Legs tired from a day full of hiking, I sat surrounded by people that I had seemingly known for years. Engulfed in Red Pines and Quaking Aspen, there was a brisk breeze that carried through the old and broken down gazebo that covered a fire. I smelled heavily of sweat, firewood, and the bog we all laid in earlier that day. We all smelled like this, but still we squished closer and closer to each other to warm ourselves and to hear the quiet telling of stories. Only lit up by a the glow of a fire, instead of our phones, we all became storytellers that night. From stories about ghost tours, to a story about a run in with a motorcycle gang, we applauded, praising every story teller for sharing. And after we shouted, there was, again, an immediate hush as the next story began to unfold. All our ears were captivated by the words of our peers. Story after story, we continued to feed the crackling fire until it was finally time to go back to our dorms.
Little did I know that the moments of that night would never again be matched. When we stepped off the bus upon arriving home, there seemed to be a sullen look in everyone’s eyes as we quickly reminisced in the times we had by the lake, but then walked away back to the lives we left before our trip. Now I find myself walking through the hallway, meeting the eyes of the many story tellers of Treehaven and my heart sinks. We both exchange a look that reminds us of our time together, but say nothing. We think about the things we shared, but keep on walking. Even though we have all returned to the hustle and bustle of daily life at Neuqua Valley, I feel honored to have been able to connect with people outside of my normal circle of friends and acquaintances. It was as though I got to step into the lives of others for a moment and suddenly, Neuqua didn’t feel big anymore.
For years I have heard personal accounts of this trip that have been nothing short of wonderful. I did not realize when I wrote my essay to apply for this experience that I would take back not only the knowledge, but the memories I have with me today. I have a new appreciation of pausing life to unplug, meeting new people, and learning in new environments. I learned that it’s okay to take a step back and just take in the now. I would highly recommend not only taking APES, but also going on this field trip. The Treehaven experience is something that immerses you into the course material, while also learning things that go beyond the classroom.
Story by Kayla Monis