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This semester, I have been enjoying a class called Learning in Outdoor Education, which is a course intended to help exchange students engage with the Australian natural environment through experiential learning. One of the main perks to this class is the wonderful field trips we get to go on, including a 2-night, 3-day field trip to the Blue Mountains. I went on the trip this past weekend, and had a really wonderful experience with my classmates!

On the first day, we did a 4 hour hike to the Echo Point Lookout. This hike started in a fairly leisurely way, with some steep downhill walking followed by a very flat trail, but ended with the Giant Stairway—a staircase of over 800 steps. For me, hiking up a steep incline is much easier than hiking up stairs, so this final push to the top served as a big challenge for me. But, once I got to the top with the peers in my hiking group, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment as I admired the gorgeous view before my eyes and looked back to where I came from.

The following day was a full day of hiking. We started in the morning, and didn’t complete the hike until the sun was just beginning to set. We were deep in the woods on the first day, but the scenery on this day was similar to a rainforest, with beautiful waterfalls, moist moss, and hanging plants all around. The first hours of the hike were on a steep decline, so it was important to walk slowly as to not slip or hurt the knees. On the way down, I chatted with those in my new hiking group and admired the scenery around me. But, when hiking, what goes down must come up, so we spent the entire afternoon climbing straight back up on the other side of the mountain, where our bus was waiting to pick us up. Although this part of the day was quite challenging, I was hiking alongside very positive, optimistic people who told riddles and used distraction tactics to get us all up the steep incline.

We finished the last day with a hike through the “Grand Canyon,” which is fairly comparable to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, just this one was filled with trees. My favorite part of the day was hopping from rock to rock at the base of the canyon. Naturally, this hike also concluded with a very hard trek up the Many Stairs, as the map called them, to get back to where we started. Each day of hiking was a good challenge that allowed for growth in many areas.

Each evening concluded with a lecture and reflection session around the campfire. This was a very special time for us all, as it brought the group together to think about what went right about the day, what we could improve upon for the next day, and what we learned from our experiences. The campsite where we stayed was in an area without any cell service, so that in itself helped to create a more interpersonal and intimate setting.

One of the best aspects of the weekend was the community formed by the end of the trip. Before leaving for the Blue Mountains, I did not know many people on the trip, but now, I feel quite close to many of them and look forward to planning more trips with them in the coming weeks. I formed an especially strong bond with my cabin mates, along with those who were in my hiking groups. Not only did this field trip give me exercise and a chance to learn about myself and the natural environment, but it brought me more friends as well. The current sore state that I’m in is well-worth the memories this past weekend brought me!