Story Construction

Off the Grid

October 30, 2014

I went to New Mexico’s Philmont Scout Ranch with my son, Nate, and his Boy Scout troop this summer. We trekked 110 miles in 12 days in the mountains with a 45-pound pack for most of those miles. I was off the grid for nearly two weeks, which in my head, I knew was going to happen when I said yes to the trip. The reality did not set in, however, until I was truly off. the. grid. Here are some of the lessons I learned on the trip.

Mike and Nate Espeset at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico

  • What’s next? My full attention was committed to what was coming next. The wilderness and elements have a way of consuming all of my attention. Success required being in the moment and planning for the next thing to be executed effectively.
  • Fair is not even. We had crew members of different sizes,ages and physical abilities yet we had a load of ‘crew gear’and food to transport. Carry according to your ability, not your share. Fair is not even when considering the welfare of the whole.
  • Toughness. We met and conquered many physical and mental challenges along the way. We had little choice;we were there and needed to push forward. Going back was not an option. We were capable of more than we would have thought prior to hitting the trail.
  • Navigation matters. The boys read maps and compasses to navigate the crew. We also had an adult with a GPS in the background to double check that we were not going significantly off course. We could withstand small deviations but not a major departure from the trail without impacting our itinerary and welfare.
  • Staying dry. Little did we know that August is monsoon season in New Mexico. We had more than our share of rain and a bit of hail while on the trail. Staying dry or drying out became a constant priority for safety and comfort. We really appreciated and enjoyed dry days once we had experienced the wrath of monsoon season.
  • Calories for fuel. We consumed many calories that I would not normally include in my food plan(i.e., Spam). The tastiness of the calories was secondary to their intent to fuel us for the rigor of the trip. Once we understood fuel trumped taste, we could eat almost anything.
  • Gratitude. The Philmont Scout Ranch and associated land is made possible through the generosity of others who have come before us. It is a gift that keeps giving and has impacted over a million visitors in its history.

As I consider these lessons learned while off the grid, I now know they have meaning back on the grid at Story and in our projects. Even though I did not consciously focus on work while I was on the trail, the time away helped me connect the dots on lessons that apply in many settings, including and especially our work at Story.

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