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Voices of ACES Blog

Basically Flat

Alex Brockamp's feet dangling in front of a National Park Service sign

Over the winter break, I had the opportunity to take a class that involved touring different National Parks in Texas and New Mexico. I was told it would involve some hiking, but “no fitness level would be required.” On the first day of the trip, we toured two different missions (historic catholic churches) in the El Paso, TX area that involved no hiking of any kind.  We did some light walking and spent more time traveling by car than by foot. The next day however, we went to our first National Park: Guadalupe Mountains National Park. 

After taking some roadside photos, we got to the bottom of the first trail, and we were told that no bathrooms would be available due to the federal government shutdown. So with this knowledge, we hiked onward and upward toward a mountain spring. After the hour and half to our destination, it was clear that some of us got more than we had bargained for.  Naturally, what goes up must come down, so we traded the inclines for declines and hiked the hour and a half back.  After looking at the map, we had just walked four miles!

At this point, I felt confident that we would take it easy the rest of the day. It seemed that my professor agreed with me when he said our next activity would be a walk on a trail that was “basically flat.” But my professor misremembered the trail, because this one ended up being longer and steeper than the one from that morning. 

If you add on to this long, steep hike, the fact that we got lost and had to hike down the mountain in the dark, it was no surprise that I slept well that night.  But what I quickly realized was that I had successfully hiked 10 miles all in one day. 

This taught me a few things about myself: I am capable of doing things I never realized, and I can handle adversity and surprises well.  These lessons are important when going into a career in engineering. Often times we are asked to do things we’ve never done before, and frequently things will not go as expected.  Although these times are challenging, they are very rewarding and help us to grow into the best people and engineers we can be. A hike that was “basically flat” turned into a five-mile uphill climb. But I survived.

Over the course of the rest of the trip, I would go on to hike about 40 miles (including one hike that was 10 miles long). I believe it’s important to learn from past experiences, especially the challenging ones. The next time someone tells you that an experience will be “basically flat” and it isn’t, don’t be mad.  Instead, be proud of yourself for facing adversity and overcoming obstacles.