With nothing but loaded backpacks, 12 Gordon College students and staff set out this September on a 22-day expedition through the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The expedition was part of the Wilderness Immersion and Leadership Development semester (WILD semester), co-facilitated by Nate Hausman and the WILD program director, David Starbuck.
"I remember day 14, the day we ventured off trail to master map and compass navigation," said Starbuck. "We had just climbed a steep talus (boulder) field that was nearly vertical, and as we reached the peak we found a wide open field. We felt excited and awed by the sight--a meadow amidst otherwise rugged mountain terrain.
"Many of the students discussed the wonder of transitioning from the talus field, where they were face to face with rock, to this stunning, open field nestled within the mountains. Walking through the field provided the emotional and physical relief we needed at that point of our journey."
In addition to braving the natural elements of living outdoors for three weeks straight, each student researched and presented on wilderness leadership topics ranging from astronomy to the natural and cultural history of the Sierra Nevada region. "Wilderness skills, leadership development and group facilitation were learned experientially throughout the course," said Starbuck. "It's what makes this course so different from other outdoor education programs."
Now back on the North Shore, Gordon's WILD semester community is living in a beautiful oceanfront Rockport home, where students will continue their semester together with coursework and weekend adventure trips. Leadership philosophy, environmental ethics and outdoor ministry are just a few of the topics studied in depth during their time off Gordon's campus.
The expedition was the first of four courses the students will take this semester. At completion of the program, the students will earn a minor in outdoor education.
Read more about this amazing group of students on Notes Along the Way.
Photo: Students walk through a talus field in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.