D0: The Hikers Convene

Trip Start Jul 07, 2012
Trip End Sep 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
Noble Hotel

Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

At around 3:30 PM, I arrived in Lander, Wyoming to begin this hairbrained journey into the unknown. A surreal feeling crept over me as I parked the car after a 6 hour drive from the Denver Airport to search for the Noble Hotel, where all Rocky Mountain NOLS students begin their trek by congregating and sleeping there the night before. Naturally, I walked to the wrong place at first, but there was an extremely large NOLS logo out front of the building, so I didn't feel terrible. Turned out that it was the unmarked building across the street. Go figure.

By the way, Wyoming is e. m. p. t. y. Virtually 4 out of the 5 hours I spent on driving from Cheyenne to Lander were flanked solely by desert and mountain. It's pure, open land. I found that only 570,000 people live there, compared to 5 million in Colorado which is virtually the same square area. Fact of the day!

Anyways, upon entering the Noble, I met a nice guy at the check-in desk who was also originally from Maryland...didn't think I would make that connection quite so soon, being 2,000 miles from home and such. To my surprise (and probably because I didn't realize this place was more of a hostel than a hotel), there was only 1 key for every room attached to a big wooden block with the room number on it. I don't particularly know why, but this moment in particular called into question my assuredness...if something this simple seemed totally weird, who knew what was to come. But I checked it off as one experience in many and carried my bag up to my room, which contained two bunk beds for 4 people. Yeppers, definitely a hostel!

Near the check-in desk is a game room and I heard a number of people talking as I went to my room on the 2nd floor, so I decided to poke my head in and lend my voice to the conversation. Within 2 minutes, I was talking to 6 different people around a pool table and ping pong table, all relaxing before they were to take on some kind of wild adventure come morning. Within 10 minutes, I was grabbing dinner with 3 very nice people at a place called the Gannett Grill. I do love the people that gravitate towards the West. Why not be nice to people, just because they are people?

After a quick and tasty pulled pork sandwich, I had to be back at the Noble to meet up with the group at 5:30PM. I sat down in the lobby right near another person who immediately introduced herself as Nan, and it turned out that she would be one of the instructors on the course! We chatted for a bit as other people started to trickle in. At 5:30, we were ushered into a room to start meeting one another. My first thought was hmmm...these people look young :). There were 15 students including myself (12 guys, 3 girls), and 3 female instructors. The instructors introduced themselves as Annemarie, Nan, and Jamie, then introduced ourselves by saying our name and favorite ice cream. We played a few name games to help with memorization, and then the funniest statement of the meeting came out as Annemarie: "Unless you are over 21, and only 1 person in this group is, you may not drink alcohol".

I'd like to take this moment to give myself a high-five for officially achieving "Old Fogey" status. Thank you very much. Turned out that the next oldest people were 20 and most were between 16 and 18, which no doubt will make for an interesting dynamic!

I then went to the Gannett Grill for dinner #2 with my newfound hiking gruop. Just got a little salad this time...didn't want to overdo it. (Note: I should have overdone it. (Hint: Foreshadowing!! haha) ). Got a great chance to talk with a few people and found a general mutual interest in Duck Dynasty. Probably because it is one of the best shows in the storied annals of television. Please please watch it if you have not already.

I got to know Eric, Asante, Andy, and Jason a bit better as we decided to walk 9 blocks up to a park to play some basketball and soccer after dinner. Great to unwind a bit, and everyone seemed extremely excited to be taking this next step. Eric and I had a conversation on Keynesian vs. Austrian Economics on the way back. And I could tell from the moment I met Asante that we would get along well...just a very outgoing and fun guy who is apparently superb at basketball. I had no reason to refute this as he thoroughly trounced the lot of us in a game of 21. Then, we all went up to Lander's local supermarket, Mr. D's, to get some personal food for the trip. I got myself granola and some Sharks, AKA the best fruit snacks in the world, to take with me and to send on re-rations (more on what is tomorrow)

Every person seemed to add a unique and vibrant personality to the group, and I personally was in a state of quiet, guarded excitement. I'd been planning this trip specifically for 3 months, and dreaming of the West for much longer than that. Here it sat before me, not 1 day away! 1 more wake up until the adventure truly begins.
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