A BCM Mentor Reflects on Their Week in The Wilderness

By: Ayn-Marie Hailicka

I close my eyes and see Masiti’s whole face laugh against a backdrop of Douglas-fir trees; Faisa’s strong stride in the position ahead of me on the trail; Linda’s sweet voice telling me about tickle wars with her mom; Nadaja’s beautiful silhouette against the South Fork of the Skykomish River; Michaiah’s gut-busting jokes ringing in my ears; and evenings spent with my co-mentors eating squares of dark chocolate beneath a blanket of stars.

Only a few weeks ago, we formed a circle in a gravel parking lot to learn each other’s names for the first time. One week later, I had spent more consecutive hours with those gals than I have with some of my dearest friends. I got to know their strengths, their fears, their dreams, their challenges, and their passions. And they got to know mine.

On Day 4, as we put one foot in front of the other to carry us up the switchbacks, I could feel the tiredness among the group. Blisters had formed, feet ached, and packs hadn’t lightened up quite yet. Yet, our turtle family put one foot in front of the other and kept moving above tree line. I brought up the back of the pack, so when I heard cheers and clapping ahead of me, I assumed we had finally reached the mountain pass. Instead, it was the group cheering on one of our gals who was moving slower than the rest of the pack. In that moment, I looked over to see Mt. Baker in the distance and felt tears rise as I was overcome with gratitude for this opportunity.

I went into this trip eager to jump into the ‘teacher’ role. I quickly found out, the best lesson I could teach was…to myself. I learned how to listen, lean on one another, keep others’ needs in mind, slow down, solve group problems–the list goes on. Sharing my knowledge about backcountry best practices was only one piece of a much bigger panoramic picture.

Thank you, Big City Mountaineers & community, for the opportunity to step outside of my default world and into one that challenged me in all the right ways. While I’m at it, a huge shoutout to our trip leader, Elie Lauden, whose blend experience in backcountry guiding, social work and wilderness therapy carried us through 25 miles of growth.

I have no hesitation about throwing my name in the hat for BCM Summer 2018. Until then, I’ll keep closing my eyes to revisit our trek…

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