In what will undoubtedly go down in Wyoming Catholic College history as a memorable "first," last month's freshmen were not the only WCC folks experiencing the wonders (and challenges) of God's Country for the first time.
This past August, eight members of the college's faculty and staff -- accompanied by a chaplain -- embarked on their own 11-day backpacking trip into the Wind River Mountains. Named "Slimmer with Zimmer" by our eight intrepid explorers -- an affectionate moniker in honor of Dr. Thomas Zimmer, the trek's architect and guide, as well as the college's Assistant Professor of Leadership and Outdoor Education -- this first-time wilderness trip was similar to the expedition that is completed by each of WCC's incoming students at the beginning of their Freshmen year.
After participating in the Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Course with the Freshmen, the faculty and staff entered the backcountry the same day as the Freshmen. While all eight were unable to partake in the entire experience -- due to equal parts scheduling conflicts and "old knees and backs" -- they did get to travel through the famous (and spectacular) Cirque of the Towers, camp under the stars, summit a peak, travel over the Continental Divide twice, attend daily Mass in the backcountry, and much, much more.
Those who managed to persevere through the entire eleven-day trek traveled over sixty miles (while carrying 50-70 pound backpacks), hiked over four mountain passes, attempted three separate peaks ascents, and finally succeeded in summiting Wind River Peak itself -- a peak climbed by many of the freshmen groups during their own SROM-led expedition. The trip began on the West side of the Wind River Range (near Pinedale) and ended in Sinks Canyon, just five miles from Lander, and gave its participants the opportunity to experience many of the same places seen by the freshmen on their twenty-one day course.
Dr. Zimmer said that "the highlight of the trip was to remember the struggles of the first day when we only covered a mile and a half, and contrast that with the day we summited Wind River Peak...and then hiked an additional ten miles on the very same day we climbed the peak!" Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, a Professor of Theology and Philosophy who made it through the entire trip, said "I had never done an outdoor trip on this scale of magnitude before, and it was really challenging for me. A trip like this makes constant demands on your character and pushes you to the limit. But it also builds strong relationships with every person in the group. It's the kind of experience that pulls you out of yourself again and again, into a reality larger and greater than you are."
In addition to the physical and mental accomplishments of the trip, their eleven days in the challenging-but-breathtakingly- beautiful environment afforded these faculty and staff members the chance to better understand the amazing opportunities for personal growth and leadership each WCC freshman experiences during their three-week trek. Such shared experiences will doubtless contribute to the College's continuing efforts at further integrating the outdoor components of its educational vision with the more traditionally academic ones.
A photo album featuring a small sampling of the sights and adventures of "Slimmer with Zimmer 2012" can be found here.