Four years ago, I was granted the opportunity to embark on a truly life-changing trip: the Diamond Acre Expedition, a trek through the wilderness of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho undertaken by 12 or so EHS students every summer. In 2011, I brought with me a great love of the outdoors but only little experience backpacking and camping. I set out for this new adventure in the Rocky Mountain region, and after three weeks, I returned home with opened eyes and a fire in my heart. Diamond Acre introduced me to a new part of the country and a different type of sport, which helped me gain a better understanding of my values, my future goals, and myself as an individual.
Flash forward four years to the summer of 2015, and again I was embarking on the Diamond Acre Expedition, but this time as a trip leader. For the past two years, I have worked for Wilderness Adventures, the company that runs Diamond Acre. I never imagined I would be able to go on such an incredible trip not once, but twice!
I quickly came to learn that the role of the guide could not be more different from that of a student.
For students, the adventure is a chance to bond with fellow Episcopal students, learn new skills for living in and moving through the wilderness, and participate in extreme activities in which very few people ever take part.
As a leader, this trip is a job. It is my responsibility to keep everyone safe, organize trip logistics, handle all communication with the administrative office, monitor expenses, and perform countless other operational tasks that ensure the trip runs smoothly. But these concerns are all secondary to the most important part of the expedition: the student experience. Because Diamond Acre had such an incredible impact on me four years ago, I understood the potential impact of this trip on other Episcopal students and was highly invested in the trip’s outcome. Still, it’s not easy to know in the moment how a trip like this is affecting an individual or the group as a whole. It is often not until later that important lessons and self-realizations come to light. As a guide, I spend a lot of my time thinking of ways to create opportunities for reflective conversations, leadership activities, and other transformational situations that will hopefully contribute to the students’ experiences and individual journeys.
My first Diamond Acre trip opened my eyes to the power of the backcountry and how important it is for me to spend time away from society. There’s something about nature that forced me to mentally strip down and challenged me to be vulnerable, but as I did that, I became stronger. My confidence, independence, and resilience were invigorated, and I returned with a renewed perspective. Going on Diamond Acre as a student was the driving force for me to become a wilderness trip leader today. My work for the past two years with Wilderness Adventures has helped me deepen my love for the outdoors, backpacking, rock climbing, and other outdoor recreational sports. This space has helped me develop a better understanding of where I would like to be in the future and what is important for me to have in my life as I continue to grow up. As I graduate college and begin the job search this year, I know it is important to me to live somewhere where I can get outside to hike, bike, kayak, and enjoy the fresh air to relieve stress and continue to be humbled by the world around me. I want to have a job where I am surrounded by colleagues who are excited about their work, who support one another, and who recognize that happiness and quality of life should never be compromised. Three-and-a-half weeks may feel like a short trip, but I have learned that the effects can last a lifetime.
The Diamond Acre Expedition is sponsored by Trustee Emeritus Chairman John L. Townsend III ’73.