Alaskan wilderness offers recovery and learning

Sunday, September 16, 2018
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Photo courtesy of Devin Collins

Devin Collins spent part of the summer in the Alaskan Wilderness recovering from a shoulder injury before joining the Dawson Community College men’s basketball program this fall.

For many people, nature can be a source of healing, of education or just a real breath of fresh air, but for Dawson Community College basketball player Devin Collins, it can be all three at once.

Over the summer, Collins, who came to Glendive from Colorado, traveled with a group to Alaska where he spent a month hiking in the wilderness. His purpose for being there was two-fold: to recover from an injury and get ready for the upcoming basketball season and to get hands-on experience in the wilds as he pursues a degree in wildlife studies.

“I actually went out there to get my body back in shape before I came out here (to Glendive) for basketball after injuring myself my junior year. So just trying to get back in shape and trying to see if I actually wanted to study wild life, ‘cause that’s my major going into this year,” Collins said.

He broke his shoulder during his junior basketball season.

Collins traveled as part of the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) Program. The program is meant to help people learn leadership and wilderness survival skills as well as communicate effectively and “appreciate living simply” according to the NOLS official website.

“It was actually really weird being out there. Just, being out there in the 24-hour daylight and just, the new people, and the different opinions and stuff that we had on different subjects and then, just how simple life was out there,”Collins said.

Collins noted that he had gone on a one week hiking trip in Wyoming before, but said the trip to Alaska was a very different experience.

An average day for the group consisted of waking up, starting the fire and cooking breakfast, hiking until the mid-afternoon, setting up camp, eating dinner, discussing the day and planning for the next one and then hanging out before going to bed to do it all again the next day. At some points during the day, the instructors in the group would take time to teach about the environment around them.

Sometimes, the larger group would split into “independent groups” of four or five people who then spend about three days travelling separate routes to a location where they all will meet again.

One of these independent groups proved to be one of the most memorable moments for Collins, as he and his friends got caught struggling through three straight days of rain.

“We kind of set up the tent a little lazy, so in the middle of the night, we had woken up and the whole bottom of our tent was full of water. So, were just like, in the middle of the night, like two o’clock in the morning, trying to throw this water out,” Collins said.

Other stand out encounters that Collins noted included hiking through a fog, getting to see a herd of caribou and even spotting a large bear.

Being away from civilization and technology, the group had to find simple ways to stay entertained. Collins said they would pass the time by singing, playing cards and generally making their own fun.

At the end of it all, Collins said he enjoyed the trip and believes he was right to pursue wildlife studies. He is also open to the idea of going on another wilderness trip at some point, just probably not for a whole month.

Contact Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com .

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