The following is a letter written by a RedCliff graduate to his cousin in the program offering encouragement and tips he learned along the way! This letter is shared with permission and some names were changed. Thank you so much for sharing! We miss you Guiding Feather, you continue to live true to your earth name…Good luck Jack, you are doing great!

Hows it going cousin! I hope all is well out in Utah!

I still have lots of memories from my time out there… good ones and bad ones. The bad memories were from the first few weeks, I remember the cold nights, the terrible food and the looooooong hikes. Yea life was tough for those first few weeks, I cried a lot, I wrote letters to mum asking her to get me out before I died of cold or hunger, I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself and angry towards everyone else. The hardest times were in the morning… I’d be dreaming that I was back at home and then suddenly I’d be woken by the voices of the instructors and realize where I was. It felt like HELL….
But after about the third week things started to change. It wasn’t instant but I started to notice a difference. I began to enjoy dinner time, everyone sitting around the fire telling stories, making jokes… farting. blog-quote-cousin-letter It became easier to bear and what’s more I started to make friends – not just with the other guys but with the instructors. My two favorites were Cedar Elk and Blue Ridge Grizzly, If you ever meet them tell them your cousin Joe says hi.

Anyway what I’m sayin’ is I started to get used to life out there and most importantly I realized that if I was gonna get out of there I would work and commit to the program. It wasn’t easy, I don’t know if you have your first fire yet but it took me over a month to get mine! But with one fire comes many more and soon I was speeding through the program and I felt amazing. Because at the end of the day, the point of this program isn’t to punish you, its to teach you how you can be the best you can possibly be. With every task you accomplish, every fire you make, you gain the confidence that you can achieve and be successful – it may not be easy but you can do it if you commit.
Cousin, you’re probably the smartest 14 year old I know, I’ve never seen a kid your age learn another language from scratch and learn it as fluently as you have. Its because of this that I know your gonna make it through this and by the end of it your gonna be so grateful you had this opportunity. Every boy must eventually become a man, for some it may happen when they’re 18 others when they’re 20, some never become men, but I bet my life that by the time you leave Utah you will have grown to be the man we all know you can be and all those things you told me about in Turkey will no longer be a part of your life.
By the time you get this letter you will have been out there over three weeks… You now have a very important decision to make as I did when I was in your place. You can decide two of the following: A) I am not going to do this program because I don’t deserve to be here! I’m not going to cooperate- I’m going to sit here and wait until my parents come and get me. B) I will do my best to complete this program, I will work harder than I’ve ever worked in my life! I will make fires! I will hike until my feet are bloody and blistered! And I will prove to everyone that I am the man that I know I can be! I met many people who chose option A. They were the ones that were usually out there for the longest – I met one who had been there for over 8 months. When I was where you are after my third week of being there I chose option B. I was out in less than three months and earned both a knife and an earth name, “guiding feather”. Now I look back and miss those days I spent out there, the friends I made, the nights spent by the fire, the long hikes. I realize now that it was a simple life but a good life and one that I was lucky to experience for just a short time. I spent my 15th birthday out there eating Twinkies in the snow, and you know what, Jack, it was the best birthday of my life. I feel this way for one simple reason: I chose option B.
I look forward to seeing you graduate, Jack, hopefully when this is all over we can go to the all you can eat buffet at the Bellagio in Las Vegas! The nights are gonna get colder as the winter comes, here are some tips for dealing with it:
-When you sleep turn your sleeping bag around so the hood is covering your face. It might be hard to breathe at first but after a while you’ll get used to it.
-After dinner fill your metal flask with water and put it on the fire, once it starts to boil take it off and put the bottle inside your sock and sleep with it in between your legs, it’ll act like a hot water bottle.
-Keep your socks dry! You get two pairs of socks a week, during the day wear one pair and keep the other pair in your pants, then at night use the sock you’d been wearing during the day to cover your flask and wear the socks you’d been keeping in your pants. Then in the morning, put on the socks that had been on the flask and put the other ones back in your pants.
-Don’t dry your socks too close to the fire it can burn holes in them, find a log or a stone, put it in the fire, wait till its warm (NOT BURNING) and then take it out and place your socks on top – Sleep close to the group, the close quarters allows for the conservation of body heat…
-Make friends, friends will help you get through the toughest times out there
-Never stop during a hike! If you stop everybody suffers and it splits the group up – people don’t respect a quitter. Listen to your instructors, never lie to them they’ll know if you do.
-Don’t eat all your Trail Mix at once you’ll need to crap like crazy.
-Try your hardest and you’ll have a great time and you’ll be out of there before you know it.
Good luck, Jack, I know you can do it!

~Guiding Feather