Oberlin Blogs

What's up, Arizona?

January 17, 2013

Paris Achenbach ’13

The other day I posted a photo on Facebook from Sedona, Arizona, where I've spent part of my Winter Term. It got a few likes and comments before my father saw it and wrote, in his typical fashion, "[Keeping to myself snarky comments about how rough it is to be a college student these days]".

A facebook post featuring multiple photos of a hiking trip in red rocks

Fair enough, Papa Achenbach, you got a few likes for that one; and besides, I'm not sure I can counter that. In the past three Januaries, I have spent my Winter Term on an organic farm in Costa Rica; a marine biology field camp in the Cook Islands; and now, in Arizona with my friend Clarissa to study historical copper mining towns (and, less officially, hiking and camping and rock climbing in beautiful places, meeting fascinating people, contemplating my existence, etc).

Someone sits on the edge of the grand canyon
Taking a break on a 12-mile hike in the Grand Canyon, aka a geologist's dream come true


Umm right. What is my life again!??!?! Winter Term has been way too good to me. To be fair, I had to work many, many part-time jobs this past semester to even make this kind of a trip a possibility... but then again, my part-time jobs included writing (which I do anyway), instructing at the rock climbing wall (which I do anyway), and talking about rocks to intro-geology students (which, let's be real, I would do anyway).

Hmmm. Okay Dad, maybe you win for once!

Winter Term is probably the best invention of all inventions. Think about it: You're in Oberlin for four months from late August to December. It's a small town. It's cloudy. You start freaking out mid-September about how much work you have. It gets cloudier. Darker. You freak out more, sleep less, and hide your face as you walk to class to brace the Ohio cold and/or rain. Your entire social life starts to exist solely in Mudd library, and soon enough your bed exists there too, on those darn comfy blue armchairs in the first floor (or perhaps the red velvet chairs on the second floor? Take your pick). And just when you think you've lost your mind in the Midwest... you get Winter Term.

This is the lifesaver, because Winter Term is an opportunity to do ANYTHING you want and totally let your creativity fly, as long as it's oriented around academics or self-improvement (like I said - you can do anything). You could escape to Spain to go rock climbing, like my friend Phil. You could work on an organic chocolate farm in Central America, like my roommate did freshman year. Or you can get an internship or job that will help your resume, like my friend Stephen, who is currently interning at the Capitol. The possibilities are literally endless. I myself have chosen somewhat strategically the past three years to head south, toward this little thing called the Sun. Apparently it exists? Who knew.

A forest of tall skinny trees
Cacti in the sunset
Someone walks through a desert-y forest
SUNSHINE!! note Clarissa hiking in the background.

Anyway, I really hate traveling blogs because whenever I read one I just get really jealous of said traveler and/or annoyed at their self-indulgence. You know that whole "I will just live vicariously through you" or "I will learn from your experiences" kind of attitude? Yeah I don't really have that. I look at a traveling blog and I either think a) I want your life b) Who do you think you are and/or c) How do you get to post the most beautiful photos and talk about all these profound realizations from your travels when the rest of the world has to WORK and make actual money and live a real life because that is how society functions?!?

A hiker looks over the canyon

Gah. Traveling blogs. They are the worst.

So with all of that said, I really don't want to lecture you about my realizations about Arizona, especially not the part about how it's actually freezing here in January, because most people probably knew that, unlike me.

A frozen water fall with a hiker ascending
My friend Noah exploring a frozen waterfall at Wolf Creek in Prescott. The icicles were amazing!!


I'm not going to mention that old copper mining towns are fascinating and one of the coolest places to visit in Arizona, because they've turned into these crumbling havens of artists and hippies that are the complete counter-culture to the previous industrial, corporate enterprise.

A snowy canyon
A low-shutter picture of someone walking from behind
A man sits outside of a store
Photos from Bisbee, where an artsy, hippie-dippie community replaced the old copper mining industry. It's possible that mines in the area will open up again, though, given the high demand for copper.The top photo is of the mile-wide copper pit that closed in the 70s; the middle photo is of Clarissa on our underground mining tour; and the bottom is one of the musician-hippie types that live in town.

And I'm definitely not going to mention that the amount of fun I'm having out here is probably illegal. It shouldn't be allowed. In fact, I should probably be required, by law, to spend the next part of my life reading War and Peace or Summa Theologica or something equally difficult and serious. I'm just loving the adventure of travel and the unknown, and the amazing experience that Winter Term has given me - that unbelievable, best-time-of-my-life, YES I LOVE BEING ME-kind-of experience that makes me think wow, I feel absolutely unstoppable.

No, instead I'm going to say: Man, is it rough being a college student these days.


A hiker planks on a rock with their arms spread
This is what happens when you put an Obie in the Grand Canyon. Super. Dorky. Pictures.

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