Group A had a blast in the canyons! After a fun-filled bus ride, we headed into this new environment. Even though it rained, we stayed in high spirits through constant singing. We also got to rappel into the canyon. Our layover days were filled with reading Into the Wild, doing our science field study, as well as hiking up to Jacob’s Chair for a geology lesson. We also experienced a hair-cutting salon in the middle of a mesa! We were all sad to see our final HMI expedition come to an end, though we did spend the ride home jamming to lots of music and eating ice cream!
Group B had an amazing expedition, and there was a LOT of singing. One day the I-Team “ghosted” us to our campsite, and Leslie taught us a song that her teacher taught her in 5th grade. It was really cute and fun to sing on trail, but then Leslie got super sick of it and we didn’t. Needless to say she was not pleased when that became our expedition anthem. There were some nights where we sat stargazing, and screaming Adele’s “Hello” at the top of our lungs. There were also several (much more than several) covers of Taylor Swift on trail. But boy was it hard to get going sometimes. We changed our watches to “Canyon Time” so we could maximize the amount of sunlight that we get daily. The problem was that the sun was never up when we were packing our packs, so we never wanted to take off our puffys. But you know, you just have to be bold and start cold. And lastly, we have all collectively agreed that we were in fact camping in a rain forest and not a desert, because we got 8 inches of precipitation in the week and a half that we were there. We definitely weren’t expecting to have to deal with rain/hail/snow, but it makes a great story. Our last night we all slept outside and had an astrobivy, and Molly sang us a very relevant lullaby called “I Want to Linger.” We sang that (and Leslie’s song) all the way back home. We’re all sad that our last expedition is over, but we will always be “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Puff Pants”.
Once settled, Group C could already notice how different and open the environment was. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and no mountains in sight! Rather, there were plateaus along with massive canyons. Our group started heading towards a rock formation known as Jacob’s Chair, as it looked like a chair jutting out of the flat, sandy landscape. After some sightseeing and a single night staying near the chair we headed out towards another peculiar land formation known as the Cheesebox. While traversing across the desert landscape we played games like canyon ball, which was a modified version of soccer that we played on the flattest pieces of rock and dirt we could find. Overall our trip was different from our previous expeditions and there was never a moment that wasn’t breathtaking and enjoyable. We’re sad to see that our expedition journeys have come to a close, but glad we ended it in such a great way.
On night 7 of Group D’s expedition, our tarp was ripped off of us at 3 am, the nightmare of rain, sleet, and screaming gale having deemed our campsite unworthy of its pity. Ian seized control of the situation, but his commands of “We have to find shelter under the other boys’ tarp!” hardly reached my ears as the wind screamed its own commands to my sleeping bag, my ground cloth, and my happiness. In with the rush of blistering weather came painful despair, and I clutched my sopping sleeping bag to myself like a safety blanket. I spent the night shivering in and out of sleep, trying to remember what dryness felt like. When I awoke the next morning, all ten of my digits felt less like extremities and more like dill pickles that had stewed in their own juices for a few days too many. To make matters worse, Jack Florio, who was a resident of the tarp we had sheltered beneath, was dealing with the small puddles that had formed around his toes that night. Meanwhile, I could feel myself growing gills. But before we could think about our discomfort much longer, the sun–the warm, drying, spectacular sun–was rising, and suddenly nothing else mattered. I bolted out of the tarp as fast as my fins could carry me, seeking patches of warm rays. But alas, none presented themselves. Instead, we were forced to wolf down breakfast, change into some more moderately damp clothing, and hurriedly stuff our bags before a second storm rolled in. We had scarcely made it 100 feet on trail before the sky released not rain, but hornets of hail and deafening cracks of thunder. Suddenly, the weather changed again, and fat, wet snowflakes began to coat our canyon of crimson and yellow with white. It was a Winter Wonderland. Jack Sadoff still managed to find and fall wholly into a cactus, mind you, but it was a Winter Wonderland nonetheless. Anywhere else, this morning would be more than enough excuse for negative attitudes, complaining, and general unhappiness. But we were in the canyons, and their beauty was more than enough to lift our spirits. The true beauty of the canyons, that which revealed itself to us that morning, is elusive. You can only find it in torrential downpour at 3 am, as a combination of chilling rain and a constant adrenaline high. Or the next morning, as you step into a riverbed that was dry just the previous day, and when you glance up in exasperation, you notice a gentle waterfall cascading from the upper cliffs, trapping the sun in its droplets as it falls. You see the beauty as you tiptoe between a drop to your left that falls to the San Juan River and the 100-foot cliff face to your right, and your foot pushes a tiny avalanche to the depths below, revealing a single, yellow, cheerful flower. The beauty of the canyons is that they are beyond your control. You must earn the privilege of seeing their beauty. Only then will they reveal it to you, whether you’re ready or not.
Group E, wearing tutus and 60-pound packs, trekked into the Grand Gulch on a bright sunny morning, not knowing what to expect but ready for anything. For most of us, it was our first time in the canyons. We ogled at the walls rising up around us, rocks balanced precariously above us. Most of the trail conversation was about the scenery, about the awe that we all felt. Although at first the going was easy and we followed a well-worn trail, it took some time to get used to the maps. However, we were also in the mood to have fun! Emma V. introduced us to Camouflage, a game like hide-and-go-seek where everyone runs and hides for 20 seconds and then an “Eagle” stands in one spot and tries to find the hidden people. There are three rounds, each round the “hiders” get closer. The goal is to catch the Eagle before she finds you. One day we took a detour and saw cave drawings, painted hundreds of years ago by the Anasazi people of the desert. That day was three miles and took us six hours, whereas the next day we hiked six miles in six hours–steady progress! Over the next two days we fell in the mud at least two times each, and helped each other up as many times. We also had our first experience with prickly bushes, which caused thousands of scratches on 12 sets of legs. Overall we felt such powerful camaraderie throughout the trip. We got into camp after the sun went down two times, hiked a 13 hour day with one rappel and three hours of cliff hugging, and walked through a blizzard that lasted a day and two nights in good spirits the whole time. We had three layover days to recharge and rest, all of them beautiful. We cleaned our hair with camp suds in a waterfall. We found a turquoise pool, sat in the sun after the snow, and wrote lab reports. Yes, we were tired, yes we were sore, but we were together as strong independent women.