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Mountain Classroom: Life Without a Phone and Expedition Prep

Scott Allenby

As Proctor’s Mountain Classroom program enters its fourth week of living and learning on the road in the American Southwest, students reflect on life without a phone and expeditions in the backcountry in today’s blog. 

Proctor Academy Mountain Classroom Spring 2023

Life Without A Phone | Rebecca ‘23 

If you ask someone from the outside world (society), “What is one thing that you’ll need everyday, and will never live without?”, the answer is most likely to be their phone. Well, that’s the only thing we don’t have here on Mountain Classroom. Now it’s the 19th day of Spring Mountain 2023, and also the 19th day living without my phone (however, when you see this post, it’s probably our 27th-ish day).

Life becomes a whole different game without a phone. We’ve been “isolated,” in the west of the US for more than two weeks and have no single idea about what is happening in human society. Yes, HUMAN. It’s so weird to see people everywhere! Back to phones, I don’t know if I have received any offers from a single college, or if my sister got a D on her French test (hopefully not), or if Manchester City beat FC Bayern Munich. NO IDEA. Remember, WE are the only people without phones, not everyone else who are also traveling in this same places with us. This week we’ve been paddling with two guides from CFI. They have phones. What happens a lot is that they will put their phone around the table while we’re cooking together, and they’ll use it to set up an alarm in the morning (while we are using our watches). They take it with them everywhere, every time. Not only the hikers/travelers from elsewhere, people that are closer to us, our instructors-they all have a phone. They use it for GPS, for Spotify for us on Deb (our sweet bus home), or for contacting the campsites about our reservations. I’m not saying the fact that they own a phone is bothering me. It’s just weird. It’s the kind of feeling that everyone else has it, but you can’t reach it. You are forbidden, and your desire to know what is happening in the world is triggering you. 

Proctor Academy Mountain Classroom Spring 2023

The window toward society is waving to you. But you can’t reach it. However, life without any technology feels nice as it is pure freedom. Without being “controlled,” by those meaningless entertainment news articles and infinite message notifications, we finally have the chance to breathe during the little transition time between many excellent expeditions and activities. I’m a phone addict. I eat with it, sleep with it, play with it. I was concerned about that before flying to Vegas. Well, I’m now lazily lying on the beach with a Crazy Creek, feeling wind blow on my face and writing this blog post, and waiting for dinner. I enjoy the time with only my pencil, sketch book and my brain. Tons of free time. I use this time to do things I’ve been wanting to try, problems that I’ve been waiting to solve, and naps that I’ve never been willing to take. I draw, I write, I sing, I think. I spend more time on myself, without worrying anything will affect me. “The world is still spinning without us,” said Jeffrey. It’s true. I’m still alive and even living a better life. We as a group get the chance to play manhunt at our campsite (12 person ver.) after a long day of hiking. Isn’t that crazy?

“Dinner is ready, come and eat! We have red sauce pasta! Wash your hands before eating.” Sorry but I gotta go. Our cooks make food that is better than those recipes online. 

Proctor Academy Mountain Classroom Spring 2023

Expeditions and Preparation | Logan ‘23 

Commission day for backpacking was a day full of personal and group packing. In Petrified Forest State Park we started our morning with a meal prepared by our cooks and then jumped immediately into prep. The leader of the day split us all into groups. I was put into the tent group, meaning we had to put up all of our Mega Mids (tents) and make sure they were ready for expedition. Other groups looked like: stove group who test all of the stoves for expedition and ensure we have enough fuel; kitchen group, who pack all of our pots, pans and other essentials for the kitchen; as well as another group for other important necessities, “The #2 group.”

After all of the groups were done with gathering, testing, and repairing when necessary, we circled up around a large spread of gear knowing full-well we would be carrying it on our backs. Then came time to go over it all as a group and decide if changes needed to be made. (Which of course, there almost always are.) After making those changes, the most notable going from 5 spatulas to 2, we were confident in our work and felt prepared for the next steps.

Before we were done for the day it was time to pack up all of the food we had shopped for a day or two before. With our previously created cook partners everyone spread out their food. As a group we went over each day, making sure we met all dietary needs and had correct proportions. After some shifts, changing in meal plans, and a scramble for more snacks, we all felt confident in our food plans. At this point it was around 4:00 PM and we were all exhausted, but had not even begun personal packing. At least another hour later and all hungry for dinner, we felt confident enough to end the day, knowing we still had some last minute things to do in the morning. With an early wake up and a quick breakfast the packing continued. We pulled out our group gear and all circled up with our backpacks. We created nine piles of gear and food in slightly varying sizes. After picking who got which pile we packed our backpacks fully for the first (but certainly not last) time of the trip. With the day and a half commission process complete we set off to begin our adventure. This period of time spent preparing for expedition is some of the most important time on Mountain. The time spent and effort put into preparing well for a backcountry expedition can be the difference between a smooth, enjoyable time, to one spent troubleshooting and hungry. However, it’s a lot to keep track of, and not uncommon for mistakes (missed-stakes) to be made.

The realization that we left our stakes behind was heart-stopping. I was upset and frustrated with myself, and could not believe we forgot something so important. But when we circled up as a group and talked about it, not only did I realize it was a group mistake, but that as a group we would work towards a solution. Our solution turned out to be using rocks, sticks, and trees to support our Mega Mids. Some might even say they did a better job at it than stakes would have in the sandy conditions. But the lesson was still learned, we were all very aware of the gap in focus that led to forgetting the stakes. Next time we will be even better prepared and check our group gear…just one more time.

Click here to check out more photos from Spring 2023 Mountain Classroom!

Proctor Academy Mountain Classroom Spring 2023
  • Mountain Classroom
  • Off-Campus Program