I climbed out of my hammock and took in a big whiff of chill morning air, tainted by the smell of aspen trees and the distinct butterscotch smell of ponderosa pine. The delicate bubble of a low creek whispered through the air, and I found delight in the early morning lack of insect presence. The first awake, I made my way to our campfire from the night before and sat down, writing in my journal and looking around at the tents which littered our campground.
The days before had poised a strenuous hike of ludicrous ups and downs before finally dropping us into a polite aspen grove where we made camp, seemingly safe from the heat which had stalked us on our lengthy journey. I had watched the dynamic group of high school leaders I had traveled with lay down their heavy packs, rolling their shoulders back and setting up their tents while I got a fire going. I could hear the rumble of stomachs from all around me, quickly reminding me that I was, in fact, hungry. The night had then faded into a well-deserved dinner that coaxed us off into a warm sleep.
I reflected on this past day in my journal, sitting before what had been our fire the night prior. I found it strange to reflect on, as I had filled the same shoes as those I hiked with just over a year ago, when I was in high school and a member of CYL. I couldn’t help but find glad surprise at the attitudes of each of the leaders who had embarked on this trip. Each of them had taken the difficult hike in stride, not complaining, neither degrading their fellow hikers. With most of the four having never conquered such an ordeal as a group before, they truly worked as a team, treating each other with true excellence.
This humble attitude of a leader continued the next day as we explored streams and a large cave which we had heard rumors of on our drive up. It continued at the camp as we struggled to get our meals once more, and it continued in the sharing of aid, and physicality alike in our small group of backpackers.
This trip was undeniably memorable for the beauty, joy, and struggle that it contained. However, I will remember it most for the lesson I learned from these CYL members. As a CYL alumni and current college student, I have been asked frequently how CYL is affecting me now that I have graduated the program. Watching these young leaders was a reminder of that. A reminder of how the program builds great leaders, and amazing people. On this trip I watched students put aside their differences to support each other. I believe this is what CYL puts in people; a habit such that—even if you cannot save the world today—you can always try to put a smile on the face of or share the load with the person standing next to you.
Written by CYL Alumni Josh M.