HMI Gap – The Mystical Midcountry

October 20, 2018

Wilderness Group (F-Trek)

Written by Ally Pyne

HMI Gap Wilderness Semester basecamp in MoabGreetings from the midcountry – a mystical land that is not quite the isolated escape of the backcountry yet does not offer the wholehearted interconnectedness of the frontcountry. In our past week living in the midcountry, base-camped along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, we’ve found ourselves with more time and more to think about than how to simply survive and get from point A to point B. We’ve had time in the peaceful respite of the our campground nestled in the Moonflower Canyon to have conversations that extend beyond the getting-to-know-you stage; we’ve had time for impromptu (and rather long) dance parties to Earth, Wind, and Fire, recounting of stories about childhood pets, and many gourmet meals – including hockey carrot curry, pasta primavera, peach rice pudding, and cinnamon buns.

HMI Gap Trail Work with Trail MixAfter arriving and getting settled in, we met Maddie of the Grand County Trail Mix, a group that works with land managers to steward public land around Moab, for a briefing on the trail work we would complete. The work we did on the Hidden Valley trail was quite well-received by our group and the many hikers that passed us by. “It was so rewarding to see the direct benefits of our efforts as we were working,” remarked Coleman. Graham agreed, adding, “Trail Mix also made it clear that our service was really going to help out the fragile desert ecosystems surrounding the trail.”

Our productive days of trail work were interspersed with days of rock climbing and learning technical skills in preparation for our canyons expedition, led by the fabulous new addition to our instructor team, Brad. Many new climbers in our group tried out crack climbing for the first time and did an incredible job. We practiced rappelling at a crag in the La Sal mountains, which were recently dusted in snow, overlooking the vast canyon country below. The next day, we basked in the warm sun at the Ice Cream Parlor, a popular local climbing spot.

HMI Gap Wilderness and Conservation SemesterWhile our days were filled with trail work, rock climbing, and exploring downtown Moab, many folks in the group described our base camping experience as “rejuvenating” and “relaxing.” The highlights of our week certainly included informal, organic group bonding and small, yet unforgettable moments that will etch themselves into our memories of this incredible experience. Gabe remarked that the group was beginning to feel like a family, and “this was an experience [he] could imagine recreating with friends and family from back home.” Many agreed that the land of the mystical midcountry is something special that we would love to share with the other people in our lives (like those of you reading this post!)

We hope you’ve been enjoying your Octobers, wherever you are, and we cannot wait to reconnect with you all after our 14-day canyons expedition in Bears Ears.   

Sending love,

Ally and the rest of F-Trek


HMI Gap: The Power of Unplugging

October 13, 2018

Wilderness Group (F-Trek)

By Sofie Pedemonti

When you think of disconnecting, what do you think of? Putting your phone on airplane mode? Leaving your phone in your room while you eat dinner with your family? Though these actions may provide temporary relief from our perpetually plugged-in society, true disconnection can only be achieved in certain circumstances. While exploring the Sawatch Mountain Range, HMI’s F-Trek was able to learn the ins-and-outs of a true backcountry lifestyle, dabble in rock climbing, and bond as a community, all while experiencing the profound effects of grade A disconnection.

HMI Gap Summit Mt. Massive Day one: we hike out to our first campsite, get a cheesy-mac cooking lesson, and settle into our mids (mega mid tents that have now become our homes for these next three months). At this point, we are practically strangers to each other out in the middle of nowhere. One thing we can all bond over is the excitement for what the next 14 days will offer. As days progressed, our bonds grew stronger and so did our bodies. Summiting Mt. Massive, the third tallest peak in the lower forty-eight (14,429 ft), was a true testament to our team’s rapid growth. While navigating off-trail, cautiously negotiating loose boulder fields, and facing harsh winds may have been difficult, reaching the summit proved that any adversity was simply temporary.

HMI Gap Backcountry CookingA few days and miles after our Mt. Massive peak ascent, we found ourselves in the old mining town of Douglass City. As we approached our new campsite, it was impossible to ignore the cascading boulders and walls of rock surrounding us. Once we found out that we would be climbing these rocks, some people’s temperament became very excited, while others turned quite frightful. At this moment, another opportunity for growth arose within our community. Our climbing day consisted of everyone helping each other, whether it was in the form of belaying for each other, giving pointers on certain routes, or cheering each other on.

HMI Gap Sawatch ExpeditionLooking back on our first two weeks as a group, it is quite evident that the lack of technology really helped contribute to our fast and strong bonds. It’s amazing how close you can get to other people in just the first 7 days on an expedition – bonds that may take years in other situations. Going forward, traveling to Utah and Patagonia, we will be presented with so many more opportunities for growth and challenges to work through as a team. While we will be re-introduced to technology at certain times throughout the program, the common theme of disconnection will remain prevalent throughout the course.



Semester 41: Engaging, Understanding, and Improving

Written by: Lampton Enochs, Maeve Weeder, & Sylvie Raymond
October 10, 2018

At HMI this week, academic studies have certainly been picking up in pace. One exciting science lab we are participating in currently pertains to the negative effects of mining on the environment. Towards the beginning of our semester, we came to understand simply that there were negative effects of the mining done in the mountains, but as the weeks have rolled past, we have dived deeper into what these effects are, and why they have come to be. Last week, we went to Lake Fork Creek to examine biodiversity and abundance of aquatic life in the water, both upstream and downstream of where acid mine drainage was leaking into the river. We were able to collect samples of the water and search for different kinds of small organisms, such as mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies. Our results were very informative, in that the upstream section of the river had a larger concentration and variety of life as compared to the downstream section. However, it was still not up to the standard of what perfectly unaffected water would look like, and upon further investigation we realized that the acid mine drainage that had been seeping out of the mines on the mountain were also being absorbed by the soil and the wetlands, then dispersed all around the area, getting into the river even upstream of the drainage deposit. This lab was quite engaging and certainly very important, as we learned how lack of environmental awareness when mining can have negative effects on life in the river, animals who use the river, and even humans who use the water from the river or nearby reservoir to drink. The problem was complex and difficult, but the larger implications of the overall issue definitely made the lab feel worth it. Next week, we are going to California Gulch just outside of Leadville to partake in more experiments with the water both upstream and downstream of the acid mine drainage deposit in order to widen our understanding of the problem in new areas.

This week in Leadville the weather has been hinting at winter. Temperatures are dropping, we’ve been seeing lots of drizzling rain and snow is in the forecast. But, the dreary weather has not stopped HMI students from enjoying every moment outside that they can. We’ve been bundling up to sit on Who’s Hall porch for meals, and students continue to enjoy walks and bike rides during their free periods. As the semester progresses our AMX runs (a morning exercise) have been continuously increasing in mileage. This week, students ran our second timed 2 mile run and some students improved their time by over 5 minutes. This shows the effort that we’ve been putting into improving our running and how rigorous morning exercise can be so beneficial. As we get more comfortable on campus, students have also been discovering the best ways to spend their free time. If all your work is done, it’s the perfect time to sign out and go for a walk, run or bike ride. This scheduled free time motivates students to work hard in their study halls to complete all their work so they can hang out with their friends during the day. We’ve been seeing students take these opportunities to do really creative and fun things. Some of us have been going for walks, taking photographs, organizing games and having dance parties. As we look forward to expedition, we’re also sad to leave all of the fun that we’ve been having on campus.

We had a jam-packed weekend here at HMI, complete with a fascinating science lab, a trip to the neighboring town of Salida, bowling, and a beautiful hike to the summit of Father Dyer Mountain. On Saturday evening we packed into the buses and made the 40 minute commute to Salida, a neighboring town that’s a little bigger than Leadville. We walked around, explored, and enjoyed a delicious picnic dinner. Then we headed back to the buses to go to a bowling alley, a long standing tradition of HMI’s. While there were definitely varying skill levels among the group, everyone had a great time goofing around and trying to knock down the pins—and there was some pretty cool costumes included. On Sunday there was an optional hike up Father Dyer Mountain, a peak near HMI that reaches about 13,900 ft. About half the class decided to go on the trip, while the rest hung back at HMI doing homework or kicking back around campus. The summit was beautiful, and made us all nostalgic for first expedition! The day ended with some more free time before dinner, and everyone was happy to have a fun and relaxing weekend before gearing up for another busy week at HMI!

HMI Gap: The Nourishment that Sustains Us

October 7, 2018

Rock Climbing Group (F-Rock)

By Lauren Hough and Tim Kim

Imagine a box of Apple Jacks. Now take out the cereal and crumple the box. Submerge the cardboard box in water and shape it into a “pancake.” Slap ‘em on a heavily buttered, moderately warm Fry Bake – and there you have it: a genuine, deconstructed, backcountry pancake. With its batter full of trail spice and the final products coated in peanut butter to mask the taste, this meal was nothing short of disgusting. But yet, our endearing failure left us all with bodies full of fuel, and ready for the hike ahead of us.

HMI Gap: Cinnamon rollsThough the above meal may have been a failure, a result of our novice cooking skills, in all seriousness, delicious meals were definitely a highlight of our first expedition. To the majority of us who were used to “backpacking food” while backpacking, ingredients like avocado, sunflower seeds, and garlic powder spiced up meals. (Side note: F-Rock would like to give a quick shoutout to Gardetto’s for keeping morale high and bellies full. We love you!) Throw-aways in the beginning like brussels sprouts and onions quickly became sought after commodities as we learned about their abilities to transform bland dishes into aromatic splashes of vibrant color. Pizza and cinnamon rolls were made from scratch, and we even had a birthday cake delivered to us for Justina’s birthday.

HMI Gap: Evening in the kitchenWith the expedition requiring miles of bushwhacking, or ‘shwhacking,’ as dubbed by our lone Minnesotan, Nick, with 50 pound packs, we quickly grew comfortable through commiserating and suffering together. The type 2 fun (translation: not fun now, but fun later) would always be realized around a warm campfire or our laughter-filled evening meetings that concluded our days.

HMI Gap: Summit of Mt. ElbertWith the ingredients of our days prepped and packed in 85 liter home-on-our-backs, we embarked on journeys up mountains, over rivers, through woods of the Sawatch Range of Colorado. At the summit of Mt Elbert, Colorado’s highest 14,000 foot peak, we relished in the delights of our sacred Snickers and the sights of pikas (small alpine rabbits, known for their tenacity and resilience) cheering us onward.  

Over the course of our 10 days in the backcountry, life in and around us flourished. The yellow leaves of the aspen trees became illuminated against the cozy, grey backdrops of fall in the Rocky Mountains. And like the changing of the leaves, we too started to feel shifts deep within ourselves as the turn of a new desert-filled season of this adventure auspiciously awaits.   

Semester 41: “It was awesome to see everyone having so much fun”

Written by: Jaize Francis, Grace Valentine, Cole Dupee, and Patrick Cambria
September 28, 2018

In science class we recently visited  an old mine. We learned about the effects of acid mine drainage on the environment, and took qualitative notes on observable differences in water sources with high and low acidities. We took samples of the tainted water at five different sites, and measured their pH levels, turbidity, and metal content in class. In Spanish class with Sadie, we have been studying vocabulary surrounding culture and identity, and every day we explore the Spanish language in a new way through listening to songs by different Hispanic artists. In English we have been reviewing how literary devices enhance writing and give it deeper meaning, in order to create concise essays on the book A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean. In math, we have been using Desmos, the online graphing website, to understand the relationships between functions and the graphs they create. Each class we are randomly put in groups of three to encourage working with everyone and having a new experience each class. For Practices and Principles: Ethics of the Natural world (P&P), we have all been preparing for a debate on the ethics of animal husbandry and whether or not it is morally correct to consume meat. We will all try out our ideas in class when we represent either PETA, the Tyson meat company, or a young farmers coalition in a student-lead discussion. Overall, we have had a jam-packed week full of academic classes, but we are all learning how to manage the workload through using study halls, down time, and free periods to our advantage.

This past weekend was packed full of fun activities for HMI students. We started off Saturday morning with a field trip, and later that day, we all went downtown to explore. We went thrift shopping, ate ice cream, took cool photographs, explored Melanzana (which sells locally made fleece jackets), and walked around the busy streets. The highlight of the day, however, was driving up to Turquoise Lake and having a BBQ on the sandy shore. Burgers, salads, s’mores, campfires, and pick-up soccer were almost as wonderful as the beautiful sunset we saw over the Rocky Mountains and the clear blue water. Later that night after we got back to campus, we had our first Coffee House, which is like a talent show. People sung, danced, and showcased random talents. It was awesome to see everyone having so much fun. The next day was what we call a Sacred Sunday. They’re sacred because they don’t happen very often, but when they do everybody loves them. We got to wake up late and then had brunch from ten to eleven. It was a feast of French toast, bacon, eggs, fruit, bagels, oatmeal, tea, and hot chocolate. After breakfast, we took some time to reflect alone. We each went to our own little quiet place in the woods on campus and stayed there for a few hours, just reading, napping, drawing, or thinking by ourselves. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day with just a hint of crisp fall breeze blowing through the aspen trees. Sacred Sunday ended with some free time, where students went for bike rides, played guitar, baked cupcakes, or took a nap. Overall, this weekend was amazing and we can’t wait to see what fun activities we do for the next one.

HMI residential life embodies the best of community. Meal time debates with friends over a hot plate of lasagna for lunch, loud singing in the bathroom before bed, and living in cabins with quality individuals. The best way to describe what it’s really like to live at HMI is through the lens of daily life. Waking up around 6:30 every morning, we often change as soon as possible and start AMX (a morning exercise), with the hopes of being the first ones back to take a shower. After taking a shower, people run back to their cabins with ideally at least a half hour until breakfast to get done any last bits of reading before History, or to change into the fresh clothes. Otherwise, people will go check emails in Who’s Hall before breakfast. Cook crew will ring the breakfast bell at 8:00, and then everyone scrambles to toast their bagels before the line builds up. Since breakfast is considered a rolling start, people come in at any time before chores begin at 8:30 to grab a bite of food. The favorite breakfast foods are often avocado toast, bagels, fruit salad, and eggs. A couple times a week, we are treated with bacon. After eating, chores start. We wipe tables, mop, empty trash and recycling bins, vacuum, and rearrange chairs however the teacher with the first class would like. We play music and we get energized not only to do our chore, but to take on the day with a productive mood. Chores take about twenty minutes if done right, and as we finish we smile at friends, return the cleaning supplies, and hurry to class. After a long morning of classes, everyone is eager to eat lunch. Again, lunch is rolling so the line isn’t usually as bad, but it never hurts to hustle from class to Who’s for your best chance at beating the line. After grabbing food, kids like to sit outside and soak in the sun on the back porch. Since eating doesn’t take super long, students like to slackline, run, bike, or just hang out for the last half hour before classes start up again at one.

It all started about four or five days ago when Jack commenced the game. This was no ordinary game, however, and it works like this: any student, apprentice or faculty member who signed up to play picks a name of another player by random draw. They then draw a paper with a random location, then a paper with a random object or objects. The goal is to get that person, now your target, to that location while holding your unusually wacky object. If your plan works, then you acquire a new target, and this goes until there are two people left. For example, it was someone’s goal to get Dan to the Red Room (a classroom), while holding a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette; another was to get a fellow student to the tea bar with a pair of hiking boots in hand. The first day paranoia ran across campus, as people began to assess their targets and make agreements with others to gain an edge. This game has created a super fun atmosphere around campus as you never know when someone will walk up to you holding a Nalgene full of wood chips, or three expo markers and get you out. Plus, everyone has been really creative with their strategies!

Semester 41: First Expedition

Written by Lizi Barrow, Chris Branch, Brandon Ipina, Ava Messick, and Lola van Doosselaere
September 20, 2018

Group A

Our expedition was so awesome!  In total, we did about 50 miles and attempted to summit two 14ers (peaks above 14,000 feet), and got up most of Mount Massive and completed Mount Elbert!  The first day, one cook group fried mac ‘n cheese  Not a bad first meal to have in the backcountry!  Every night we had Circle, where everyone gathers and shares based on a certain prompt; the first prompt was “why did you choose HMI?”  Other prompts throughout the trip included what is your spirit cake? Who is your role model? What is your proudest accomplishment?  About half way through the trip, we resupplied our food and switched instructors; we were sad to see Jess leave, but were excited for all the new adventures with Jacob.  For the next few days, we did trail work on the Windsor Lake Trail.  Jacob introduced us to many games (miniature tanks, animal master, big booty) and helped us start new traditions.  Riley, Julian and Lizi built the best stairs ever on the trail (if you are ever there check them out), and we also hiked up to Windsor Lake and did some classes there.  After those four days, we continued our adventures backpacking.  We hiked through a boulder field to a really pretty lake that looked like an infinity pool.  The next few days, we fell back into our hiking rhythm of waking up, cooking breakfast (a favorite was curry cheesy brown sugar bagels), hiking, setting up camp, doing some classes, making dinner, doing Circle, hanging out, and then going to bed.  Then, one day we attempted to summit Mount Massive.  We were all super stoked and we made it up to this beautiful boulder field and then hung out there for a while before heading back down to our campsite.  A few days later, we woke up at 3:00 AM to summit Mount Elbert.  While hiking up, we could see the Milky Way and the stars and it was so beautiful.  We stopped mid-way up to watch the sunrise, then we hiked up to the summit where the view was so beautiful!


Group B

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this most recent expedition to the Sawatch Range was an incredibly wild ride for everyone involved, and our expedition group was no exception. Our leaders were Hayden, Carrie, Sadie, and Charles, and it seems to us that we could not have had a better combination. When we arrived the first day, all the tarp groups were excited to learn new skills: cooking, purifying water, hiking efficiently, wilderness survival, and a host of other things. The learning curves in all these categories were incredibly steep so the first few days of the expedition were shorter hikes, culminating in a layover on the third day at an alpine lake where we were given the option of a beautiful hike up a ridge overlooking our campsite. After our wonderful day, we trekked on, becoming more independent as we went. Each night was a different adventure in the kitchen whether we were cooking good ol’ rice and beans or some sort of lovely sauté couscous stir fry. A crowning achievement happened for us on day eight when we had the privilege of waking up at 3:00 AM to summit the beautiful Mount Massive. The summiting went as smooth as can be with a 9:00 AM summit, and we were even able to watch a beautiful sunrise over the town of Leadville from halfway up the mountain. As re-ration came and went, we became proficient at everything outdoors. As we became more confident, our tasks became more complicated. After the re-ration we were able to do some wonderful trail work with folks from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, and it even snowed on us during one of the colder mornings. We finished our trip hiking through the lovely Collegiate Range, having hiked over 60 miles in total. We are all immensely excited for expedition number two!


Group C

Our group’s experience was full of enjoyment and learning. We started off as a group that knew virtually nothing about each other, but as the days went on and the backpacking made us converse, we started to learn more and more about everyone. Of course, there may have been times that there was difficulties but they all vanished as the group felt more like a family and team. Everyone made great memories during our backpacking expedition; from seeing moose in our near vicinity to seeing Buena Vista from the top of Mount Harvard (the third highest mountain Colorado), we all made memories that we will never forget. Even the cooking was pretty enjoyable. Every day, all of the students would cook food for themselves. We even made pizza a couple of times! To finish this off, the main reason that our group was able to work so efficiently and pleasantly together is that we opened up to each other and that we wanted to have the best experience for not just ourselves, but for everyone in the group.


Group D

Our expedition group had a blast in the Sawatch Mountain Range! We started off our trip with an anxious bus ride to the trailhead. Many were nervous as they hadn’t camped or backpacked before, but after the first night we knew the trip would be an experience we all looked back on fondly. From exploring old remains of Colorado’s mining industry (we got to see the rickety Champion Mill) to baking pizzas in the middle of an aspen grove, we started off the trip with a lot of laughter and curiosity for the beautiful forests surrounding us. We hiked on a new route for HMI, which was exciting to all of us and definitely put our navigational skills to the test. After a few days, we found our way onto the Colorado Trail! Klaus taught us all about the birds we saw (which totaled to 52 species) and Ray, Sophie, Coco, and Timbah kept us entertained with a ton of new games to play while hiking (or around a fire late at night). Towards the middle of the trip, we camped at a beautiful alpine lake and even found an “alpine pineapple” (which is really just an actual pineapple that the instructors fooled us with)! We climbed over the notorious Hope Pass, which was tough but the view it exposed made every vertical foot we climbed well worth it. After the first ration period, we base-camped for three days to do trail work with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. We had a ton of fun singing old pop songs while lifting 800-pound boulders and eventually building a new staircase on the trail. At the end of trail work, we were rewarded by being able to walk on our trail to summit Mt. Huron! We woke up at 3:30 AM to try to summit by sunrise, but we were delayed by a blizzard! Our group showed incredible resilience and perseverance, as climbing up 4,000 feet in a white-out certainly was challenging. The cheers at the top and the shared Snickers bars that followed, however, definitely made us all feel amazingly proud of ourselves, despite not being able to see more than 10 feet around us! Our descent took on the form of a slide down the mountain in the thick powder, which was an amazing way to start the day! After a few more days hiking (and some more wading in the many alpine lakes we saw), we sadly had to board the bus and leave our life in the mountains in our memories. We had a bittersweet goodbye, as we had so much fun and got so close within our small group, but we were also so excited to go back to HMI to well-cooked meals, running water, and a whole new community of people!


Group E

Our lucky group of ten had an amazing, tough, new, fun, wild, and sometimes whacky experience on first expedition. First for some impressive mountain highlights: we went over two passes, Hope Pass and Elkhead Pass. We sat at the top with our Sour Patch Kids and Snickers bars, staring out at some of the most beautiful views we had ever seen (although our feet did hurt a bit by the end). Waking up to begin at 3:00 AM one morning, we summited the tallest mountain in Colorado, Mount Elbert. In total over the eighteen days we walked about 69 miles and gained 15,900 feet of elevation. Not everything was quite so extreme though. We had several shorter days, hiking only a few miles and watching as streams and lakes and meadows and bright blue skies passed us by. We made food in small groups over WhisperLite stoves. Sometimes the stoves broke. Sometimes the fuel lines clogged. Sometimes we cooked together as a whole group and made brownies that inevitably did not fully cook over our little stoves and had to be turned into “brownie scramble.” Everything was always alright. We sat in circles at night and talked about our hopes and our dreams and played games. The games were silly, but everyone was okay with that. We slept deeply in tarps with the mountains outside our doors and did not feel the little rocks and slanted earth beneath us.



Introducing Our New Admissions Associate and Gap Faculty Member: Claire!

Written by Claire Sutton
August 29, 2018

If you’re reading this introduction you’re probably interested in taking a gap year. My recommendation: Take the plunge!

As HMI Gap’s new Admissions Associate my advice is, of course, biased, and it is based on my experience. Living, working and travelling in non-traditional educational settings has shaped the person I am today, and I have seen it change the lives of my colleagues and our students. I am deeply passionate about spreading this impact as far and wide as I can!

I grew up in the tech-oriented Silicon Valley, and discovered my true self during summers away at camp among the coastal redwoods. After high school I attended Boston University where I earned a Bachelors in Science in Film and Television studies, and performed with a co-ed accapella group — the BosTones. College was an exciting time – but academics, alone, did not inspire me in the way I’d expected, so my junior year I decided to shake things up, and I enrolled in the “Semester At Sea” study abroad program. I visited 14 countries in 100 days and circumnavigated the globe. The adult community aboard the ship showed me that there are many ways to be a thoughtful, global citizen, and that the prescribed track I’d always observed growing up in Silicon Valley is not the only path. I felt empowered to take time away from the “track” I’d put myself on–inspired to seek out new possibilities and ask myself bigger questions.

Once I had a degree in hand I decided I needed to design a post-grad “ gap year” of my own in order to pursue a question that had been itching at me since I studied abroad: “what lights my fire?” In search of an answer, I worked for 5 months to save money and then traveled down the west coast of South America and returned in time for a NOLS Semester on The Borders, where I learned to backpack, rock climb, sea kayak and sail.

My post-graduate “gap year” changed the course of my life. Through my experiences I discovered the powerful tool of experiential education and building intentional community. I wish I’d known that such opportunities for exploration and self-discovery existed before college – I don’t know how college would have changed for me, but I know it would have been a different experience. Perhaps I would have been less distracted by that persistent trickle of doubt about “why am I here; and what am I meant to be doing?”

The skills I learned on my gap year gave me the confidence to pursue a career in experiential education. I’ve worked in an underfunded 6th grade classroom with City Year Denver, served as HMI’s Semester 38 Marketing Apprentice, and led international service and cultural exchange Gap Year programming in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Chilean Patagonia, Cuba, Australia and Fiji with Adventures Cross Country Programs.

Of all the incredible intentional communities I’ve been part of (NOLS, City Year, HMI, and ARCC), HMI holds a special place in my heart. I’m not sure what HMI’s secret sauce is–or it could be the altitude–but this is a powerful community of educators who are dedicated to creating experiences that empower each member of the community to grow in self-discovery, humanity, and skills. I feel so fortunate to be back at HMI as Gap Admissions Associate and Faculty Member, empowering students to rise above the prescribed path, to discover new possibilities and to experience an adventure with purpose through HMI Gap!

Summer Term 2018: Life on Campus

Written by Brett Zakheim
July 25, 2018

Upon arrival back to HMI, it has been non-stop fun. Reuniting as 28 students again was seamless despite being on our own adventures for ten days. We were all eager to share our experiences and hear stories from other groups.

As students, we dove in into our classes. We developed a strong sense of place by interviewing people in Leadville and volunteering at the community garden during humanities class. In science class, we participated in the biodiversity challenge where teams identified as many as 40 wildlife species around HMI. We explored the Leadville mining museum and old mining sites. Our studies culminated with a group debate where groups of us represented different stakeholders in Leadville and discussed the effects and implications of opening a new mine. Outside of the classroom time was spent running, biking, bouldering, baking, and playing games. We also had the opportunity to rock climb and fly fish; both activities are a great way to enjoy being outdoors. We also enjoyed visits to town where several Melanzana fleeces, ice cream cones, and burgers were purchased. Rafting down the Arkansas River was also a blast. Another highlight was the talent show. Performances consisted of singing in Chinese, group dances, dramatic readings, and other entertaining acts. However, the talent show would not have been complete without caramel popcorn and the dance party that followed.

Before embarking on our second expedition, feelings are bittersweet. We are looking forward to making new bonds in the backcountry and embracing the wilderness, but are sad to leave friends and a place we call home. It will be hard to leave, but everyone is prepared and ready to make the most of the experiences that await. Fourteeners’ are waiting to be climbed, the stars are longing to be gazed at, and memories are dying to be made.


Summer Term 2018: First Expedition

Written by Sebastian Baer, Jordyn Lichtstein, Sidney Derzon, Helen Klaes, Cede McNally, and Hope Vetromile
July 18, 2018

Group A: Angie, Cede, Lauren, Kevin, Shaq, Aiden, Hannah, Hope, Josh, and Sarah

On our first night we refueled with cheesy mac and cheese, ready for our second day of hiking through gorgeous aspen groves. Grace saved the day by teaching (and implementing!) blister treatment and we all began to get in the routine of cooking on our camp stoves, setting up tarps, and sometimes sleeping out under the stars! On day three we hiked in a dry creek-bed until we finally found a spring to give our heads a much-needed dunk. During our layover day at Little Brown’s Creek we worked on creating a geologic timeline of the Rocky Mountains and creating our own naturalist guides. For dinner, we had a backcountry pizza party! We celebrated Kevin’s birthday on day 6 with a mellow hiking day and our first afternoon thunderstorm.

The remainder of our trip included two more layover days. We attempted to summit Mount Antero, ate pancakes for breakfast, debated the difference between nature and wilderness, slept outside, and still made time for humanities class, science class, and study hall. All in all the expedition was a success!

Group B: Claire R, Harper, Helen, Tanja, Lucas, Cesar, Maia, Edgar, Sallie, and Sidney

Throughout the course of our ten day backpacking trip we traveled through the Sawatch Range, cresting the Continental Divide and camping at many different lakes and streams. We were exposed to many new experiences and adventures as we accomplished goals and came together as a group. On the first night we learned how to cook cheesy pesto pasta on a WhisperLite stove and by the third evening we were all crying (out of inspiration, out of vulnerability) in a circle together.

On our fifth day (4th of July!), we tested our limits scrambling up a steep exposed hill with heavy backpacks on. It was exhilarating for some and nerve-wracking for others, but with everyone’s support we came together as a group and were rewarded with a beautiful view from the top of the Continental Divide. The next day we continued of 4th of July celebrations during our layover day with a homemade cake from the instructors, an “alpine pineapple,” and a talent show.

Our backcountry cooking skills tremendously improved throughout the trip—by the end we had all learned how to cook pizza, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, and many other creations.  Even though one cook-group forgot their spice kit and another had a little too much “trail spice,” everyone enjoyed eating delicious food.

On trail, we learned how to read and orient maps, and all took turns being Leader of the Day (LOD)—this  entailed leading the group from point A to point B while setting and finding the route. As far as learning goes we had science, humanities, and Practices and Principles class. We discussed the importance of the wilderness and explored how humans are connected to nature.

After 10 days we were definitely ready for a hot shower (not that the lake showers were not great), but we were also sad that our great expedition was ending and our close-knit group was splitting up. We will forever remember the “alpine pineapple” and hunkering down in hail and thunderstorms,  but most importantly we will remember our fun-loving group. We will never be able to relive this experience with such an amazing group of people! 

Group C: Jordyn, Laisha, Sebastien, Sam, Brett, Claire B, Nick, Henry, Lili

Our first 10-day expedition in the Rocky Mountains was an incredible and rewarding experience for all. After hiking uphill on our first day, we were rewarded by a beautiful, picturesque campsite, without (as we would later appreciate) as many mosquitoes as our other campsites. On day two, we hiked up a steep pass, had lunch on the top, and hiked down through a forest, where we marveled at the many beautiful wildflowers on our path. Day three was one of our more difficult days, but our long hike ended with our arrival at our first layover site. Day five included some classes, some catching up with our trip advisors, and everyone setting up their kitchens close together and making some delicious backcountry pizza. On day six, we hiked up to the Continental Divide Trail, where we spent the next four days hiking.

Another highlight included the 4th of July “fireworks” display (which was a distant lightning storm). The following layover days were spent at a very cool marshy meadow. We took showers in a freezing cold waterfall and spent time having classes in the meadow.

Special Update

May 24, 2018

May 25, 4:25 The wildfire on our property has been completely extinguished and there is no damage to our structures or vehicles. HMI staff and students have been cleared to return to campus and will be doing so later this afternoon. We consider ourselves extremely lucky that this fire was mitigated so skillfully by first responders, and that the weather and conditions were not more favorable to rapid fire spreading. Investigations into the cause of the fire are not yet complete.

We cannot put into words our gratitude for the first responders who successfully contained this great threat to our school. We specifically want to thank Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue, Lake County Sheriffs Office- Colorado, St. Vincent Hospital Ambulance Service, Lake County Public Works, Summit and Chaffee fire crews, and the U.S. Forest Service. We extend our most sincere thanks to all involved with the emergency response.

We also want to acknowledge and thank the many local organizations and individuals who have supported us in the past 24 hours. Thank you first and foremost to Colorado Mountain College Leadville for taking us in and housing our students in your dorms. Thank you as well to Colorado Outward Bound School for offering us sleeping bags, Solvista Health for making mental health counselors available to our students, and Desert Mountain Medicine for offering us your services. We are honored and humbled by outpouring of support from Leadville and beyond.

We have been inspired by the optimism and resilience of our students, faculty, staff, and community. We look forward to completing this current term on a high note.

May 24, 9:40PM Fire Update: The Lake County Office of Emergency Management is now reporting that the fire on our property grew to a size of 1.3 acres but is at least 90% contained. We have also learned that there was no damage to any structures at HMI. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the emergency services whose fast response is to thank for these positive outcomes.

We have arranged for the students to spend the night in the dorms at nearby Colorado Mountain College; they are empty for the summer.

As we enter the late evening, our paramount goal is to support all of our students and our staff members. Our community is a strong one. We continue to believe that the last days of the semester hold great promise, and we look forward to them. We will continue to keep you updated on our next steps and our plans for the next few days. Thank you in advance for your patience as we navigate this situation.

May 24, 5:35 PM This is an informational post for the HMI and Lake County communities. At approximately 3pm this afternoon, we were made aware of a fire on the far western edge of the HMI campus. We thank the multiple local agencies that are currently responding to the situation. All HMI students and staff are uninjured and accounted for, have been evacuated to the town of Leadville, and are in good spirits. We will provide updates as they become available.