Junior, Biology B.S.; Desert Hot Springs, Calif.
I had never been backpacking or primitive camping in my whole life, so summer research in Costa Rica was an immense adventure for me. It was an otherworldly experience not only because I disconnected from my phone and people I knew back home, but because I had the opportunity to disconnect from myself and fully take in God’s creation. I made new lifelong friends and memories that I will cherish forever.
Our first trek (more like an expedition) up Cerro Kamuk was arduous and painful yet still incredible. The sites were breathtaking, but our packs were heavy. The very first day was the hardest because it was all uphill. I remember when we came to a fork in the road, one way went downhill and the other way went uphill; we had already come the whole way uphill, so because I was upfront, I asked which way to go, praying in my mind that it was downhill, but, indubitably, it was up. My friends remarked, “Uphill, always up.” This very first day, I truly thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it, but with God’s grace and the encouragement of everyone around me, I was able to keep going. Every time we hit a hill, I kept singing these few lines of a song in my mind, “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith would be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior.” Singing this song in my head helped to distract me from a hurting back and helped me to rely more on God’s strength rather than my own. The other days of the trek were much more doable because they were flatter terrain. I was actually able to enjoy all of the different flowers, tall trees, and friends. I was able to chat with the other girls on the trek and get to know them on a deeper level. We told each other stories of our past and dreams of where we hope to be in our future. After three days, we finally made our trip to the top of Kamuk, and it felt like a movie moment. Everything we had endured was beyond worth it. There was no better feeling than taking those last few steps up to the top and looking back to see how far we came. Although this trek had its ups and downs, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. It was by far my favorite long trek, and I’ll never forget it. My favorite memory was on night four. It was pouring rain, and everyone on our team, the guide, and the scent detection team was huddled under one tarp. Dr. Mooring was cooking his famous mac n cheese, Roger (our guide and friend) was taking photos and singing, and the rest of us were sipping coffee and hot chocolate, listening to each other talk about good times. This was my favorite memory because we were all together, laughing and purely enjoying each other’s company.
There was no better feeling than taking those last few steps up to the top and looking back to see how far we came. Although this trek had its ups and downs, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world.
Our second trek to Chirripo was also a grand adventure. We were able to scale large rocks in misty rain and cross rivers on some questionable bridges. The experience as a whole was straight out of a fairytale for me. I have never been so in awe of God’s creation or so in awe of how He works to bring people close together. My favorite memory on this trek was on the fourth day, our team got a chance to learn how to properly search for and collect scat. We made a trip to a place called “Laguna Ditkevi” and took our time just being present in the moment and living. That sounds strange, but our society doesn’t usually allow for that because everyone is always in such a hurry, so the slower pace and the presence of peace felt gratifying for a change.
I know better than ever that I cannot be the source of my own strength nor peace. In future trials and tribulations, this trip taught me that strength and peace can only be received and made complete coming from God.
The experiences I had on this trip will forever impact the way I see and live life in the future. I learned not to take the moments where I can be in nature for granted, I learned to appreciate time spent with friends, and lastly, I learned to not take for granted hot showers (river showers where you can see steam coming off your leg because you’re warmer than the water you’re in are CRAZY, but also exhilarating due to how alert you can be after showering!). I knew before, but now I know better than ever that I cannot be the source of my own strength nor peace. In future trials and tribulations, this trip taught me that strength and peace can only be received and made complete coming from God. I am and will forever be grateful for our journey and for the friends/family relationships I made on this trip.
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