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PSU Chronicles

The inside story of life at Portland State University from student bloggers
Updated: 38 min 47 sec ago

No Car? No Problem

July 2, 2015 - 8:08pm

By: Chelsea Ware

Who wants to pay for campus parking and gas on top of high tuition prices and overpriced textbooks? I know that I sure don’t! Before I moved to Portland I would drive almost every day, but here I have realized that I no longer need my car. In fact, I enjoy not having my car with me. There are so many other options when it comes to getting around!

Portland State offers discounted three-month TriMet passes that allow students to ride the MAX, bus, and streetcar with ease. Additionally, the streetcar is free downtown for students even without the paid pass; all you need is your student ID.

On September 12th of this year, the Tilikum Crossing, also called the Bridge of the People, will open for use. At more than 1,700 feet in length, it is the longest car-free transit bridge in the U.S. The bridge will allow MAX trains, buses, streetcars, cyclists and pedestrians to efficiently cross the Willamette without congestion from cars. Additionally, MAX will soon have a new orange line that crosses the bridge and allows for access to more stops.

Car sharing services like Car2Go and Zipcar also make it easy for students who don’t have a car but want to go further than the city limit for a day trip or just for errands. A low one-time startup fee and no monthly payments make it a breeze to use the plethora of smart cars that Car2Go has parked around campus and the general Portland area. You are only charged for what you drive and you can park the car anywhere in Car2Go’s home territory when you are finished. Zipcar has a monthly fee (price depends on the plan you pick) but allows users more flexibility when it comes to choosing different sizes and models of cars. It’s great if you need a larger car for the day. The Zipcar parking lot next to Safeway by campus makes it easy to pick up and return the car, too.

Biking to and from school is also a great option. PSU makes it simple by offering bike rentals and parking. The PSU Bike Hub is a phenomenal  resource for students who might need bike repairs or to rent other forms of biking equipment.

What do you guys think of these car sharing services? Do you think it’s easier to live downtown without owning a car?


STUMPED in Stumptown…

June 10, 2015 - 4:48pm

By: Sharon Nellist

Can you imagine going into your senior year and doubt the major that you have so painstakingly been working toward the last few years? Well, I certainly can. HELP!

My most recent thoughts: I am certain of the type of job I am looking for…. But will my current major get me there? Will my major hurt my chances of getting this job? Is it worth switching majors at this point? How much longer will it take? Ahh! I have to study more for that last final exam…

My mind is full.

Thankfully! I have the summer to figure this out.

And I know that I am not the only one…

Nearly 80% of new students heading for college are undeclared. About 50% of college students that have declared a major change their major, even two or three times!

Also, Portland State has great resources to help through this “traumatic” time…

What can I do with a degree in….?
Career Workshops, Classes & Events
Exploring PSU Majors Fair

What did or would you do in this situation?

Wish me luck!


Summer Goals for Summer Blues

May 26, 2015 - 9:11pm

by Shezad Khan

It’s already week nine of spring term, which means summer break is very, very close. I’m incredibly relieved and excited for the three month escape from schoolwork. Since I took classes last summer, I’ve been craving an extended amount of down time. If you’re anything like me, however, that down time can lead to some extreme boredom and sluggishness.

For me, it’s important to stay active during summer break – both physically and mentally. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a drink or ten to celebrate the end of the school year and/or your graduation or sit on the couch and binge watch five different shows on Netflix – go ahead, you’ve earned it – but it does mean making sure that kind of behavior doesn’t become cyclical and negative. This is especially important for those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression.

Something that I’m going to do to make sure my summer break is productive is keep a list of goals. I know, super cliché, right? But it will definitely help. Here are some of the goals that I’m setting for myself:

  • Read: I want to finish at least ten books over the course of this summer break. I don’t have enough time to read for pleasure during the school year, so I want to make my time off count.
  • Play Soccer: Playing soccer a few times a week is not only fun, but very healthy as well.
  • Look for internships/apply for scholarships: Yes, unfortunately, some work does have to be down over summer break. Grad school is coming up, and it’s not cheap. Looking for internships that apply to my field will help me find a career down the line. And with scholarships, well, who doesn’t need extra money?
  • Work, work, work: Summer break is a great time to try and boost your hours at work. Work may be stressful sometimes, but it’s a lot less stressful when you don’t have to worry about schoolwork on top of it.

These are just a few goals I have for myself to make sure my break is well-spent and productive. I would urge all of you to find your own goals. It really is good for you.


Awaiting the Looming Changes in Campus Security

May 20, 2015 - 9:22pm

By Chelsea Ware

June will bring many things: the end to an arduous spring quarter, warm weather, but most importantly it is when the PSU Board of Trustees will review and vote on an implementation plan for armed security on campus. In December of 2014, the PSU Board of Trustees voted 11 to 2 in favor of having an armed police force on campus and for the past 5 months they have been constructing the details of how the officers will operate.

Under the plan, PSU will hire 12 police officers to join campus security. The decision was also a result of Portland State University President Wim Weiwel’s Task Force on campus safety; a group composed of members of the PSU community who spent six months studying safety on campus. The President’s Task Force suggested that PSU should have armed officers due to PSU’s proximity to downtown, its steady growth of students, and lack of safety resources.

The deaths that have taken place in Baltimore, New York, and Ferguson have left many students feeling uneasy about PSU’s proposed security plan. However, board members have expressed their hope that PSU can work to cultivate a security department that reflects the Portland State values of diversity and accountability.

Do you think that having armed officers on campus will add to students’ safety? As someone who lives on campus, I know that I will be following the upcoming changes closely and I encourage you to also. Whether you are pro or against the upcoming changes, it is important that we all stay engaged during this process.


If Chivalry is Dead, We’re Stuck at the Wake

May 20, 2015 - 8:23am

The other day I read an article about “benevolent sexism”, which did a wonderful job of discussing the problems of chivalrous behavior by explaining rather than accusing – unlike this article celebrating its death, or this one blaming women for it.

Both men and women face incredible pressure to do things a certain way. Men pay for things, open doors, and have this expectation to protect their women. We accept this because that’s how we define “men”.

It’s easy for women to say we don’t care whether a guy always picks up the check, but I don’t think that women could ever understand why it bothers men so much; however, we can certainly be sympathetic.

These three common instances only help perpetuate everyday sexism, which hurts not only women but also men:

1. Men “have” to pay.
With more women in the workforce with equal qualifications and education, it’s becoming more likely that a woman could make more than her male partner. But this prevailing idea that the man must pay for everything hurts both parties – he can’t afford it, and she feels guilty because he won’t have her pay.

2. Men waiting on women.
The reasons men waiting on women can be borderline offensive – even though many women appreciate it – is better outlined in the first article mentioned than I could ever do.
     For men, however, this “chivalrous” behavior is and was created by extrinsic pressures from other men to treat their “ladies” as delicate. Men who do these things are considered “better” than others. Those who don’t get nitpicked by their families, friends, her friends, and potentially the gal herself. However, the creation of chivalry is also a way to differentiate between classes – is a guy less worthy because he wasn’t taught chivalry? No.

3. The “stupid” husband/boyfriend
This is the most problematic because there is nothing empowering about tearing someone down – particularly when it’s targeting an entire gender. How many times have commercials for household items portrayed a confused, sloppy husband? While I’m sure these couples exist – hence the stereotype – always showing men who don’t know how to pack their child’s lunch or change a diaper, normalizes and internalizes the idea that only – cisgendered heterosexual – women can raise a child.


The Power of Orange

May 19, 2015 - 11:25am

By Olivia Clarke

On my bedroom curtain, secured with a safety pin, is a little square of orange fabric. I got the square when I attended PSU’s Sustainability Celebration last spring – in return for my signature on a Divest PSU petition, I received this piece of fabric as a symbol of my support for rethinking the university’s investments.

Divestment aims to deny financial resources to governments and industries that are viewed as harmful or unjust. While the hot-button divestment issue for the previous generation was South African apartheid, the current topic of concern among universities across the nation is the environment: specifically, the fossil fuel companies that are hurting it (and that receive financial support from our school every year). The Divest PSU campaign began in 2014, and it seems to be gaining momentum. Divest PSU holds weekly meetings, and those orange squares are getting more recognition around campus.

As a sustainability-minded student, I have high hopes for this campaign: I know how hard some people work to lead sustainable lifestyles, but the environment can’t be saved by our personal choices alone. Even if I carpool and recycle, my impact pales in comparison to the financial influence of my school and other universities around the country. For this reason, I support the Divest PSU organizers who are using their power as students to speak up for a more ethical PSU that stays true to its environmental values. After all, our logo isn’t green for nothing.


Planning Ahead

May 15, 2015 - 10:19am

By: Andreea Nica

I like to plan. Planning provides me security, a comfort that I’m on the right track. Or, at least it gives me the feeling I’m getting there.

When I began the doctoral program at PSU, I knew there was much work ahead, but surprisingly, it wasn’t the work that had me bogged down. Rather, it was the organization and execution of my five-year plan in the program. I had some vague ideas like any aspiring academic, such as publishing, conferences, teaching and research. But I soon realized that these vague notions of developing oneself as a scholar needed some filling in.

When did I want to publish? And with whom? How many conferences should I attend? What should I teach? What about funding? How many small research projects should I conduct? I needed more direction, and once I gained it from discussions with colleagues and professors inside and outside the department, I began filling in the details of my five-year plan. Excel came to my rescue. I began to organize my goals (brief statements, really) into an Excel document with proposed dates of completion, deadlines for funding opportunities, outcome goals and people I should talk further with regarding the respective goal.

While I am aware that plans change, organizing my time and goals in the graduate program has boosted my confidence and provided a clearer direction on what I want to achieve. I would recommend starting out with one- to two-year plans as they are easier to manage than longer-term plans. After all, many things can change over the course of four to five years.

Good luck planning!


The 51st Annual Nina Mae Kellogg Awards

May 7, 2015 - 8:10pm

By Shezad Khan

If you’re looking to go to a PSU event this month, the Kellogg Awards Ceremony is just a couple of weeks away. I went to the Kellogg Awards for the first time last year when a writing professor insisted that we attend. Being an English major, I should have gone before. Not only was it a fun event to go to, three friends of mine won awards and I had no idea they were contestants.

So what are the Kellogg Awards? The awards recognize excellence in writing. There are 21 different awards for poetry, fiction, or non-fiction with prizes ranging from $100 to $2,000 – these awards are serious business! Plus winners get the recognition of winning such a great reward for their writing. The event provides a wonderful opportunity to see people from your community – from your college –achieve great things, and the event is completely free, so you should go show your support.

The ceremony is going to be held on Monday, May 18th, at 5:30 p.m. at the Native American Student and Community Center on campus, 710 SW Jackson Street. This year’s guest speaker is going to be Mike Davis who is the author of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles.

Last year there was free food and beer! How much more motivation do you need?

(Although this event is free and open to the public, they ask that you RSVP.)


Summer, you’re taking very long to get here!

May 7, 2015 - 4:50pm

Written By: Jasmin Landa

As slow as summer is approaching, so are my plans for that time-frame. But what I do know of my summer is that I will be spending a small portion of my time in a classroom.

Summer classes are a definite for my plans this summer not because I direly need the credits, but because I want a little cushion going into the next academic terms. And also, I am a double major and a double minor, and would like to graduate within four years. Summer session allows me to take courses that would otherwise be taken in a the regular academic terms, thus making my four-year degree goal possible.

For the most part, I want to keep my classes within the first three days of the week, allowing me to enjoy the summer weather, work a part-time job and enjoy a little bit of free-time before the school year begins.

Summer 2015 will be one to remember: My mind will be working hard in the classroom and I’ll be experiencing the wonderful adventures that summer will bring to me here in this beautiful city.


Community Justice

May 6, 2015 - 1:16pm

By: Sharon Nellist

The ASPSU voting  period ends today at 7:00pm.

On April 22nd the Judicial Review Board made a decision to re-start the 2015 ASPSU Election – and we all know why.

It came to light that one of the candidates for ASPSU president, Tony Funchess, was convicted of sodomy and attempted rape.

Funchess resigned as multicultural affairs director on April 22nd but stated that he would still run for president.

Members of our community were heavily opposed to his decision and started a Facebook community  called Step down, Tony and petitioned for Funchess’ resignation in the election.

The candidates for this second time around have been known since April 30th – and Funchess is certainly absent from the ballot. In fact, it looks entirely different.

Do you think that ASPSU leaders handled the situation properly? Do you think the changes that they have made are for better or worse?

I believe that they handled it fairly and that we are on our way toward a community with exemplary leaders.

I am still reading through the 2015 Round 2 Voting Pamphlet, but I am certain that I will be submitting my ballot tonight. Nothing will improve or change if we do not speak up and VOTE!


Let the Spring Light Wipe out Hate

May 2, 2015 - 12:53pm

By Chelsea Ware

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Spring’s warm weather is almost here! I love spring at PSU because I can expect to enjoy sunny afternoons on the grass, music by the water front, and ice cream breaks in between classes. However, there is one aspect of warmer weather at PSU that I don’t look forward too, and that is the evangelical preachers in the park blocks. As someone who spends a lot of time of campus, I’ve come to see PSU as my home and find it jarring when I hear someone screaming intolerant, homophobic, anti-Semitic and vulgar comments so brazenly. Whenever I see the preachers in action, I usually also see a group of students crowded around them shouting back. While I too get tempted to join in and argue with the preachers, I make a firm point not too. I think that the best solution to deal with people who come to campus and bellow discriminatory views is to simply ignore them. I know it’s easier said than done, but one of the main reasons people like that come here is because they enjoy having the audience. Why do you think they mainly come when it’s warm out? They know that they will have the largest audience and be the most comfortable. They simply enjoy arguing with the students and feel a sense of power from starting drama on our campus. If they were actually interested in spreading the word and teachings of Jesus Christ (which is love, by the way) they would do it rain OR shine. They would donate to the ASPSU food pantry or help pick up litter. These are not logical Christians; therefore arguing with them will accomplish nothing. This is our campus, not theirs. To take it back we simply need to rise above their hatred by smiling and enjoying the good things that spring has to offer.


Confessions of an Urban Gardener

April 29, 2015 - 12:17pm

By Olivia Clarke

I first ventured into the PSU Community Garden last June, and I’ve been managing the Honors plot ever since. Thus far I’ve harvested strawberries, tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers, among other homegrown goodies.

The Community Garden is a great opportunity for PSU residents to make sustainable food choices and build community. However, I’ve encountered some downsides to having a vegetable garden on a college campus. Most residents leave for the summer, which happens to be an extremely important season for gardening. Plots get hopelessly overgrown during this season, and work that is put into the garden during the academic year is often wasted. Security issues have led to the installation of a lock, which puts a damper on the “community” vibe. I’ve also known some of my vegetables and bricks to go missing, and some plots even include homemade signs that read, “Please stop stealing our vegetables!” I find this lack of trust unfortunate in a community space.

Yet even considering these drawbacks and annoyances, I wouldn’t want to see the space used for any other purpose. Sure, college students might not be the most consistent or reliable gardeners, and the lock and the occasional theft can be irritating. The commitment to maintaining the communal spaces in the garden could definitely be higher. But for those of us who maintain our plots on a daily basis, gardening is a refreshing and rewarding addition to our college experience. It keeps us close to the earth, and it ensures that we know where our food is coming from. And what can I say? Those cherry tomatoes are delicious.

If you’d like to have your own plot in the Community Garden, just sign up here!


C.R.E.A.M.

April 24, 2015 - 12:42pm

By Teddi Faller

  
Nothing makes you feel older than when you have take a new job because of the financial benefits – like stable hours, higher pay, stocks and 401ks. I consider myself a die hard loyalist when it comes to jobs. This is probably because the first job I ever had was a dream and I was pulled kicking and screaming from it due to relocation.

After that I tried to find a similar job – and huzzah! — I succeeded. Unfortunately, retail and certain industries are suffering right now. The hours were inconsistent and the upward mobility was non-existent — no movement at all. I fell into that trap of comparing one job to another, which never ends well.

This leads to searching for new jobs even if you aren’t necessarily unhappy.

And if a new job offer comes along, you are faced with a difficult choice — stay with what you know or take a jump.

The scariest thing about putting in your two weeks’ notice is spending those next two weeks wondering if you made the right decision.

In switching jobs you:

1. Realize that you’re comfortable in your job
2. Realize how awful it is to be new at a job
3. Realize how much you like your coworkers
4. Realize how much you might not like your new coworkers
5. Wonder whether you made the right choice

Life is made of hard choices. Moments like these remind me that I am, in fact, a grownup. When staring student loans in the face, and the potential consequences that your loans might have on your future spouse — extra grown-up points? — career choices became more “what can I afford” rather than sticking with something that’s comfortable.

I suppose the takeaway from all this is simply to take risks when we’re young, so that when we’re older we can chase our dreams knowing we’re taken care of.


“Dorm Jealousy”

April 22, 2015 - 2:53pm

By: Zaira Carranza

Since coming to Portland State University, I have made many friends that live in campus dorms. I can’t help but be a little jealous because living in the dorms would make my life way easier. One of my friend lives on the 10th floor of the Ondine. She has the most amazing view of Portland from her room. I always go visit her to take naps. She has one roommate and two suitemates whom she shares the bathroom and kitchenette with. The dorms are more spacious than I’d expected and you can decorate it as you please. My friend keeps hers very clean and minimalistic. Some of downsides of living in the dorms are being homesick and having to deal with roommates on stressful days. Other than that they are super convenient, and I can’t wait to one day experience dorm life.


Is This Home?

April 17, 2015 - 4:13pm

By Shezad Khan

This is my fifth year at Portland State, and my last year as an undergrad. It’s very common remaining for half a decade in one place is enough to make you sick. In March I received an email letting me now that I had been accepted into a Master of Arts in English Graduate Program. Obviously, I was incredibly excited and even a little proud of myself. Can you guess where I’ll be attending school for my years as a graduate student? How about somewhere else in the state or even a neighboring state? Maybe the east coast, or even out of the country!

Alas, the answer is that I’ve decided to stay right here, in Portland, to attend Portland State for another few years.

So what is about Portland State that is so enticing? I’ve met people from several different states and several different countries who moved to Oregon so they could go to school here. Maybe I should have taken the time to ask what influenced their decision. But since I don’t have their points-of-view, I will offer mine.

  • My family moved to Portland when I was just two-years-old. Although we moved out of the city itself, Portland will always be my home.
  • My first visit to Portland State was overwhelming. It seemed enormous. Although it looks a little smaller now that I’m used to it, it’s still a giant campus.
  • The diversity of students and staff is incredible. I came from a high school of about 3,000 kids, there was diversity there, sure, but nothing compared to the wonderful cultures that mix at PSU.
  • I’m always learning something new about the campus.
  • There is always some sort of event going on. I seriously need to take advantage of this one!
  • The staff that I’ve had the honor of working with and taking classes from are simply amazing.
  • Last, but definitely not least, I have met some of the coolest people at Portland State. With so many attending students, it’s hard not to make friends.

I’ve enjoyed my last five years at PSU, and I have no doubt that I’ll continue to enjoy it during my years in the Master’s Program, regardless of how long it takes.


Wait… elections are happening?

April 17, 2015 - 3:07pm

By: Marilynn Sandoval

Did you know the ASPSU elections are going on? To be honest, I had no idea until I heard a group of people discussing running for office. In my time attending PSU, I have only voted once, and that was because someone I knew was running.

I like to complain about things that don’t get done on campus or changes that need to happen; yet I usually don’t participate in these elections. I would like to think that I’m not the only one who forgets they even happen. I assume the number of voters isn’t high.

So I decided to do some research on this year’s elections and vote. Yes, I said it, I’m going to vote this time around, and I think you should, too. Through my research, I found that this year’s elections are actually controversial and causing important debates. I would suggest you check out this article of the coverage of the elections this year [http://bit.ly/1HAM5H9]. I know some people who are running too, so that was definitely a nice surprise.

I won’t disclose my own personal votes, but I would suggest for you all to do some research and cast a vote this year. If you want a change to happen, put a little bit of work in. It wasn’t all that hard pushing some buttons and hitting submit.

Check ASPSU’s homepage to learn more about the candidates at http://bit.ly/1G3ZMyY and hurry because the poll closes at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 23rd.


The Graduation Blues

April 16, 2015 - 12:24am

By Brooke Horn

I have a countdown app installed on my cell phone. It has three events on it: Portfolio Due, Thesis Defense, and Commencement, each with their own countdown timer. It tells me that I have six days left to finish my portfolio, thirty-six days left to panic about my thesis, and fifty-nine days until I will (with any luck) walk across the stage at the Moda Center, beaming, having earned a Master’s degree in Writing and Book Publishing.

That day feels both terrifyingly close and impossibly far away. There is so much to do before then, so much that could go wrong. And yet, even though it feels like my two-year degree program started yesterday, I feel confident. My education and experiences have equipped me with both a unique range of skills and, perhaps more importantly, the confidence to go forth into the mysterious beyond of post-graduation adulthood.

Never mind that I still waited until the last possible minute to file my taxes this year, or that I opt for pizza and Netflix instead of cooking a real meal more than I’d like to admit.

Over the past two years, I’ve juggled a full graduate course load, 2-3 jobs and internships each term, a serious relationship, and a leadership position on campus. Both of my parents were hospitalized due to medical conditions within the last few months too. To be frank, I’ve been a walking bundle of stress.

If I could pass along one piece of advice to my fellow students, it would be this: learn how to manage your stress. Because you will, inevitably, face a point in your life when everything seems to come crashing down. Knowing how to relax, how to let go and take care of yourself – these are things that I never learned until I really needed them, and looking back, I wish I had learned them sooner. Now I know better: I recognize my limitations, and I listen to my body when it tells me to slow down, go for a walk, or pour a bubble bath.

But thankfully, both of my parents are recovering, my portfolio is coming along nicely, and my friends have been both patient and supportive. I bounced back. I’ve made lasting relationships – both professional and otherwise – and worked with some truly talented authors, students, and educators in my program. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I look forward to the future waiting on the other side of that stage.


Embrace the Gray

April 10, 2015 - 8:55am

 

By: Chelsea Ware

It seems like every day, whether I’m in line for coffee, riding the streetcar or in class, I hear someone complain about the rain. “I’m just so sick of this gloomy weather” or “I wish we would get more sun.” This attitude towards the rain in the Pacific Northwest astounds me!

First of all, the abundance of rain we get keeps the foliage lush and leafy. Oregon and Washington have some of the most beautiful trails, forests, and outdoor scenery. This is largely due to the fact that it rains much of the year. It keeps everything clean, green, and growing.

Secondly, as a native Californian I love the rain because I understand how much of a precious resource it is. After the lowest snowfall ever recorded and no end to the drought in sight, many homeowners in California have resorted to spray painting their dehydrated withering front lawns green. Back home my parents have to time their showers so that they don’t overuse their water ration.

Lastly, the rain makes it perfect for studying at one of Portland’s many cozy coffee shops. I love to go with friends to the Mezz café at the Pearl District Whole Foods when it’s raining. Not only do they have delicious coffee, it’s also right next to Powell’s Bookstore. So next time it’s less than sunny outside and you feel like complaining about the weather, try to remember that the rain is vital to many of the things we get to enjoy in Portland.


The Choices you make at the Fork in the Road

April 8, 2015 - 7:35am

By: Jasmin Landa

Have you ever thought about what your life would be like if you weren’t going to college right now?

Would you be working at a part-time job, traveling, or relaxing on a lawn chair thinking about the things you want to accomplish?

The reason I find that question so intriguing is that while the human mind has the capability to dream and have aspirations for the future, it is also very susceptible to thinking of the past and dwelling on it. But at the end of the day, we can only live in the present and go forward. We gain memories and experiences from our past, and they shape who we are, but life moves forward not back.

Even though your past has had a lot to do with shaping who you are, this does not mean that where you came from and what you have done in the past determines the person you want to become tomorrow. It only takes one decision to change, alter, or ameliorate the life that you had in the past. It’s not where you have been that’s important, but where it is you are going with the dreams and aspirations that are within you.

If accomplishing our ultimate dreams was an easy process, the words “hard work,” “trying,” “sacrificing” and words of encouragement would not be used as often as they are. Challenging people’s utmost potential and breaking boundaries creates leaders, innovators, and phenomenal people. So what would your life be if you weren’t doing what you are doing? Well, it’s a thought that has escaped my mind. Today is only here for 24 hours, and the seconds will soon become minutes, and time will soon fly by, so live the life that you chose as you are the painter of your own portrait.


The Miserable but Hopeful Hiker

April 6, 2015 - 8:37pm

By Olivia Clarke

When Spring Break rolled around, my friend and I decided to go backpacking in the Columbia Gorge. We arrived at the trailhead around noon, and from there we hiked up…and up…and up.

It was an unpleasant trip. The weather was cold and wet. Our gear got soaked. Our hands went numb. The trail was brutally steep. By the next day I was so sore I could hardly move. Despite all this misery, though, when we returned home we were laughing and exhilarated, and we hoped to go camping again soon. That’s the strange paradox of hiking: terrible discomfort, followed by a desire to repeat the experience.

I suspect this phenomenon must have something to do with nature. As a person who “enjoys” hiking, I believe that now and then I need to shiver in the mountains in order to remember my place. On the slopes and in the forests, we feel small. The vastness and the harshness of the wilderness still have the power to humble us. This is important in an age when we huddle in cities, dreading the inevitability of climate change. When I think of the environmental destruction taking place every day, I often feel hopeless and resigned. On backpacking trips, however, when I see all the trees and the wildflowers and I breathe in that crisp northwestern air, I realize how much life and power remains in our resilient wilderness. I keep returning to the trail because when I see all that’s left to save, I feel an unmistakable rush of hope.