Wonder Woman

October 29, 2008
By Scott Silverstein, Park City, UT

My instructor was Kikuyu from Kenya, Africa. Her name was Muthoni Muriithi. In Kikuyu, Muthoni means “in-law.” She explained that why she was named in law was because she was her father’s in law. She was different from her father basically. My backpacking trip itself and the NOLS were amazing but the things that Muthoni did were even more amazing. As a child, Muthoni was the daughter of a farmer who grew everything from regular vegetables to sugarcane. A scholarship brought her to NOLS. She had never been backpacking before so she brought nothing but cotton. She then learned that she needed something that had more wick than cotton like wool or capelin. Why you would never choose to wear cotton over wool or capelin is because wool and capelin dry faster and they insolate so you are warm. She did not know it at the time but this particular NOLS course was a test to see who was the best student. The best student would be offered a job at NOLS. This course was in Africa back when NOLS had a branch in Kenya. She spent a semester there. She fell in love with the sport doing all that she could to succeed. She started out rocky because she has never backpacked before. She fought through everything. Eventually she became the top student on the course. She accomplished the course with straight A’s. She was offered the NOLS job. She took the job not knowing what to expect. Then for a while she was a guide for other groups until she figured out that she could use NOLS to climb up to Mt. Kenya. She took that opportunity and became the first black woman to climb up Mt. Kenya. Coming into my course she had been with NOLS for about ten years the most experienced instructor there.

Muthoni is a very influential woman on me. She taught me more than just how to succeed backpacking, but how to succeed in life. Which is part of the point of NOLS. My relationship with her was so amazing that I am trying to plan a trip to go out to Kenya, Africa to see her and peak Mount Kilimanjaro. In NOLS she taught me how to present myself in being a leader. This would help in finding a job and getting looked at for colleges. This shows that she was not just strong and smart but she new how to teach very well. There is a difference between knowing something and not being able to teach it, and knowing something and be able to teach it really well. They say in order to teach something you have to know what you are teaching first. That proves that she is very smart. She could teach you anything. Her experience makes her knowledgeable on numerous topics.

During our course there was a lot of snow. Muthoni is small, she is about 5’6’’, I am about 5’11’’. The snow was up to my hips and the snow came up to her chest. Now after the first hour I was tired. Muthoni was not tired the whole trip. We crossed freezing rivers that were up to our hips. Once again, it was at her chest and she was able to plow through all of the river flow better than everyone else. Also, she had to hike twice the amount of everyone else scouting for the best way to get over a mountain. I never thought that a person could be so strong and so smart at the same time. You would ask her a question and she would immediately know the answer. This reiterates that she is a high expert in not only backpacking, but teaching as well.

One time we were suppose to cross this river to get to the designated camping spot but the river was running to fast and to deep. Usually in the morning rivers die down and do not run as fast and are less deep. In the morning though the river was still running to fast. So instead we all hiked up the river to find the best spot available. Finally we found a spot where there was a meander. A meander is a turn or a wind in the river. The meander is usually the slowest part of the river, but it is also deep. We found the meander and the river was running pretty slow but the river was deep. In order to get across the bigger guys had to carry the bags across. Muthoni was one of the smallest in the group yet she was one of the carters that had to cross the river numerous times holding the smaller peoples bags. That shows that she is strong and willing to make sacrifices.

There was this one time where we were fishing and this moose came up about thirty feet from us and we had to go around it in order to not disturb it. Muthoni directed me in a way where there were plenty of trees. We could barely see him but yet she knew the exact location of where the moose was. Eventually we got around the moose and started to walk across the lake to the rest of the group. They got onto the rocks thinking that the moose would not be able to go on the rocks for it would twist and ankle. Muthoni told us that a moose can go on the rocks for it is a animal that can go on almost all terrain. This shows two things. One that she knows a lot about moose’s, two that she makes good decisions. In preparation for being a backpacking leader you do not normally have to learn about moose safety. She seemed like she prepared for that situation her whole life. This shows that even if it is something that has never happened in her life and she has never been told what to do she still has the knowledge on coming up with plans.

I never thought for just knowing someone for a month that I would miss them like I leaving all of my friends that I made after thirteen years, but I miss Muthoni the most of anyone I have ever left in my life. She was awesome. She is amazing.

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