Program Highlight: Hardlucks | Hiking in California | Midland School

Program Highlight: Hardlucks

Out after dinner, back before breakfast

Summer 2021

When I first heard of Hardlucks, I was a little bit terrified. I was confused as to why it would be a good idea to send teenagers out onto a massive campus with nothing but a sleeping bag and pad. I thought the only purpose of this event was to force students to sleep outside and fend for themselves. Although that is not what a Hardluck is, I think my initial fear was perfectly reasonable, given that I didn’t have a proper definition at that point. 

My very first Hardluck, at the end of my first whole week on campus, defied all my expectations. Not long after dinner, each grade and a few faculty members headed out to different spots scattered across campus. Prepped with my Hardluck essentials, I prepared myself for a long, grueling trek, only to end up walking for only two miles. Realizing that the destination was neither far away nor hard to get to, I knew that I had vastly overestimated the difficulties of a Hardluck. 

I spent the walk attempting to befriend my new classmates, figuring out how to meld with the already established social dynamics. Being a new student my sophomore year, I thought I wouldn’t get to know anyone until at least a few weeks in, but this Hardluck proved me wrong. On the walk alone, I made new friends, and once we arrived and set up our beds for the night, I was given the chance to fully immerse myself into the class. 

As I lay under the stars, listening to the conversation flow around me I fully recognized how wrong my preconceptions of a Hardluck had been. While Hardlucks do get every student to sleep outside, it isn’t to make them learn how to survive in the outdoors, but to teach them how to be comfortable with the basics of the outside world. This is a Midland activity that embodies experiential learning. 

By building that comfort with the outdoors, Hardlucks allow students to have fun without the higher stakes of a long backpacking trip. These one-night trips — where you leave after dinner and come back to campus for breakfast — are designed to be fun and accessible to all students. 

While my first ever Hardluck made me nervous, the most recent Hardluck I’ve gone on was full of fun. It was a full-grade Hardluck where we made quesadillas over a fire and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a chance to spend time with one another off campus and in a low stress environment. In comparison to my first Hardluck, I had grown exponentially in my comfort to spend a night outside. I came from a background with some backpacking experience, but Hardlucks gave me a chance to get outside more and push myself to learn more about the outdoors. 

While the outdoor knowledge students gain is important, I have always felt that the most crucial part of a Hardluck is the bonding experience. It is an opportunity to escape the craziness of campus and spend time with your friends, your class, and peers. Without the normal pressures of campus life, people get to make deeper connections with each other. 

A Hardluck is truly a group activity, and something that has students engage with their community. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a stronger sense of community within my class than on our full class Hardlucks.

By Charlotte ’22

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