John Scherschel’s summers are spent backpacking in the rugged mountains of the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rockies in northern New Mexico. After starting as a camper at Philmont Scout Ranch, he was hired as a ranger to work with groups of young men aged 14 to 21. His pinnacle experience in 2009 – leading the challenging 21-day Rayado Trek – revealed the way mental, physical, and spiritual experiences interact to form a well-balanced life.
Hometown: Bedford, Indiana
Year in School: Junior
Career goal: Work in the emergency room. In the long term, get a graduate degree in an area related to wilderness therapy or become a professor.
Current music on iPod: Sleepyhead by Passion Pit
Favorite authors: Edward Abbey and John Muir
One thing most people don’t know: Avid photographer with a book cover to his credit
Three weeks in the woods: John, one other ranger guide, and their crew of campers backpacked across 200 miles of wilderness. “When you are pushed that hard physically, there is a breaking point . . . You have to learn from each other; have to learn about yourself in order to stay motivated and get over the next hill. And you just have to keep going.”
An experience to remember: Day 16 of Rayado. John and his partner got misplaced from their crew. The crew arrived at the day’s destination without incident; John and his partner eventually found them after dark. Everyone kept his cool and did exactly as he was taught.
Skills for school: “Teaching hikers to be self-sufficient has really helped me as a nursing student. As the patients’ advocate, I teach them how to improve their health and well being. Also, if you can talk to 14 strangers on a hike, then when you have a one-on-one conversation it’s a breeze.”
Finding nursing: Although he started in engineering, John realized he was interested in medicine after he attended a backcountry camp that focused on search and rescue.
Motivation to keep going: “Sometimes I look at a picture and think, ‘If I get this done, then I can go on a hiking trip this weekend.’ I find ways to trick myself.”
Staying in shape: John lives off campus. Walking the two miles to class keeps him fit and also gives him a little more time to gather his thoughts. He also is training for the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon in May.
Advice to others: “Take a step back and just listen—to the birds, to the water, to the trees, to yourself.”
By Susan Ferringer