Pomona’s new Outdoor Education Center (OEC)offered its first Wilderness Survival class during the spring semester, making for some memorable moments in the woods. After four on-campus sessions covering such topics as edible plants and fire-making, the class culminated with students putting their new skills to use in the snowy Sierra Nevada, leading Lauri Valerio ’12 to wonder, “What did I get myself into?” Here, we get the answer:
Hour 1: Snow starts falling as we drive to the trailhead. When we arrive, our group of nine huddles under a tree that periodically dumps loads of the white stuff on our heads. “Don’t worry if you’re freaking out, because I am too,” jokes our experienced leader and OEC Coordinator Martin Crawford. At least, I think he’s joking.
Hour 4: We find a dry camping spot under a rock overhang and begin scavenging for dry firewood. I can’t tell if my shirt is drenched in sweat or if the moisture has seeped through. Either way, it’s cold.
Hour 6: I discover that eggs fried on a rock are surprisingly filling, though a bit crunchy. Luckily, Martin had let us bring extra food and gear because of the weather. Life as herbivores, we’re quickly learning, would be near-impossible, though we discover some deliciously minty leaves I keep nibbling on.
Hour 10: The fire dies down and the cold sets in. Throughout the night, I wake up shivering in my sleeping bag.
Hour 24: The clearer skies brighten our mood as we split into pairs to practice making traps, snares and water collection systems. Now, we’re spending less time on surviving and more on learning survival methods.
Hour 27: The running Hunger Games jokes become a bit eerie when Martin announces a friction fire-making competition. The Claremont McKenna students are sure they can beat us and, unfortunately, they’re right. Though my group creates a few embers, we never even get a fire started.
Hour 35: Tonight, I put into practice the survival methods I’ve been taught. I put a water bottle of boiling water into my sleeping bag an hour before I hop in and cocoon myself with a trash bag and tarp.
Hour 45: Finally, the end. After an almost-warm night, I wake up early so we can clean up camp and head back. The trail is a breeze when it’s not covered in ice and snow.
Hour 48: After devouring several pizzas, our group reluctantly piles into the Suburban and heads back to campus, where we face another type of survival situation: end-of-semester madness.