Friday, September 27th

9:00 pm - Apache National Forest Campsite, New Mexico

After almost an entire week of camping at the Apache National Forest, we have finally reached the end of our stay here. With a few complaints I can confidently say that I’m proud of the progress I’ve made as a camper. Although I've become quite accustomed to basic living, I still find certain aspects of this environment a bit difficult to live in- namely, its incredibly cold nights. High altitude and climate drops are some things we have definitely experienced before, most notably at the Grand Canyon, and I’ve discovered that those specific conditions don’t always provide for a calm night’s sleep. Luckily, I didn’t have any wild nightmares while I’ve been here, but what I and the other Land Art road trip members had to face was finding a way to create warmth in frigid overnight temperatures. At night, the Apache National Forest drastically transforms from pleasantly warm to uncomfortably cold. We have attempted to deal with it in a variety of ways. My solution included doubling up on sleeping bags and wearing multiple layers of socks and leggings. Regardless of having those extra amenities, it has remained difficult. I’m not the only one having a hard time with it; I've woken up in the middle of the night to see each person in my tent hidden in layers, knees to chest, curled up in a ball.

Despite its complications, there have been positive outcomes of these weather conditions, one being that we have increased the amount of people sleeping in our teepee in attempts to create more body heat. I'm not sure how well that has worked out, but I can't say that it hasn't been fun. There's about seven of us staying in the same teepee and every night has felt like a giant sleepover. We've been watching movies on laptops, eating junk food, and hanging out, treating the tent like the college dorm room of a best friend. Through sharing this limited space, I feel that I've gotten to know the people in it a lot better. I mean, how could a good friendship not develop when you're clinging to someone for warmth at night? It's been a way to realize the way in which we depend on each other whilst living in the wilderness just as much as we rely on the environment. It makes camping much easier when you’ve become closer to the people you’re doing it with. Group efforts and groupthink produce better outcomes and, in short, a more successful stay in the dark, cold woods.

I realized this newfound dependence earlier today when I went on a hike with Chris andAdeline. Our campsite overlooked  a vast, glittering, green lake, which from up above always seemed to beckon us closer. It was a beautiful, sunny day and, eager to exercise and explore, we all decided to take a long walk around the glorious Lake Quemado.  As we made our way down the wooded hills, I quickly came to find that any route leading to the lake would be a difficult one. It was rocky and quite steep, but I bravely decided that my platform Converse sneakers could handle the terrain. I just needed to keep my confidence the way Chris and Adeline did. They glided down this land as if it wasn’t a big deal, so I figured that I may just be overreacting. Some time later, we finally made it to the rim of the lake.

As we took a tour around the lake, I was really happy with my decision to join Chris and Adeline on this hike. We came across many interesting plants and animals along the way. Throughout the area, there were thousands of furry caterpillars crawling on pieces of grass and resting on rocks. They were so funny looking, resembling bushy old eyebrows. The more we noticed them, the more we agreed that they resembled Adeline’s fur sculptures. Later on, we reached a shallow portion of the lake where a beautiful silver snake was praying for its next meal. Kneeling down next to it, we stared as it gracefully moved around the stones. Suddenly, out of nowhere its bright red tongue shot out and caught a tiny guppie. With ease, the snake swallowed the baby fish and we watched as a bump descended down its tail. As we made it full circle, we found skeletons of all sorts, from crawfish to mice and even a larger animal we assumed to be a deer. It seemed that many walks of life called the Apache National Forest home. It was the first time on this trip that I was able to get so close to wild animals. It all felt so safe and natural, unlike the mice I once had to combat in my Brooklyn apartment. I wasn’t scared at all.

However, what happened next was far more frightening than any of the creatures we came across on our walk. While making our way back up the mountain, we underestimated the incline of the rocky hill that would get us there. The farther we advanced, the more I  understood that this wasn’t a hill; it was a small cliff. Towards the top of it, its angle was so steep that it felt more like climbing than it did walking. Chris and Adeline seemed to make their way up with ease, but as I fell behind them, so did dozens of stones. My shoes were unable to really grip the land and small slips had me clinging to the dirt walls for dear life. I felt sweat dripping down my cheek and panic in my heart. As Chris offered me a helping hand, I knew that I had to remain calm.  I paused, suppressing my fear. I couldn’t get myself to continue because I knew that if I made the wrong movements I could easily fall down the cliff and severely hurt myself. Adeline and Chris attempted to calm me down with words of encouragement. I looked up at them, reaching for Chris’s hand when I knew that I had to do this alone or I could also harm him in the process. With a deep breath and an extra ounce of power, I brought myself up over the cliff to flat land. “Oh my god, we’re not doing that again,” I said, relieved, and brushed myself off.

Finally getting back to camp, I felt a sort of satisfaction in the hike we had just accomplished. With Chris and Adeline’s encouragement, I was able to brave certain terrains I would have never dared to explore solo. I needed their company, their support and their friendship. It was helping me believe in myself in a way I never thought I could. For the first time in my entire life, I felt like a brave, outdoorsy type and I definitely wanted to do it again. Who would’ve ever thunk it?

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Photography Credit: Rosanna Bach

Rosanna Bach photographer, writer, and storyteller was born in Switzerland in 1990. She completed a BBA in Design Management at Parsons the New School for Design in 2012. After completing her degree, Rosanna moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina where she lived for five months working on a personal project, "Fear Builds Walls." As a result she is fluent in English, Spanish and German. In 2013 Rosanna graduated from the Documentary and Photojournalism program at the International Centre of Photography. She now lives and works in New York City.

Originally published on Promote & Preserve.