The journey to HMI was definitely that—a journey. We learned from the very start something that HMI is really good at—being flexible. Despite snowpocalypses across the country on the day we were supposed to arrive, we (eventually) all made it. We departed from the airport in small groups. There was much excitement in the air as we all made connections and asked each other awkward get-to-know-you questions. As more groups arrived on campus, the atmosphere became more energetic. Students could be found in a variety of places for those first few days: unpacking in our cabins, playing Apples to Apples in Who’s Hall, listening to Becca talk about major school rules or how to go to the bathroom in the canyons, bonding with our cabins, or frantically asking questions about when and how to call home before leaving Leadville for our first expedition. Our first-week highlights included a lively game of AMX (morning exercise) Gaga-ball filled with much laughter and our first, introductory “Circle.” While those days were overwhelming for a lot of us, we are amazed by how quickly HMI began to feel like home.
The 26th of January marked the beginning of our two-week-long venture into the canyons and mesas of southern Utah. We woke up early in order to do chores before heading to our vans for the eight-hour bus ride. After a night camping near our van, we headed off as the morning dawned for the first day many of us had ever experienced backpacking! With mixed emotions, we headed down with our expedition groups into the deep canyons.
We were often cold but more often laughing as the snow fell from overhead. We had classes on natural rock formations, in empty drainages, and next to ancient Anasazi ruins. We played games just to stay warm, and occasionally we were forced to do sit-ups in our sleeping bags to ward off the cold. We hiked an average of four and a half miles a day and cooked all our own meals ranging from backcountry pizza to mac ‘n cheese. This expedition was filled with an immense sense of growth and progress for each of us—not only because we traversed miles of canyon country but we also gained personal knowledge and learned about ourselves and our peers.
Some of the hardest days also proved to be the most fun. One group had to hike out of a canyon to get to their camping spot for the night, but the ground was covered in ice and snow! A lot was learned about supporting one another that day—some of the folks that were stronger and more comfortable helped those that were less comfortable or needed some help with their backpacks. After several hours of serious work (blood, sweat, and laughter), the top of canyon and the broad mesa was in reach. The shared challenges throughout the expedition really helped each group to bond, and everyone felt closer than earlier in the expedition. Traveling across snow-covered mesas (no small feat!), setting up camp, making dinner, and cooking delicious food (like brownies!) filled our days. One group had a beautiful study hall with a view overlooking the canyon they had just hiked through. Each day concluded with some high-energy group games and a meaningful Circle.
Our time in the canyons was fantastic—surrounded by stunning mesas, gorgeous canyons and a spectacular group of people. For another group, one of their most exciting days involved finding a route out of a canyon! Despite having to turn back multiple times and travel over snow-covered and icy terrain, the group eventually found a route that would take them up to their campsite. Seeing what they had already hiked and where they were headed in the coming days was very powerful. This expedition is an experience for which we’re really grateful.
While our first thoughts upon returning from expedition were mostly focused on how quickly we could get into the showers, we were also thinking about the daunting realization that we were going back to a campus full of people we had only known for three short days. Having grown close to our expedition groups, we were a bit apprehensive about integrating back into a larger community. But arriving back to HMI and seeing everyone proved to be a seamless and exciting transition. We were all eager to hear one another’s stories from the trails. We were quickly reminded how open and comfortable the HMI community is. The fun hasn’t stopped yet, and we’re all looking forward to spending our next three weeks together!
We’ll close with a haiku:
The food has been great
I got to sleep in a bed
Mom, I’m making friends.