Tying the knot

{Blog Editor’s note: Over the next few weeks we will have guest bloggers from our Doris Duke Conservation Scholars  experiential education program provide updates and descriptions of their adventures in learning this summer. These updates aren’t in any particular order. Buckle your seat belts, folks; it’s sure to be an amazing ride!}

June 9, 2014 by Margarita and Vincent

We had our first campsite breakfast at the beginning of the day, and then drove back to NAU for our ropes course. Completing the ropes course as a group allowed us to come together in ways we never imagined. We completed David’s challenge by joining forces and trusting the strength and unity of the group.

Our group repeatedly failed to complete David’s challenge due to a lack of communication, trust, and collaboration. However, after 4 attempts our group was able to overcome these setbacks and implement David’s word of wisdom: Samurai. Samurai is a word used to describe the duty of serving others over oneself. We learned how to channel this concept to ensure our family’s success in completing the challenge.

In the beginning, the two people who attempted to walk across the wire failed to reach the tree at other end for several reasons. They did not verbalize their needs and they didn’t do the best job of looking out for their partner. The spotters that served to provide the participants with security and support did not do so to the fullest of their ability. After taking a moment to reflect on our shortcomings we came to the conclusion that the whole group could aid the participants in any and every way to make sure they reached the tree and felt safe doing so.

In the end we all joined our arms and strength to support each other. When the participants felt that they no longer could go further, everyone jumped in and carried them the rest of the way. We learned how to unite our individual efforts for the success of the group.

Many people overcame their fear of heights and did away with their anxiety. They were able to trust the equipment, and most importantly they were able to trust in the group. They took a leap of faith and surpassed their own expectations.


David allowed us to come together as a family to commit ourselves for self-improvement and for the well being of the group. The knot in the rope that once sustained us in the air now symbolizes the commitment we made to ourselves and to our newfound family.

A photo of Magarita and Marcy coming down one of the ropes course challenges. Marcy exemplified amazing communication skills, and made group members feel “safe”.

A photo of Magarita and Marcy coming down one of the ropes course challenges. Marcy exemplified amazing communication skills, and made group members feel “safe”.

Personal Reflection by Vincent

Today I woke up underneath the twinkling stars of the campground. The temperature was frigid cold. I would have never expected such from the state of Arizona. The color of the sky was a rich dark blue, which soon faded to something remarkably lighter as the sun came up.

I was able to speak with Tom Sisk as I was curious about learning about plant identification while here in Arizona. I asked him “Hey Tom, what is that type right there?” Literally the only tree species on the campsite. Tom was able to inform me that the species was the Ponderosa Pine, which is a species that is highly adapted for this climate. Tom taught me that the older the Ponderosa Pine the brighter color of amber the bark will display.  I learned the tree is extremely fireproof and has the ability to shed its bark in the emergency of a fire from Cari Kimball. Cari also informed me that the trees do not have any low branches so that fire cannot spread to them. My peers and I also learned through curiosity that the Ponderosa Pine bark has a distinct sweet smell which many can debate smells either like Butterscotch or Vanilla.

The very famous and very loved Ponderosa Pine tree

The very famous and very loved Ponderosa Pine tree

Later on that day, we traveled back to campus to attend the NAU ropes course where Stacie and I were among the first in our group to climb one of the towers. It was incredibly interesting to go up, and walk across a tightrope, with a person that you are still becoming acquainted with, though I was able to make such a strong connection. It was also a great time cheering on other members of the team and seeing them challenge themselves. The system was very safe and taught me to trust my equipment as well as my peers, aka “family,” while on this journey (especially on the upcoming river trip). Through this workshop we were able to create a sense of community, and came to the realization that we need to look out for one another.

Here are some quotes from a few members of the team:

Stacie– “Conquering my fear of heights was exhilarating.”

Eva– “I did not want to go up that high, I was terrified. But with the support of my peers, I felt confident in pushing myself, which was what the ropes course was about. By the end of the day , we were a completely different group. We grew together on this day, and in the face of new challenges acquired the skills to be a fully functional family.”

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