something new. I always want the mountains to be a place of wonder and love for me. However, I must understand the dangers and risk involved as well. There is a balance. So here’s to years of adventures and risks and wonder and excitement and badassery and getting out there and being in the places I love while doing what I love. Here’s to packing first aid kits and going off trail. Here’s to hanging bear bags and sleeping out under the stars. Here’s to crashing bikes and sending walls. Here’s to the years of adventure beginnings had and the years of adventures to come. All I can say is I’m so stoked!


Written By: Lydia Huelskamp