Like many of my “adventures,” I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up to spend a week in a national park I had never even heard of as part of the Partners in the Parks program. Would I be spending all day with a group of strangers that didn’t know how to have fun, instructors that made us write an essay a day and tried to make this into an actual class, eating awful camp food, or finding nothing of interest in this park to excite me?
I’m glad all my worries were proven to be as far as possible from the truth.
All around, the week I spent in Great Basin National Park, NV, was one of the most memorable weeks of my summer. The park itself was a beautiful oasis in the desert, with a huge diversity of wild life and terrain. It even had a glacier. In the middle of Nevada. Yeah, I didn’t expect that either. Over the course of the week, I discovered that Great Basin is truly a hidden gem in the National Park Service’s portfolio. Boasting some of the darkest night skies in the country, you can easily find the solitude in this park to truly gaze in uninterrupted wonder at the thousands of stars spilling across the sky in the Milky Way.
Now, even set in an amazing and unique location, a program like this where you spend all your time with a very small group of people can easily be spoiled by a few bad eggs. Fortunately for all of us, there was none of that in the Great Basin! At only four students, we were a tiny group. I would like to thank the general obscurity of Great Basin for that blessing. Having such a small, intimate group really helped us get to know each other really well and move through all our plans relatively hassle-free. And the group leaders, two amazing professors from Southern Utah University, made learning anything and everything about this park and living outdoors into something to look forward to. There really is no better setting for learning biology and “leave no trace” than the natural habitat of the subjects of study.
If it was not for having such a cohesive and enjoyable group, I don’t know if it would have been possible to accomplish all that we did and stay in such great spirits. We would not have had the flexibility or drive to accidentally do a 6-7 mile alpine hike past two beautiful lakes, up past 5,000 year old bristlecone pine trees, and up to the glacier at over 11,000 feet in elevation in the rain. We probably would not have been able to go electrofishing in Lehman Creek to survey their fish population, which ended up being one of the coolest things ever. And don’t even get me started on how much better it is doing an overnight backpacking trip, ascending over 3,500 feet up steep mountainsides carrying a third of your body weight in essential supplies, when everyone is on the same page.
I would encourage everyone who has the opportunity to take part in a Partners in the Parks program. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to get out and explore the beautiful wonders we have in our own backyard that often get forgotten behind our busy daily lives, school, work, friends, and technology. I almost wish I wasn’t graduating this winter just to be able to participate in another Partners in the Parks program. Almost.
Gabriella Jockers, Business Administration