San Onofre Adventure

Breathtaking. Never before had I experienced a beach quite like this. Just off the freeway is a parking lot campground full of people and not a care in the world. No one really seems to regulate the behavior here but there is an unspoken sense of respect. My friends and I decided it would be a fun experiment to camp here. After weeks of planning, a tent-building session, and hours spent packing my convertible Sebring we were off. Three friends, packed in a two-door car with loads of gear and Christmas music blaring created the quintessential environment for kicking off an exciting couple of days at the beach. Once we set up camp, we set out on our adventures along the trails and into the unfamiliar. Towering bluffs lined the coast and created unique canyons among the tides. We did a lot in our time here. Nights were spent together in the ocean watching the descending sun and days were spent exploring and appreciating the little things this territory had to share with us. We didn’t look at our phones outside of playing music, we gagged the hours by the signs of the sun and lived each day according to our free will and judgements. Learning about ourselves and each other through the weird things we experienced was all the entertainment we needed. The challenges with assimilating into society after days spent aimlessly and blissfully away hit us with full force. It doesn’t help that the first stop of this crazy train back home was a coastal Starbucks and my dreads at the time were woven with seaweed. None-the-less we returned home and I was more refreshed and happier than ever. You never know what you can gain from something so seemingly simple as a trip to the beach.

Photograph and content by Alex Rager

The Warehouse

In the middle of horse trails in Norco, a city just up the freeway from Corona, lies the abandoned and crumbling remains of a building unknown, dubbed by those who visit, the warehouse. An escape from the ordinary, a myth, the embodiment of youthful expression. This building has become a piece of art and apart of Norco. Boredom struck, so, naturally my friends and I started thinking about what we were going to do about it. Hiking, yet again, skyline or the falls sounded mundane so our sights were set on this fantastical building coated in imagination somewhere unbeknownst to us. A friend in the group had been a while back and new the general whereabouts. That was good enough for us. Off we went into Norco without really a clue what we sought out or where it would lie. It wasn’t one of those “you can’t miss it” places – this took some effort. Eventually, after walking a dusty horse trail near a nursery that became our only reference point, we found it. We took time to marvel in awe at the structure, the colors, its art. The amount of artistic talent showcased throughout these off-shoot cities continue to intrigue me. Where and who are these rebel artists? After looking around and having a mini photoshoot we said our goodbyes to this place. We have yet to return but one day, maybe with the same or other friends, I am sure we will return to add a piece of ourselves, and leave our mark on the vibrant walls of our sinner cathedral.

Photograph and content by Alex Rager

Pingree Park

Entertain the idea for a moment how you felt standing in the most gorgeous place you have experienced. On a hike through Pingree Park, Colorado I found my bliss. Official freshman orientation was over and while some were going home, I was setting off on the next adventure. Long group hikes, team building exercises, and solitary nature walks constituted the basic schedule of this trip. I didn’t enter this experience with preconceived notions of what to expect, I had never even heard of Pingree. The moment I entered the park, I became a child eager to look, touch and adventure my way through every crevice. I finally understood the excitement of my peers who had been here before. This flourishing green landscape, bordered by mountains and nourished by flowing veins allowed me to examine nature in its purest form. The abundance of visual stimulation became the catalyst for interpersonal thought that would later change my perspective. I never expected the strangers I camped with would become some of my favorite people, that Pingree would become my hidden gem, and those memories would be the ones to share.

Photograph and content by Alex Rager

Lac Du Bois: Part 2

Two weeks down. What I didn’t realize was that the first two weeks of this intense journey served as preparation for the final two. Little did I know the tiring 18 hour days of canoeing around the beautiful area of Bimidji would turn into fourteen straight days of canoeing for 18 hours, pitching camp and making dinner just to waking up at 5am to do it all over again. What were we doing on this seemingly ridiculous schedule? We were on a trip I can only appreciate now that it’s over and I have learned more about what a feat it is to canoe the boundary waters into Canada. Breathtaking. Every island we stopped in at night, every glimmer of the stars, the blue water we tread and everything in between was unapologetically luscious. Nights were my favorite part of each day, and in the burning sun after 15 hours of canoeing I could always think about what the stars would look like, how I was going to explore the new island or what wildlife I would find. Each island seemed to have a story, each rock formation a calling card hungry for the adventurous. One night we waded into the depths of the lake to observe and better appreciate the night sky. One day we all took the call of the wild, jumping off various edges of an enormous rock structure seemingly coming out of nowhere. These rare and precious moments we were able to enjoy made the harder days a little easier to handle. Once in Canada I remember so vividly the view of Lake Superior and allowing myself to, as I did at various points throughout the journey, absorb the view and feelings I experienced. Once home, I could finally take a breath and grin at the entire month and understand that it was all for a reason. Approaching baggage claim, the anticipation to see my family builds. The moment I went to hug my mom, I will never forget her mentioning the difference she saw in me. Misadventure turned life changer. The month I spent in Bimidji, Minnesota can never be forgotten or replaced.

Content by Alex Rager

Lac Du Bois: Part 1

Pulling up to the French Chateau I was in love, the building mimicked Parisian architecture and the grounds were full of art. The bus driver stopped me as I stepped off to check my sanity – this was not my stop.  Another 15 minutes on the bus, I finally arrived in the woods to an easy up and a canoe. What the-. I couldn’t understand a word but before I knew it I had a different name, had gotten checked for lice, all my stuff was taken from me (except the five things I was actually allowed to have) and was getting into a canoe. Woah. Head rush. Campers were expected to speak or attempt to speak in French, cook French food and learn to be completely capable of survival in the woods. I had no experience doing any of this so the “French” I spoke was broken Franglish, the food I helped cook was probably mediocre at best and learning to survive in the woods was an interesting challenge (I was not as adventurous at this point in my life). We got up at 5am, went on hikes, canoed or swam all day, cooked dinner and got to know each other through the (mis)adventures we all shared. Eventually I got used to it all – the mosquitos, checking for ticks, speaking progressively better Franglish, cooking and getting too sore to move every day became my new normal. We earned beads for passing tests like swimming, canoeing, pitching tents and building a fire (from the tree you were expected to chop). These relatively little accomplishments were a big deal for me; they served as a physical reminder of my newly discovered self-worth when challenges became overwhelming. It is unfortunate that any child, under any circumstances, would discover his or her self-worth and importance in high school when it should be shared and fostered throughout one’s childhood. The challenges I faced in the initial two weeks peril in comparison to the following two weeks that changed my life forever and sparked my wanderlust.

Content by Alex Rager

Paris, France

From the United Kingdom to the mainland, an overnight ferry trekked the English Channel and brought us to France. Increadable. I took a shine to France in particular on this two week journey. Like in London, each day was filled with iconic sightseeing and cultural experiences. Frog legs really do taste like chicken and escargot is slurped out of the shell and a green sauce almost makes you forget about the weird rubbery thing you aren’t supposed to chew – oops. I don’t remember what it was about France that made me fall madly in love, but I would go on to learn French and have a month long wild ride back in the states because of it. One of my favorite memories of France was when I first arrived at the top of the Eiffel Tower. This enormous structure is at the heart of the city and from the top, France is your plaything. Overlooking the edge, I could grasp the complexity and beauty that is Paris. The eyes of the Mona Lisa really do follow you, and the painting is puny against its staggering reputation. This mysterious portrait of a woman caught in the middle of love and sabotage was amazing and confusing. It is only now, at 19 that I understand that love is a fickle thing and life is a careful balance. The Louvre peaked my interest in art, the culture developed a palate for food and the language a love for diversity. These are the things one gains from exploration, travel and an open mind while doing so. I wish I could show you Paris from my eyes as a sixth grader, how different my perspective must have been from what it is now. The city of love might be a cliché destination, but never underestimate the beauty in the nuances you discover – Paris, or anywhere you travel in life can be as unique as your sense of adventure, you just have to follow your heart and open your mind.

 

Content by Alex Rager

London, England

I was in the sixth grade when the opportunity to experience London, England presented itself to me. Unbeknownst to my parents this would fuel the passion that made this blog a reality. The process was straight forward and intense. If one is to be a student ambassador to the United States, one has to know her stuff. For what felt like months, I attended large lecture-style meetings, read international current events, did homework and sunk my teeth into a culture completely alien at the time. I have been going to Mexico for as long as I can remember, but London is no two hour flight. All prepped and ready to go, I was off! A sixth grader on her way to uncharted territory to make memories that have withstood the test of time. Touristy doesn’t begin to describe it – we saw the sights and experienced the cultural norms of England from all angles. The food, people, iconic structures and those things off to the side that catch your eye all contributed to a fascinated young girl eager for more. I was fortunate to experience cultural diversity at a young age, and I wish I had photos for you but being in the sixth grade and only allowed to have a satellite flip phone to call home, the images I wish I could share are forever in memory.

Content by: Alex Rager