Eight days ago we set out for our second and final expedition at HMI! Further exploring the Sawatch mountain range, we used what we learned on campus to make our experience even more exciting. As we traveled in our three separate groups, we bonded over long hiking days through the mountains and pounds of macaroni. At the top of a 14,000 foot mountain, every one of us knew that our hard work had paid off and we felt an immense sense of accomplishment. Whether it was sunny, raining, or even snowing, we walked in style and were happy to be together for our last trip. Developing our connection to each other and to the wilderness, we had circle each night to discuss changes such as going home, and had our last few classes in boulder fields and on top of ridges.
Due to the simplicity of the lifestyle and the mental clarity that is gained in the wilderness, it is easier to learn life lessons while in the backcountry. During our second expedition we learned a few very valuable lessons, including the idea of “expedition behavior.” Expedition behavior is, essentially, behaving in a way that keeps your community functioning and happy. Now, this is something we learned upon our entrance into HMI, but we truly learned what expedition behavior was during second expedition. There were plenty of times when people would fill one another’s water bottle, or offer leftovers from the meals they had cooked that evening. It was truly beautiful to see the community that was built, and the lessons that were learned, due to this idea of expedition behavior while in the backcountry.
Although the three expedition groups were spread across a large area, including San Isabel National Forest and Mount Massive Wilderness, every group’s itinerary included summiting a ‘fourteener’, or a peak above fourteen thousand feet. One group climbed Mount Elbert, the tallest point in Colorado, and two groups summited Mount Massive, which is only twelve feet shorter. Each group’s ascent provided different challenges –for some, thick fog obscured the summit until it was only a few feet away, and for others, rain, hail and snow added extra difficulty to an already challenging climb. However, everyone got above 14,000 feet and can now proudly say that they have climbed a fourteener! On the days we weren’t climbing peaks, we were hiking, cooking gourmet backcountry meals (like cinnamon rolls or curry and rice), or playing games. Every student had a chance to either rock climb or fish near Hagerman Lake, letting us test the skills we learned on campus in the backcountry. Some groups even got the opportunity to explore the ghost town of Douglass City, which was built to house workers contracting the nearby Haegerman Tunnel to carry ore to Leadville. While at camp, we marveled at amazing sunsets over the peaks of the Sawatch Range, celebrated birthdays in the field with fry-bake cakes, and bonded with our tarp groups by weathering rainstorms in our tents. We also helped survey pikas to try and find trends in temperature change caused by global warming, and wrote two short essays called “This I Believe” and “The Place Where I Live” to share on our final night in the field.
After our second expedition, all sorts of joy flowed through campus as people were reunited with friends after spending eight days away in the backcountry. But before we could fill one another in on each others expeditions, we had to complete the de-issue process. We all gathered all of our group gear from each expedition group and cleaned. After 8 days of eating in the wilderness, it was nice to take a break from de-issue while eating some amazing fish tacos. Then, we all continued the de-issuing process until everything was cleaned up and put away. Immediately after de-issue was over, we showed Becca, the faculty on duty, our clean bowls, spoons, and baby Nalgenes in order to take a shower. We had some personal time, during which many people did laundry and contacted their friends and family back home. After dinner, the student reps arranged for us to play man hunt and sardines which was a nice way to spend time with everyone and reconnect.
It has been a blast for us to share our HMI experience with friends and family each week by writing these updates. Looking back, the past few weeks have flown by in a whirlwind of expeditions, classes, and activities. It has been so amazing to watch the Summer Term community grow and flourish together and we are all sad to see this time come to an end, but excited to see where the next chapters of our lives will lead us.