We had amazing expeditions in the canyons, and we can’t believe that we’ve completed the wilderness portion of our time at HMI! It has just flown by, but here are some of our great stories:
Group A remembers a hot day along the trail—fourth mile of the day, sun beating down, map spread open across the orange sand, purple landscape features of spires, plateaus, and buttes around us. Droplets of sweat trickled down our brows and into our eyes as we looked at the Lone Butte on the map. We looked up and gazed at the landscape wondering ‘Where is the butt(e)?’ We needed to pass the Lone Butte to arrive at our destination; we had also grown quite fond of the name “The Lone Butt,” and knew we wanted to take a picture in front of it. “Where is The Lone Butt?!” one of us exclaimed. Snickers of laughter erupted from us, the Amazon Warrior Princesses. We were pretty sure it was right around a bend, and we just couldn’t see it yet. As we made our way around the bend and approached the butt(e), we were in awe! We thought it was the most beautiful butt(e) we had ever seen and stopped to take a picture in front of it. We will never forget the smiles, laughter, and memories we made, especially regarding the Lone Butt(e)!
Group B can’t believe how challenging our route was and how accomplished we feel having completed it! We should have known on day one when we hiked into Dark Canyon via the Sundance “Trail.” As we walked away from the van and toward Dark Canyon, we weren’t exactly sure where we’d be able to get in. The canyon walls dropped off into sheer cliffs, and the canyon bottom loomed 1,200 feet below. Eventually we came across a steep break in the cliffs—the only (potentially) navigable aspect down into the canyon for miles! And so our adventure began, weaving back and forth down the “trail” into Dark Canyon. Upon reaching the bottom, we plopped ourselves down and dropped our packs for a short break before finishing the hike to our campsite for the night. We didn’t know our feet could ache like that nor how much our quads would scream at us the next day! We didn’t stop talking about our descent during the whole trip, especially since we knew we had to ascend it on our last day in order to make it back to the van. However, on our last day, we climbed the Sundance Trail efficiently, without fear, and without our instructors, as we’d had a ton of practice on similar terrain throughout our time in the canyon backcountry. We made it to the top within an hour and stood looking proudly down on much of the terrain we’d just covered. While we were exhausted under the hot sun, we were also fulfilled and sad to be leaving the incredible, intimidating, and beautiful places we’d just traveled through.
Beautiful slot canyons, gorgeous waterfalls that tumbled down to our campsite, and the polar plunge with David into a pool of canyon water made this third expedition feel like something quite different than school for Group C. Whether crossing mesas or wandering through deep canyons, we would switch from dropping fresh beats to freestyling back and forth! We couldn’t ask for more, especially while we enjoyed soaking up the Vitamin D that the canyons had to offer (so different than the Leadville “spring”). Overall, Group C’s third expedition was incredible—just the right amount of free time, just the right amount of sun, and just the right amount of freedom. One of our independent student travel days provided a favorite moment of the trip. We’ll never forget stopping along our route at the sight of an amazing canyon pool. We waited for the instructor team to arrive to see if we could do a little wading! While we waited, we had a little study hall. When Dave and Becca met up with us, it took merely seconds for us all to jump right into the freezing water!
Group D won’t forget working with their student expedition leader. This expedition stood out for us because of the trust that the faculty expedition leaders placed not only on the student expedition leader, but the student group as a whole. We were able to spend time traveling independently of the faculty and really impressed them! At the end of our last independent travel day, we had planned to hike out of our canyon via a drainage. Upon reaching our drainage, we realized that it would be impossible to climb out the way we planned. We wasted no time setting up scouting parties to look for other ways out. Luckily, we were successful, and we reached our camp long before out instructors expected us to! Looking back on this expedition, we continue to be amazed by our group-mates, who we got to spend ten awesome days with. We are so proud of all we’ve accomplished!
After having the van windows closed for more than half the ride, Group E opened them, and hot air immediately rushed in. It was almost as if we were in another world. What a welcome to Utah! Utah made it clear to us that we would never want to leave, and that we should prepare for the time of our lives. As we cruised down the Interstate roads, we gazed out the windows at the humbling canyon and mesa walls. We had been here once before, but last time, there were no bug remains on the windshield to remind us that it was spring! As soon as the expedition commenced, we began to make comparisons to our last canyon adventures. Comb Wash? No problem—balmy. We explored the homey campsite in short shorts and cutoff tees. The first night at circle, we all made a vow to sleep underneath the stars as often as possible.
Sometimes putting yourself in adverse situations is thrilling, and gives you a sense of challenge. First expedition did just that. But this was third expedition. The holy grail. After three months of perfecting our backcountry skills and working daily on our Expedition Behavior, this was finally our time to shine. With the first footsteps onto the slick rock, the hiking began. 75 degree days with flavored water, trail mix, and seven incredible group mates to top it all off. We once imagined the desert to be a dry, waterless pit of red walls and lizards. Not in the springtime—every campsite was stocked with pools of water and some even waterfalls. We were in paradise. Each day was documented with funny videos and images depicting struggle, smiles, and accomplishment. Some say time flies when you’re having fun, but we were unwillingly forced to live this reality. Before we knew it, we once again arrived at the Moab City Market storefront and were greeted with various expedition odors and friendly voices of our peers. Now, campus life has commenced once again.