A Quick Study with Leonardo and Caroline
About A Quick Study
On doing more with less, infinite staircases, 3244 kilometers, extreme perseverance and the importance of water reports.
Meet UBC Faculty of Forestry students, Leonardo Nicoletti and Caroline Cullinan.
Why Faculty of Forestry?
L: I Initially came to UBC to study Economics. However, I soon understood that a career in economics was going to make it pretty difficult for me to embrace my real passions: the outdoors and photography. At the time, I had lots of friends in the Faculty of Forestry and after doing some research I fell in love with the Conservation and Urban Forestry programs. I also found out that I could use a majority of my ECON and arts credits towards those degrees and I wouldn’t loose too much time. So I made the switch.
C: What attracted me most to the Faculty of Forestry as a fresh applicant to UBC was the innovation. Both students and staff in this faculty pose a true passion for our ecosystems and display creative thinking when approaching better resource use and management. As a student in the Wood Products Processing program, I am in constant excitement and disbelief when I learn of the many new advancements in wood science that are taking place at the University. The Faculty of Forestry, and particularly the Department of Wood Science, comprise small class sizes that emphasize engagement and hands on learning. As a Wood Products Processing student, my degree is somewhat interdisciplinary, and it explores a combination of both science and business. My decision to join the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Products Processing program is something I will never regret.
You both recently embarked on an epic journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. What inspired you to make the trek?
L: I’ve always been very intense with the things I love, whether it be sport, art, or a romantic relationship. A lot of the time, when I’m super passionate or inspired about something, it really feels like all or nothing for me. I think Caroline is pretty similar to me in that sense. In fact, when she came up to me last January and proposed to walk the Pacific Crest Trail together, we both really didn’t give it much thought: “Let’s walk from Mexico to Canada,” I said.
The thought of undergoing such an incredible journey is the picture that came to my mind first, rather than the realization that we were committing four months of our lives to walk 4400 kilometers between Mexico and Canada. In my opinion, life is all about challenges. It’s an infinite staircase, in which every stair is built by you. You can build every stair the same, or you can decide to make them all different from each other, all requiring a different skill to step over. In other words, it’s crucial to always force yourself out of your comfort zone, constantly challenge yourself, and constantly strive to overcome these challenges. I really think that is the only way to succeed. Many people will think I’m crazy, but for me that is what life is all about.
C: In order to constantly improve upon yourself, it is important to take risks and get uncomfortable. As an avid hiker, the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650 mile (4,265 km) hiking path from the US/Mexican border to the US/Canadian border, has always been on my list. The overwhelming reality of logistics, physical exhaustion, and mental solitude associated with such an endeavour were of many obstacles that would result in self-improvement. For these reasons, I decided to embark on such a journey. After all, you only live once.
If you could go back and tell yourselves some important advice at the beginning of the trail, what would you say?
L: Don’t ever underestimate nature, and don’t ever overestimate your body. Always listen to both of them, they are the only true friends you will have during the next few months.
C: The Pacific Crest Trail is all about self-perseverance and self-discovery. For these reasons, I think it is best for an individual to go into the trip somewhat blind. This trip and all of the experiences that follow it are truly what you make of them. Everyone’s experiences are so different, and for this reason, I feel as if advice for such trip is unnecessary and almost inhibiting.
What were some of the things you learned on the Pacific Crest trail that you’ll bring back into your lives as forestry students?
L: To me, embarking on a long distance hike is like going to university. It’s a very complex experience of its own that teaches you a very specialized set of skills and lessons. Among them, there are two great lessons I learned that are worth mentioning and that I find myself living by more and more.
I remember watching a documentary on the Pacific Crest Trail before I left, called “Do more with less”. I now clearly understand the title, because that is exactly what I learned on the trail: to do more with less. The further we were going, the less things I needed in my backpack, and the more I was taking advantage of the few things I had. That is definitely a mentality that will stay with me all my life, no matter what I’m doing.
Moreover, walking for days, months, for thousands of miles, has made me a much more patient person. It’s made me accept that sometimes things are going to take a while, maybe even more than a while, they will take a very, very long time. And when that happens, there’s not much I will be able to do, I will just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing the best I can and, well, be patient.
C: While hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail this summer, negative human impact on existing ecosystems was extremely prevalent. The extreme heat and associated drought were constantly on my mind as I religiously checked the water reports and found myself carrying nine liters of water over 45-mile dry sections. The constant detours and trail closures due to forest fire were another reminder that as humans, we are failing to sustain our planet. While this is something that we are often taught and made aware of as forestry students, seeing these things first hand was a powerful experience in which I will keep in mind as I further pursue my studies.
What are you looking forward to this year as third and fourth year students?
L: This year I’m looking forward to a few important things. I’m looking forward to improving my photography, and getting my work out there. I’m looking forward to challenging myself more in school, and getting the best out of my Forestry classes, which I must say are taught by extremely inspiring and revolutionary professors. Most of all, however, I’m looking forward to always being positive and grateful about life and the people that surround me. I really don’t want to waste negative feelings or emotions on things that aren’t worth it, in other words I will cut the BS as much as I can (excuse my language).
C: As I begin to take on my third-year here at UBC, I am looking forward to further specialization within my program. I am excited for another year courses, professors, and new knowledge.
Are there any hikes you could recommend to new UBC students who might be coming to BC for the first time?
L: Anybody living or visiting BC should realize that they are in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I would recommend hiking in the north shore, or in the Whistler/Pemberton area; Wedgemount Lake is a challenging but beautiful hike to do. North-Eastern BC is also amazing, such as Bugaboo provincial park, if you have more than a weekend. I myself have only seen a tiny percentage of BC, and look forward to many more adventures. The wilderness of British Columbia is truly unique and there are countless things to explore.
C: Students new to UBC and the Vancouver area should most definitely take advantage of all that the Coast Mountains have to offer, with proper education and preparedness, however. The North Shore has many hiking trails for people of all abilities. The ease of access with public transit is also another reason to explore this area. However, before setting out, get informed. Take a class on hiking and outdoor safety, inform yourself on local wildlife, and always have a plan, incase something were to go wrong. While the nature surrounding Vancouver is truly stunning, it can also be very unforgiving. Develop the proper skills you need to safely enjoy the outdoors, and get out there.
Photo credits: Leonardo Nicoletti’s photographs can be seen on his photography website. For permission to use any photographs in this story, please contact Leonardo directly through his website.