Student leaders, Jackie and Luke, filled us in on all things Student Led Week; What they did, where they went and the adventure that ensued!
"During the second week of November we embarked on the official Self Led week for the trip. In a traditional Pacific Discovery Self Led week, students must plan getting from one destination to another (Ours being Onalaska, WA to Crater Lake, OR) using a budget.
We had been anticipating these dates for many weeks with many group discussions and planning! It was our job to book everything for the week - accommodations, activities, meals - all while keeping everything under a strict budget. Because this was a special week on the trip and we have a lot of harry potter fans, students were placed into four harry potter houses. These groups were their cooking teammates for the week. Houses could compete with each other in various activities in order to gain points and win priority over bus seats, cleaning jobs, food line priority, and more.
Our week began with a 3am wakeup in our frost covered tents on a local organic farm. We piled onto the bus and began the drive to Mount Hood, Oregon. As the sun was rising, it seemed as though with each mile the snow thickened. When we arrived at the trail for our 10 mile hike that day, the trees were covered in a sea of white. After our shaking cold hands threw together PB and J sandwiches we packed our emergency equipment (a sleeping pad and sleeping bag just in case) and began our long hike.
We were hiking a section of the infamous PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) to an overlook of Mount Hood. On this specific hike we learned important navigational skills for hiking - as it was our Self Led week and we were in charge of getting to the destination. Some challenges during the hike included: crossing fast rivers, fighting the cold and downpour of snow, fatigue from lack of sleep, and lack of cell service which made navigation more difficult. Eventually, we were ½ a mile away from our destination when the trail stopped. The small footprints we had been following in the snow came to a halt. At first this caused great distress for our group as we had no idea where to go from there. Then we pulled it together and spent around an hour walking up and down the snow covered hills looking for signs of the trail. After much discussion, the group decided it would be best to turn around and try to find where our trail diverged. When we found our diverge point and saw where we should have gone, we looked up and saw 1,000ft of elevation in less than 1/2 a mile covered in ice and snow. We took a quick break then mustered all of our strength to plow up the hill. In order to gain the slightest amount of traction, we had to clench into tree branches, roots, each other, and anything else we could find. Just as we would gain momentum, someone’s foot would lose its hold and we would come falling down. After our tireless attempts, we decided not to allow our pride to get the best of us and we turned around as it would be dark and too dangerous soon.
Although we did not reach our final destination and had to turn around. This was by far the hardest hike we had done and in my opinion the one we learned the most from. Before the hike we had split up into two groups to make it easier on both parties but we had learned we worked best when we stayed together.
Later that week we decided to hike the Trail of Ten falls - an infamous Oregon hike on our radar. On the hike we saw 10 spectacular waterfalls all with different properties. Some were small, some huge, some loud, some peaceful, etc. After the hike we had some free time in town, then returned to our Airbnb to plan our day in Portland.
We awoke and quickly packed out of our Airbnb - each house was designated a job around the house. After packing out we made our way to Screen Door - an iconic southern brunch eatery in Portland. The most popular dish our group ordered was the chicken and waffles. We ate our brunch in Laurel Park at a huge picnic table together and many students claimed it was their favorite meal of the trip so far. Then we drove to the Portland Japanese gardens. The fall foliage coupled with the Japanese statues made for a memorable experience. Then it was onto Powell’s book store - the largest bookstore in the world! Students were able to have free time and explore the city of Portland. Lastly, everyone met at Voodoo donuts - a Portland favorite. We ate our donuts on the drive to Warrenton, Oregon for our next destination.
After a pancake breakfast, we all jumped into our bus and drove to Seaside Surf shop. The owners of the shop quickly sized us up in wetsuits and boots. We picked out 6 surfboards - five soft tops and one hardboard. The owners also were kind enough to let us borrow 2 body boards and a skimboard too! After zipping up our suits we drove to the beach near our airbnb (1/2 a mile away). Upon arrival students immediately darted into the 49 degree water. Despite the frigid temperature, rainy weather, and rough waves, everyone had the biggest smile on their faces. For around 4 hours students took turns surfing, bodysurfing, swimming, skimboarding, bodyboarding, and more at the beach. Many students called it their favorite activity of the trip. Despite many wishes, we eventually had to return to our Airbnb to get showered for our next activity - the Seaside Aquarium. Seaside Aquarium is the oldest aquarium on the west coast and exhibits native fish and even a seal feeding tank! To finish the day we were able to see the sunset over the pacific ocean.
Next we visited Haystack Rock - a beautiful coastal treasure to Oregon. Unfortunately the tide was high so we were not able to see all the tide pools, but just seeing the beauty of the rock and the ocean made it worth it. Then we took US-101 (Pacific Coast Highway) down to Cloverdale, Oregon. For the rest of the day we had a hike called “Gods Thumb” planned. The reviews had called it a treacherous hike due to the slippery mud but our group was up for the challenge. The hike started out extremely difficult with lots of elevation. Our legs were smoked from the prior day’s surfing. Eventually the hike opened up onto an absolutely spectacular overlook cliff. We were covered in mud from the slipping and sliding of the trail but everyone was focused on the beauty of the view. That night we enjoyed free time and a well deserved delicious dinner in Lincoln City, OR.
We woke up around 5am the next day and started the long drive to Bend, Oregon. Today was the last day of our self led week and we had planned to mountain bike. We split up into 2 groups - a fast group and a regular speed group. Both groups biked Ben’s trail to Kent’s in Phil’s trail complex. Both groups had a spectacular time and especially enjoyed the snowy landscape. The snow made for more of a challenge as a few members took some falls, but in the end it was smiles all around. Then groups were able to enjoy free time around Bend and eat at some delicious restaurants. Finally we ended our day and our busy self led week at the Best Western Plus in Bend with Dominos pizza and many discussions to talk about the fun of the week!" Jackie & Luke - Western USA Students
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