We have arrived back to campus after our third and final expedition! Here are our stories:
Group A’s expedition group comprised of smelly socks, sandy couscous, plenty of Milky Ways, and laughter to the point that our insides hurt. Returning to the canyons brought both feelings of familiarity and relief for many of us, although each day presented new challenges. In contrast to our previous expeditions, returning to the canyons meant that we had the opportunity to “earn independence” from our instructors. At times, this meant going 24 hours without their assistance. Having this privilege was extremely rewarding and meant that there was a level of trust between us and the instructors. Although not everything went according to plan 100% of the time, these are the experiences that help us to come together and ultimately meet our full potential as outdoor campers.
Group B got to travel around Jacobs Chair under Westly’s fearless leadership. The first few days of the trip we had plenty of water, and one day we had to wade through a section of a slot a canyon. It was a chilly experience but we dried off quickly and kept our spirits high. That day we spent eleven hours finding our way up, over, and around the boulders that cluttered the canyon. We were proud to find our way, and even set up a hand line without the help of our instructors. A few days later we were not so lucky with water but had a great time figuring out how to “dry camp.” We ended up having to change our route a bit in order to find water. This change allowed us to take a fun day hike up to the Jacobs Chair mesa, where we stopped to explore some abandoned cars and had an enjoyable photo shoot. Almost every night our whole group slept out together under the stars. We loved getting to know the canyons and bonding as a group. After having hot and sunny weather for most of the trip we were surprised to wake up to fresh layer of snow on the ground on the final morning. Although we were sad for our final expedition to come to a close, the snow made us excited to return to the creature comforts of the front country!
Group C returned to the canyons with nightly read alouds, lots of laughter, a lack of water, and newfound independence. Led by Claire C as our SEL (student expedition leader), our group navigated the Jacobs Chair area and encountered a lack of reliable water sources, forcing us to re-route much of our trip. Despite the redirection, we took time to explore the landscape around us and approached the famous Jacobs Chair that we had been circumnavigating. The weather was hot, although on the last day it snowed as we woke up. Through our independent travel we managed to stay in touch with our surroundings and display competence in navigation. Memorable moments included when everyone got cornrows in their hair, having group kitchens, crazy wind storms, and sleeping out under the stars every night.
Group D started in Collin’s Canyon and went to the San Juan River and back up into Slickhorn canyon. On our first day we performed a ritualistic returning of a pottery shard to a ruin cite. We also decided to cover two day’s distance in one day, and our total distance was about 11.5 miles. After several days of travel we reached the San Juan River, where we waded and played football with passing kayakers. During a scouting trip, the instructor team discovered an antlered skull of a deer, and decided to take it with them for the rest of the trip. It now hangs on HMI campus outside of the apprentice house. On our last independent student travel day (also the last travel day of the trip) we encountered a spill off in our path that prevented us from travelling the route we had planned. We decided to backtrack and get above the canyon, and successfully found a safe and quick route to the top. The weather was excellent and everyone slept outside of the tarps every night.
Group E had a great time in the canyons. We spent most of our time in a canyon called Grand Gulch. The trip comprised of many highlights. We explored ruins of ancient peoples and hiked long days. Generally by night we were all tired and ready to sleep under the stars. Pillow talk was necessary though. No day would end without a scary story or a meaningful circle topic. We had funny experiences that ended up showing us how prepared we were. We made great meals and were grateful that we packed extra brownie mix. During our last night, snow fell from the sky into the early morning. Many of us were sleeping under the stars and had to rush to the cover of our mids. We squeezed under two tarps and laughed at the weather. We woke up, packed our wet sleeping bags, and headed on back home to Leadville, ready to make the most of our remaining time on campus.