Semester 33: 3rd Expedition

Here are some reflections from third expedition!

Group A: Even though 14,000-foot mountains didn’t surround us and the nearest lake was 50 miles away, we were blown away by Utah’s canyon country! The environment was completely different, and we had to perfect some new and different navigation skills.  That said, so many of the skills we gained from first and second expedition were well imbedded into our actions and set us up for a great expedition.

Aside from a hailstorm one night (that blew many of our tarps over), the weather was beautiful enough to match the scenery. Our group’s chemistry was perfect—we couldn’t stop laughing! The single-gender environment along with the privilege of traveling independently of our instructors was very unique and allowed us to truly push ourselves outside of our limits.

As a group, we enjoyed the three chances that we had to rappel in the canyons along with all the starry nights! We slept outside of our tents almost every night, circling up and chatting while gazing at the sky in awe. There were too many shooting stars to count!

Group B: While we weren’t quite sure what to expect when the HMI faculty would talk about “the canyons,” most of us imagined a very warm, dry place, nearly flat, with some red rocks and arches. When we arrived, though, we were surprised by the immensity and magnitude of the canyons that we had the opportunity to travel in (not to mention the amount of vegetation and the cool weather)!

Our expedition did a lot of singing and laughing, climbing over boulders and exploring side canyons–which will remain some of our best expedition memories. You might say that we got to spend ten days in a giant playground!

Group C: We had a great ten days in the Jacobs Chair area! After proving our proficiency in canyon navigation, LNT ethics, and risk management decisions, we were able to earn the privilege of Independent Student Travel on day two of our expedition. That really gave us a chance to bond as a group. We had such an amazing instructor team, though, that we enjoyed getting to hang out and hike with them, too.

We also had great weather but experienced the same wind and hailstorm as some of the other groups. We were still able to laugh as tarps blew over and we squished together tightly—six people under one tarp! Most nights, after indulging in quesadillas, tuna mac, or cheesy orzo, we all slept out under the stars. We took advantage of our time together by singing, dancing, and playing many rounds of “chooga!” One of our favorite moments was our last circle in the backcountry and a reading called “The Last Camp” by Zand Martin. It helped us reflect on how lucky we were to be out in the canyons and have an experience with HMI in general.

Group D: Our first hiking day consisted of dropping into Slickhorn Canyon. The way that the canyon walls started to rise up around us was amazing. We faced a challenging 300-foot descent but we proved to ourselves and our instructors that we could handle it, which contributed to us having Independent Student Travel for the rest of the trip!

Also in Slickhorn Canyon, we visited ruins from ancient Puebloan populations that used to dwell there. We sat in a kiva—an underground, religious space—made thousands of years ago, and we were speechless. Our other days involved hiking while quoting “Nacho Libre,” reading Harry Potter to one another, yoga, homework, group kitchens, and lots of laughter.

While we had mostly good weather, we did experience one desert downpour.  Because of that, we also got to experience a special phenomenon in the canyons—a flash flood! Don’t worry though—we were out of harm’s way.

Group E: The past ten days of third expedition have been a unique and wonderful contribution to our HMI experience. We said goodbye to the mountains and headed off for the canyons in Utah. Our group was in the Slickhorn Canyon/Grand Gulch area, and we really enjoyed it!

Our favorite moment of the trip was on our last hiking day in Slickhorn Canyon where we had the opportunity to climb high above the canyon wash to explore a set of ruins hidden away in an alcove. We saw old granaries where the Puebloans stored corn and found pottery shards. Eventually, we climbed down a ladder into “Perfect Kiva”—an underground, religious space. Our group spent time in the kiva as we do in our community meetings on campus—with seven minutes of silence. For each of us, the experience was a very spiritual one and involved significant reflection on our time at HMI.

We can’t believe how quickly our last expedition flew by, and that now we’re headed home for Thanksgiving!  Don’t worry, there will still be more updates to come when we return to campus for our final weeks of Semester 33!

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