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Posts Tagged ‘brain’

In a thru-hike, after 4-6 weeks, a hiker gets “trail legs.”  Trail legs give thru-hikers a sense of power and confidence because hiking 15 miles a day has suddenly become easy. To challenge a thru-hiker, the hiker needs to do more miles per day.  Instead of feeling happy with 15 miles, a hiker can feel lazy if they do not make 20 miles and pushes toward the 25 mile per day average.  A thru-hiker notices their trail legs have come in when they pass day hikers who have only a water bottle in their hand and are out of breath while the thru-hiker feels great and does not breathe hard with a full pack.

Trail legs feel great because, as a hiker, it brings a boost of confidence.  They make the challenge of hiking over 2,000 miles look like a reasonable challenge instead of nearly impossible.  Usually the leg muscles become larger as a physical representation of the hard work already done.  Foot pain still plagues the hiker, but the hiker may not say, “My feet hurt” as the first response to “How are you?”

A halved aphid gall off of a blue spruce.

A halved aphid gall off of a blue spruce.

In TSS, after so many times teaching a variety of age ranges about ecological communities, I barely even needed a lesson plan.  Having the ability to whip out any number of lessons on ecological communities of GTNP, gave me a huge boost of confidence.  From being terrified to teach to being comfortable doing so, I felt as if I really had learned a lot.  Just like trail legs, teaching a communities day became a staple of comfort and confidence.  As the fall teaching practicum progressed, suddenly one of the teaching days seemed like no problem at all.  Each time I taught it, I taught it a bit differently, but felt comfortable changing it at a whim.  I felt comfortable fielding any questions that students threw my way including: “Aren’t all the trees just pines?” or “What type of poop is that?” or “What are those marks that look like butterflies on aspen trees?”

To teach a communities day well, however, required a certain knowledge of on campus trails, none of which were marked.  Many had small spur trails to good teaching sites, but went nowhere else.  It also required a thorough understanding of the communities from our Community Ecology course.  To teach this day successfully, my brain needed to hurt for quite some time, then I needed to drink from the fire hose.

When the government shut down in October, we knew how to teach communities day on the Jackson Campus as well.

When the government shut down in October, we knew how to teach communities day on the Jackson Campus as well.

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At the beginning of every thru-hike, my feet hurt so much that when someone asks, “How are you?” I can think of no other response besides “My feet hurt.”  It takes my feet several weeks before they either stop aching or I just become accustomed to a constant foot ache. I consistently find myself walking down the trail talking to my feet.  “Feet, you’ve done this before, you can do it again!”  “Come on feet, we have miles to walk before we sleep.”  “There’s a stream in four miles you can soak in, feet, just keep moving.”

"Hippie TV"

“Hippie TV”

At the beginning of grad school, we were told that if we felt slightly overwhelmed, that was normal.  The first few weeks, when asked “How are you?” I could only say, “My brain hurts.”  We had class from 9am-5pm Monday-Friday and sometimes we would hear, “Oh, you gus don’t mind a working lunch, do you?”  Topics ranged from WFR scenarios to aspen regeneration to TSS systems to risk management to glaciers to fire ecology and so much more.

My brain felt like it would explode.  I had to take notes or I could not remember everything.  I had to tell myself consistently, “I chose to go to grad school.”  I had to tell myself “keep listening” and “keep drinking yerba mate” in order to stay awake.  I had to tell myself “don’t worry, the weekend will come soon.”  TGIF had a whole new meaning.  At the very minimum a weekend meant that I could process information in my own way, at my own speed if nothing else.

Moose through a scope

Moose through a scope

After two years off from undergrad, my brain felt like it went through a blender.  Adjusting to going to class and doing homework made my brain just hurt, especially because class now lasted eight hours, not a series of hour and twenty minute sessions.  My body had become accustomed to physical challenge, not mental exhaustion so thorough that I would need extra sleep to recharge my brain.  Each night, I went to bed absolutely exhausted mentally, but restless physically.  My body did not know what to do.  I did not understand why I would become so tired when all I did was sit in a classroom or outside and listen.

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