By Rachel Fitch
Spring Break is a wonderful way to break up the arduous semester, especially on the Block Plan. Since elementary school, students have always regarded Spring Break with heightened anticipation: no school and total freedom. Years have gone by, but Spring Break still rings with the tune of possibility. It is a chance to escape, recover, and explore. Spring Break this year was quite the adventure for me. I participated in the Level II Rafting and Backpacking trip through the ORC. The trip consisted of five days on the Colorado River and four days in Fish and Owl Canyon. There were nine of us on the trip, including the two leaders.
Spring Break trips are just one way to advance along the Outdoor Education leadership tracks at CC. The Ahlberg Leadership Institute has created tracks for various leadership positions with training and knowledge requirements for five different sports: backpacking, skiing, whitewater kayaking, whitewater rafting, and climbing (with a new flatwater track being added this year). There are three levels for each track; Level I Backcountry is the basis for all of them. The Level I training consists of a weekend at the CC Cabin learning the basics of leading trips through the ORC. In addition, a Level I leader must be CPR and First Aid certified and participate in two or more Outdoor Ed. trips. A Level I leader is qualified to lead day trips with another Level I leader and overnight trips with a Level II leader.
Level II leaders are students who have completed more specialized training in any specific track. Although each has specific requirements, they all require a Wilderness First Responder certification, leading one overnight trip, and a training course. Leadership training is offered over Spring Break, Block Break, and independently. The Spring Break and Block Break options require that one attends the trip as well as plan and lead parts of it. The independent track is for people with extensive prior experience. Applicants have the opportunity to demonstrate their capability by planning a New Student Orientation or Winter Start Orientation trip. All three options grant students Level II leader status. If a student wishes to specialize, specific courses like Swiftwater Rescue for whitewater rafting or the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education class (AIARE I) for skiing are offered. Level III requires additional training: 20 days of leadership experience, instructing a Level I Backcountry course, and mentoring a Level II Backcountry course.
For the Spring Break Level II training, the trip participants plan the excursion. They decide where they want to go and how they want to organize it. For my trip, we went down the Moab Daily Section of the Colorado River. The backpacking portion was also in Utah, at Fish and Owl Canyon. Each student is the “leader of the day” for two days of the trip, and a participant for the remaining days. On their leadership days, they are responsible for logistics such as wake-up time, task delegation, and decision-making. In addition, each participant is responsible for teaching a lesson on a particular wilderness skill such as fire safety, stove maintenance and repair, or efficient packing. The trip aims to educate those with little experience and fill in any gaps for those with familiarity.
Trips like this are rewarding and special because everyone gets a taste of backcountry leadership in an inclusive, supportive environment. Everyone has the opportunity to practice their skills, make new friends, and take part in an epic adventure.
For me, the red canyons, sweeping vistas, and the peaks of the La Sal Mountains became my classroom. I learned valuable leadership skills while getting to know others in a stunning setting. My spring break experience highlighted the practicality, fun, and beauty that ORC trips have to offer. Spring Break truly is a time for adventure, so why not learn how to guide others along the way?
Above: Rafts resting on the shore of the Colorado River, with the canyons of Moab in the background. Photo Courtesy of Jessica Hebert.