Paolo Speciale

We just got back from outdoor-ed and while it was especially challenging this year, I’ve realized now it was actually a great learning experience. I came to this school in 8th grade and the outdoor-ed trip that year was to the Colorado River. This year as seniors, we went back on the Colorado River and as many of you might have heard, we experienced very challenging weather conditions. This was mainly from high winds that really made it hard for us to canoe on the river. There were a lot of difficulties, some canoes filled with water, some things ended up wet, and we ended up having to swim back to shore and cut short the ropes. But the students and teachers all pulled together and ended up safely enjoying the rest of the trip at camp. So I ended my outdoor ed experience on the same trip I had started on five years ago, we overcame some adversity and it still was very fun in the end.  

This experience also reminded me of another challenging trip I just went on to celebrate my 18th birthday this summer. I went hiking with my boy scout troop, and it was the last hike I went on since I would soon graduate as an Eagle Scout. This particular hike took place to Mount San Jacinto which is the second highest peak in Southern California, and as usual, we took a bus to the trailhead near the town of Idyllwild. When we started hiking, we realized the full force of the heat there. It turned out to be around 108o and there was no shade at all, so the younger scouts around me started begging for very frequent breaks because of the heat. So every 10 minutes, we had to take water breaks, but then the other problem of water supply surfaced because several people started to run out of water they had packed for themselves.
The next morning, we had a goal to hike to the mountain peak at over 11,500 feet in elevation. We woke everyone up early at 5:00 am, immediately packed up our stuff and started on the trail towards the top. It was already warm, but everything was going smoothly for the most part. Soon however, people started to run out of water and we had to go off trail to search for some rivers that ran across the mountain. We found small amounts, barely enough to fill our bottles. When we got near the peak, I started feeling immense headaches and blurred vision. In the past, I have had pretty bad altitude sickness but it had not happened to me for the last few years. I kept on hiking since I really wanted to get to the peak for this last hike, but I had to sit down a couple times from worry of fainting. Finally, we’re able to see the peak, so everyone walked on without me. As I started to walk towards the peak again, I began to get sick and finally, I couldn’t help it but I had to throw up. I couldn’t go on, so I turned around to lower my altitude and I began to feel better on the way down with everyone.

When we got back to the bus, everyone was ecstatic to head back home. On the road back we got some lunch at In’n’out. When we got onto the freeway, our bus broke down and had to pull over to the side and park on the shoulder. We began to get out of the bus and sat on the side of the freeway to wait for the bus driver to call the company and get a replacement bus for us and someone to tow the truck. We waited for 3 hours to find out the bus driver called his personal friend to tow the truck back instead of the company. We got fed up and called the company ourselves to get another bus, just to wait another 3 hours. While waiting for the bus, I sat in the bushes near the edge of the road, while people came by to say “Happy birthday Paolo,” in a semi-sarcastic tone. We eventually got the bus and we got home safely around 1 a.m. This was not the way I had hoped and planned to spend my 18th birthday.

However, I now look back at it and realize it wasn’t all bad. The same as with the outdoor-ed trip to the Colorado River this year, there were positive learning experiences.

From this trip, I learned how to adapt to the experiences that will catch me off guard and to let stuff bother me less. I also realized that it was good to be there and help some of the younger scouts out during this very tough hot weather hike. Also, being challenged to do some difficult activities and doing your best to conquer them can make other things seem much easier and doable. Now, I don’t know that I enjoyed the part where I got altitude sickness, but again I realized I was able to make the decision to go to a lower altitude and just solve the problem I was facing. So in the end, I realized that although this experience wasn't the best in my opinion. It made me appreciate the trip as a whole, by looking at it as a learning experience. Both this hike and our outdoor-ed experience to the Colorado River will be trips that I will remember forever. They were tough challenges that ended up teaching me that we can make positive memories even when things at first don’t line up with your expectations.

Rolling Hills Preparatory School

One Rolling Hills Prep Way
1500 Palos Verdes Drive North
San Pedro, CA 90732

T: (310) 791-1101 | F: (323) 310-9973 
Rolling Hills Prep School prides itself on being a forward-looking, academically rigorous college-prep school with a soul. Every day we provide our diverse student body a high-powered traditional curriculum combined with stimulating and innovative teaching techniques both inside and outside the classroom because we believe that success in college and life is best attained by equipping our students with disciplined minds, sound character, healthy bodies and creative spirits. RHP is a private, coeducational day school for grades 6-12, located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, CA.

Renaissance, our sister school, believes that bright students who learn differently can rise to great heights when they become empowered and confident. Visit the Renaissance website.