University of Vermont

Patrick Hurley Leads Outdoor Youth Leadership Expediton in the Pacific Northwest

Patrick Hurley while doing internship in the Pacific Northwest
Patrick Hurley led an outdoor youth leadership expedition in the Pacific Northwest

Standing on the rim of a ten thousand foot volcanic crater and peering down into its gaseous, toxic fumes could have been the highlight of my summer, but that would understate the countless comparable experiences I have enjoyed over the last six weeks. As we began the final leg of our Mount Baker climb, the sun rose over the clouds below and put into view the summit that had eluded us for the previous three days. The anxiety that hung over the heads of the students during the weeks prior to this climb melted away, and I could see their smiles once more peek through the exhaustion that resulted from the seven-hour ascent.

Mount Baker was the pinnacle of a 28-day youth leadership expedition I led through Wilderness Ventures this past summer. My co-leader and I led ten students throughout the Pacific Northwest, on trips that wandered from the rain shadow desert of eastern Oregon to the temperate rainforests of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. We led our students on multiday trips of whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, rock-climbing, mountaineering and backpacking. With the help of professional guides for the technical activities, we fostered leadership development and personal growth for high school students through team building and physical and mental challenges that relied on accountability, self-initiative, communication, and perseverance.

Although I'm sure the lessons and skills I learned this summer will continue to manifest long into the future, I walked away from this program with an immediate appreciation for developing strong relationships based on trust and communication. This summer was as stressful as it was enjoyable – zigzagging across an unfamiliar region in a fifteen passenger van and U-Haul trailer stuffed with ten rowdy high school students while just getting off a three day mountaineering trip was an interesting scenario.  Through all the setbacks and snafus, we worked together as a team to make due with adversity and in the process, developed a strong sense of patience and an ability to make decisions on-the-fly and to always be able to go with the flow.

I hold a deep appreciation for those who hope to pursue an internship, summer job, or career in the outdoor education or leadership field because of the impact an organization like this can make on a teenager who is still so unwary of the world. The students I led visibly matured and developed an appreciation and fascination with the natural world that was seemingly non-existent prior to their experiences this summer. My advice to those interested is this: reflect on what makes you desire to be outdoors and share your passions with others, understand how much of an impact you can have on your students, and be flexible and easy-going, because as Forrest Gump found out, s*** happens!