Monday, November 11, 2013

Getting Oriented

And so it begins, another year in the NCC. On one hand I’m extremely excited – why else would I have stayed on as a leader – on the other, I’m terribly nervous. A year in the program has taught me that not every day is a walk in the park. Already we face challenges.

Orientation lands smack dab in the middle of monsoon season in the Mojave. Camp Foxtail, nestled away in the upper reaches of Lee Canyon, is at the epicenter of southern Nevada’s “Thunderstorm Alley.” The Spring Mountains present a massive barrier to warm, moist air rolling in from the West. The rugged range wrings all the moisture from the air, leading to torrential downpours and flash floods; like the one we were trapped by this week.

After two and a half days of classroom instruction we're ready to hike out to Rocky Gorge and get some tools in the ground. We arrive on a gray, drizzly morning; everyone groaning in protest as we explain the scope of our day’s work. As we practice our trail-building techniques the rain only grows heavier. Soon a barrage of thunder and lightning shuts us down. Swinging large metal tools on a treeless ridge is asking to get struck. So, we must sit and wait for the danger to pass, cold and miserable in the chilling rain.

Finally, the rain stops. The leadership gathers around and begins discussing options when suddenly I hear what can only be the sound of rushing water. We all turn to look at the wash below us. There it is, a 6 foot wide, 3 foot deep river. Frothing and churning where only seconds ago was nothing but damp sand and gravel. A mile away – on the other side of the flood – are our trucks. Now what? The water looks unsafe to cross, but further up the canyon we can see the rain coming down hard again. It’s decided, we move now. Otherwise we risk ending up more stranded than we already are.

“Everyone grab your tools and move now! Stay together and watch out for more flooding and lightning!”

Thirty minutes later and we’re all safely in our trucks again. We've only had a couple of hours of practice on the trail, but mother nature has the upper hand. We end our orientation with less experience, but more memories, than we had planned on. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that I've been stuck in a sticky situation. This year comes with greater responsibility; I have the safety and well-being of four others to look out for. But, I've always loved a challenge, so bring it on!

-Nick Brasier

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