A classroom atop a mountain
By Heidi Heater, a junior from Jackson, Ky.
WILMORE, KY— Five Asbury College students and Dr. Lawrence Olsen, associate professor of chemistry, spent ten days hiking about 40 miles in the Colorado wilderness of Great Sand Dunes National Park on several trails left by gold prospectors. The group didn’t strike gold, but learned life lessons about teamwork and leadership while earning class credit.
“You do things you never imagined doing and you discover that you need each other,” said Olsen. He believes this wilderness excursion promotes the opposite of the survival of the fittest mentality. “We have to get everyone over the mountain,” he said. “Carrying each other’s burdens is not a figure of speech. We can’t throw weaker members off.”
As the group climbed from desert to tundra, they discussed and observed rock formations, park management and the way the landscape and plant and animal life zones changed with the elevation’s rise and fall. The group began their trek at the park’s picnic area and then progressed into the wilderness.
According to Olsen, the hiking trip isn’t just for environmental science or recreation majors. “Any art major who is interested in landscapes and nature should go,” he said.
“How can you paint mountains when you’ve never been to the mountains?” Students on the trip had majors ranging from art to psychology to recreation and science.
Psychology major Dawn Wallis ’07 from Wilmore, Ky., said she went on the trip because she loves the outdoors and enjoys participating in challenging events that encourage growth. On the hike, the group saw mountains, beaver dams and hillsides of snow.
“There were butterflies, birds and good times,” Wallis said. According to Wallis, the group rose early each day to hike. After setting up camp each evening, she said they spent time recapping, laughing and learning about each other and their experiences.
“Seeing a part of God’s world showed me a part of myself,” she said. “There is something about being 12,880 feet up. When you look down, everything seems so small, and yet so magnificent. It is interesting to realize that is how God sees us, me.”
In the future Wallis said this experience will help her when counseling someone who feels alone. “This trip provided me with the insight that not everyone has someone to turn to; whether looking back or forward, life is frightening when it is unknown,” she said. “However, once you reach your destination, something amazing is there to be discovered because God has great plans for those of us willing to reach out and follow His lead.”
Students who went on the trip included Tim Anderson ’07, Nicholasville, Ky.; Manes Preptit ’09, Bristol, Tenn.; and Theresa Cramer ’09, Dawn Wallis ’07 and Rebekah Miller ’08, all of Wilmore, Ky.