Leadville, CO: The Leading Edge program at High Mountain Institute describes itself as “where nature and minds meet” and meet they did, during two weeks where the wonders of nature, relationships and self-discovery came together to form a memory I hope never fades.
If you can picture yourself eating hot ginger pancakes next to an alpine lake 11,000 feet high in the Rocky Mountains, then perhaps you can understand the nature of our week-long backpacking trip. In the company of peers who quite literally became friends overnight and under the guidance of counselors who were more like co-leaders than authority figures, this trek took us through the wilderness of the Sawatch Mountain Range. We dropped ourselves headfirst into something weary and rain-soaked and wonderful, a mental album full of fording streams, hunkering down to weather late-night storms, looking out at miles of forest from the top of a mountain, patching blisters and not caring because the sun was out.
Although much of this program’s value came from its activities and external trappings, still more came from the inside. Everything we did - whether fishing or talking during our circle discussions or helping local kids paint an old dugout - was an exercise in introspection. In two weeks, I learned more about myself than I had from three years of high school. And, having talked with my friends and TLE alumni, I know I am not alone in feeling that way.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.