Hello family, hello friends. Yes, we’re back from our first expedition. Yes, it was amazing. Yes, we know we haven’t called yet. Let’s start off with some of the basics. First expedition began three days after our arrival to HMI. After having packed astonishing amounts of food into our packs (about 15 pounds per group member) we started out at our trailhead ready and rarin’ to go, only to quickly remember that we still were not acclimated to the altitude. After huffing, puffing, and momentarily wondering whether we had bitten off more than we could chew, we embarked on our 10 day excursion. We gained 1,000 feet of elevation in just the first three hours of our trip, and needless to say we were all looking forward to getting into our tents by the end of the day. At the beginning of our trip, our instructors held several classes to teach us how to use our equipment, how to read and use a map, how to communicate effectively, and how to cook amazing food in the backcountry (like pizza!). We were able to learn new skills and refine those that we already had.
Some highlights from the expedition include an attempt at making ramen the first day (read: a recipe that normally takes 5 minutes for a starving college student to whip up took four cold and hungry teenagers a decent hour and 45 minutes to make), napping atop the 13,209 foot summit of Homestake Peak at 7:00 AM (it was a challenge to get to the top, even without our heavy packs, but it was worth it. The view was amazing and we were on the highest peak in the area), and a 10 hour day on the trail that ended not in bleeding feet and unrestricted complaining but delirious happiness and boisterous singing, a true testament to the close-knit relationships we had built and amazing work ethic from all members of the group. Other highlights included summiting Buckeye Peak, celebrating a birthday with backcountry cake, and even making backcountry ice cream! Spending the Fourth of July in the mountains was one of the greatest experiences imaginable. Sitting down on a slope high up in the mountains and watching the fireworks from a new view was riveting. Singing our national anthem then sitting in silence while embracing one another will go down in the history books. It was a challenge to live for ten days in the backcountry, carrying heavy backpacks and practicing our navigation skills, but we laughed every day and learned a lot by stepping out of our comfort zones.
After completing the first expedition, students returned back onto campus with smiles all around, sharing stories of long days, and delicious backcountry meals. The Summer Term 2014ers are passionate, outgoing, and loud, and although it’s exciting to be back on HMI’s campus (and back among creature comforts) part of us will probably always miss that time where we were among priceless natural beauty and friends at the same time, where we had staring contests with herds of mountain goats at 12,000 feet, where we sprawled out like cats to dry in the sun after splashing in a frigid alpine lake, where we choked on our granola because we were laughing so hard. But that part of us has second expedition to look forward to at the end of these next two action-packed weeks on campus. For now, we are ready to dive into the activities of the next several days: classes, singing at the top of our lungs during chores, rafting, rock climbing, fly fishing, and simply enjoying one another’s company.