Return from the Mountaintop

by Allison Oster '01

By the amount of energy radiating through the camp, you’d never know this boisterous group just returned from 11 days of backpacking through the wilderness. Yet more than 70 excited student leaders gathered at Soquel Ranch, just south of Yosemite in the High Sierras, on August 15 to celebrate the success of the 33rd annual Walkabout.

Begun in 1975, this student leadership training program for Resident Advisors takes them into the heart of the Ansel Adams Wilderness for an intense backpack experience that challenges students’ physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. “Walkabout provides students with a unique opportunity to experience community in it rawest form,” said Charlie Moore, director of residence life at APU. “It allows for great opportunities to get to know others while working toward a common goal.

It helps them learn how to initiate conversations and connections while becoming vulnerable with people they’ve just met. These efforts to build community in the wilderness directly mirror the work that they will be doing in their living areas. In addition, this time provides them with moments of stillness for reflection and to encounter God in preparation for the upcoming year.

” Each team is comprised of RAs from the various campus living areas, as well as three guides. They may barely know one another as they first set out, but they return a close-knit family. “The Residence Life Program seeks to produce growth of the whole student, resident, and RA. Walkabout shows you how to work together in unusual circumstances, sometimes out of our comfort zones, and how we need to look to Christ in those moments for strength,” said Jen Meyer, Residence Director in Adams Hall.

“I love the life stories we share around the campfire,” continued Meyer, recounting some of her favorite moments from the trip. “Every member of the team, RAs, RDs, and guides share the good and bad highlights of their lives. These get deep and students get real. I truly believe these moments are what put the super-glue in each team in creating unity.” The students arrived back at Soquel Ranch excited to reunite with friends and RAs from their living areas, swapping stories about their experiences hiking, rock climbing, conquering blisters and mosquito bites, and one of Walkabout’s most well-known challenges: solo, a 48-hour time of solitude and fasting that allows for intense personal reflection and time with God. Yet the experience wasn’t over.

Their last day began with one final challenge: a three, six, or nine-mile run/walk. Though tired and sore from hiking and carrying 40-plus pound packs, each student pushed through to test their limits in this final mountain course. After showers and a relaxing afternoon, the group gathered for their last evening of celebration around the bonfire. Teams performed skits, recounting their adventures on the trail through song and reenactment. As the sun set behind the camp, President Jon R. Wallace, DBA, spoke to the students, sharing words of encouragement and challenge for the year ahead. “People come to APU looking for leaders.

They come looking for you,” said Wallace, who was celebrating his 30th year on Walkabout. “What has been placed under your care is what God has put in your hands, and I’m asking you to step up.”