The time was January 25th. The place was the canyons of southeastern Utah, and the protagonists were 48 slightly awkward and confused high school juniors, along with a slew of trusty instructors. Our heroes braved the land for fourteen days, embracing rain, shine, cliffs, mesas, and kitchen disasters. But most importantly, they faced themselves, and took away something far greater than can be explained in this brief introductory paragraph. Here are their stories.
During Group A’s expedition we climbed in and out from canyons on to mesas, with our end goal being Jacob’s Chair. As a group we grew very close; everyone started out reserved and quiet but soon after we were all very loud and always singing. Even through some of the longest and hardest days everyone had a very positive and enthusiastic attitude. There are so many things that happened on this trip that we’re sure no one will ever forget. Our night hike in which we used the moon to light our path to our next camp site, moving through a freezing cold puddle inside the canyon because there was no other way around, repelling ourselves up and over a rock only using a carabineer, many food catastrophes, and having a science class while sitting on Jacob’s Chair overlooking all the miles we hiked.
No mental picture can ever describe Group B’s experience as a whole and do it justice, but we’re going to try anyways. Imagine 14 people. Now imagine a chair. Jacob’s Chair, which is actually a big rock that arguably resembles a chair. These 14 people explored the canyon, using this chair and the stars as their guide. We hiked in the spirit of adventure and in search of understanding- be it of the landscape, of ourselves, or of each other. The road may have been difficult at times (packs were pretty heavy, a few buckles may have been lost in a rope haul, and sometimes our culinary creations left us… well, just wanting to taste something) but it was when we left the metaphorical road, abandoned our social pretenses and our fears and our toilet paper, that we made something really special. We made a connection. We made a connection so strong, we convinced the fry cook at Milts to open an hour early, just so that we could have victory milkshakes. We made a connection so strong, that no one could take it away from us. And we made it together.
Group C hiked up and down and all around Jacob’s Chair, 8 hours away from HMI. Days were long and tiring, but extremely rewarding. Our longest day was our hike into and back out of a canyon, only to be greeted by 7 more miles ahead of us. The day went by quickly as we shared stories about ourselves. On layover days we sat along the canyons edges scribing away in our journals and reading about our surroundings. On our last night we all slept outside of our tarps, falling asleep to the sight of Orion’s belt. Our trip was a success filled with both tears and laughter, nearly impossible to summarize in one short paragraph.
Group D started the fourteen day expedition by hiking into Owl Canyon, exiting Fish Canyon, going into Grand Gulch, and finally exiting in Bullet Canyon. In Fish and Owl Canyons we took a day hike up to Neville’s Arch, survived a 36 hour rain storm, and familiarized ourselves with not only our instructors and our peers, but with backcountry living as a whole. In Grand Gulch and Bullet Canyon, with the awkward get-to-know-you phase behind us, we enjoyed the final days of our adventure by exploring the many ruins and by baking various meals such as pizza and cinnamon rolls. The eight hour bus ride home, which we dreaded on our way to the canyons, flew by. Instead of strangers, we were long-time friends.
Group E began the expedition by descending into Bullet Canyon. Our Expedition leaders, Whitney, Andrew, and Edie, pointed us in the right direction and helped us through our struggles. The first day, by far, was one of our hardest, managing the weight of our packs and a new form of travel. Our group bonded instantly though and there was never a dull moment. Bob Marley was praised and chanted, mountain goat Andrew never failed to impress us, and our laughter rung throughout the canyons. Our food was savory, delicious, and we had the best fried Milky Way bars ever made. 12 random strangers soon became a close-knit family. We hiked by ancient ruins, slept under the stars, and made memories that will last a lifetime. We had our study halls on top of mesas, under the warm sun, and in the most mystic locations. Overall our experience can’t be summed up in one paragraph, but we will always hold the fond memories with us.