- March 29, 2016
- Posted by R. Claire Guest
For the last nine days, I, and the rest of my fellow leaders, have been hiking and working in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness just on the other side of the border in Idaho. The Selway is a sacred hitch for the Western Wildlands region; it’s kind of the testing ground for each new batch of leaders. In the culture of our particular region, I would go so far as to argue it is a rite of passage.
A rite of passage is sometimes a ceremony, sometimes an experience that makes tangible a journey from ignorance or childhood to maturity and wisdom. We, as leaders, come into the Selway hitch with a lot of knowledge, a lot of information we have digested from state and regional staff on soft skills, camping, backpacking, and trail skills as well as risk management and general expectations and responsibilities on us when we finally get our crew members and begin leading our own trail crews. With all of that knowledge, the only logical step is the physical test of doing the work, managing a crew, and facing the inherent adversity that a hitch will bring.
And so, we went to the Selway with a lot of energy and excitement, as we did at the beginning of the LDP (Leadership Development Program) season and as we will when the members arrive in May. This is the excitement of change, the ignorant bliss of still being dry and safe and well fed and unfatigued by the trail, by ourselves, by the community building processes that occur. The beautiful thing about this energy is that when it is combined with wisdom, with experience, with the knowledge that one can overcome the adversities, the curveballs, the snowy wet mornings, the “trail fail” of a lost spork or some other essential item – that is, I believe, the mark of maturity taking place. The Selway hitch was the physical process of moving, literally, from ignorance to knowledge, to wisdom. We are not the same on the other side. We have seen a lot of our failures and a lot of our potential. Each day is a new challenge, whether the work or the weather or the delightful combination of both. The challenges demand our presence and intention, as well as our humility. Honing those leadership skills is the difference between who I was in February and who I will be in November. If this hitch was any indication, we all have a long, tough, amazing season ahead of us that will change us in ways we can’t yet imagine. I look forward to learning more from that process.
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