As spring break came to a rapid end, all 47 students swarmed into DIA to be picked up by the dusty white buses and their excited drivers. We hugged and laughed, and then hugged some more, just happy to be home. The days before expedition passed quickly, full of First aid, cutting 1-inch cubes of cheese, and tons of group bonding. Soon we were off, and Nora’s group (Maddie, Sam, Brita, Stokes, Lily, Fatou, and Zoe L.) piled into the van and headed back to Southern Utah for the second and final time. We ‘Pumped up the Jam’, listened to T-Swizzle (Taylor Swift), and stopped at every gas station imaginable. Soon, we had arrived at the head of a 5-mile dirt road leading into seemingly flat land. This landscape transformed into a maze of deep canyons and trickling streams as we hit the end of our ride. We lugged our heavy packs down, first Collins Canyon, Grand Gulch, then Slickhorn, and finally along the sunny banks of the San Juan river. We spent the days talking about Harry Potter and scrambling around, over, and sometimes through endless fields of boulders. We walked our distance (36 miles in 6 days) and on the final day, bushwhacked to “Lake Powell,” which was no longer much of a lake – and instead we swam in the Colorado River and had a mud fight! As we pulled into the parking lot of HMI, the hugging and “welcome homes” ensued and we happily devoured a dinner that was NOT cheesy mac.
As Matt’s group first departed on a bus to the canyons, we listened to the first seven and a half minutes of the Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight before it abruptly ended due to faulty download. Upon leaving, we fruitlessly tried to listen to the song again, only for history to repeat itself. Thankfully, Matt would repeat the first several lyrics (all he could recall) during our many adventures in the Jacob’s Chair area. These adventures ranged from swimming in ice cold slot canyons, retrieving tarps blown away by harsh gusts of wind, and constantly trying to create the perfect cover photo for our Facebook profiles. The weather was mostly kind to our expedition group, if we exclude the third and fourth days, in which rain/snow berated our backpacks. By day four our group had access to IST (Independent Student Travel), which we managed to receive by becoming more careful, deliberate, neat and self-sufficient. Not only did IST make our group stronger and closer, is also improved each of our leadership qualities. It also allowed for sledding down pebble riddled hills shirtless, our own individual Circle, and for people to be blessed with pre-tan sunburns. All in all, our trip was an unforgettable journey that could have only been accomplished with a great SEL, an awesome group of people, and trusting instructors.
Nick Tzannes’s third expedition started like every other HMIexpedition: filled with sunshine, laughter, and an overwhelming sense of joyful anticipation. From adventuring through slot canyons to watching the sun rise over the mesa, each day passed with new and challenging experiences. Even the warm temperature, finally above the typical 40 degrees that we have become accustomed to at HMI, was a source of new challenges and fun times for the group. Going on an expedition with only boys was certainly a change from our past experiences, but our fearless leader Chewie, on her last HMI expedition, kept us happily in line during our many shenanigans. Sleeping under the stars became the common sight each night, and conversations would usually last long past our self-set 8:30 pm bedtime. Our fourth day gave way to a couple hours of precipitation, but after losing a tarp to the wind and getting soaked, we found a sandy overhang and spent the next day reading “Into The Wild” in our cozy sleeping bags. A couple of scorpion sightings and countless Jolly Ranchers later, we found ourselves nearing the end of our final expedition at HMI. It was a bittersweet moment; we were sad to see the end of swimming through icy-cold water and sunbathing in the afternoons, but we were excited to go back to our home where our HMI friends were waiting.
For Abby Q’s group, the 8-hour van ride to the canyons was full of jamming and singing along to Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, and stopping to refuel on some sour patch kids and lucky charms. Once we arrived, we camped out with Nora’s group and had a conjoined Circle under the stars. The next day was the real start to our 10-day journey, which began with a 2-hour descent into Slickhorn Canyon. We stopped along the way to see some ancient Anasazi ruins, and explore the area. The following day was a long, confusing hike through boulder fields. We saw a huge yellow snake, a big spider, and a scorpion. The next few days were filled with jokes, hiking and laughter. On our third-to-last hiking day we climbed up a little cliff into Grand Gulch, which took most of the day, and then proceeded to go swimming. We finished off with a long 7-mile day under the sun, and finally re-connected with our vans. Earlier in the trip we combined two relatively short days, so with our extra day we drove over to Lake Powell and had a luxurious “beach day”. We ended the trip much like we started, singing to Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber and feasting on sour patch kids and lucky charms.
Liv’s group explored Fish and Owl Canyon for 3rd expedition. We called the canyon “Mama.” And for that week and a half, she nurtured, housed and took care of us. We met her our first day. Heavy packs on our shoulders, we peered down into the depths of the unfamiliar canyon, imagining the journeys that were to come. In the canyon, we wandered over boulders, across streams and through never ending bamboo fields; the whole time, Mama guiding us through the winding canyon with her tall orange walls. All day long, we laughed and we talked and smiled together as we started getting to know each other the way you only can on expedition. And at night we said “goodnight” and “I love you” and “sleep well,” and we listened to Mama lull us to sleep with her trembling wind and crisp spring air. On our second to last day we set out on a day hike. After only ten minutes, we found ourselves on a magical canyon beach, and couldnt help but toss our plans to hike in exchange for a day of relaxation and untroubled laughter. We built a sand castle before realizing that we’d have to destroy it in order to “leave no trace” and we tiptoed through the clear flowing river water, absorbed by the tiny black larvae suctioned to rocks all over the riverbed (don’t worry, they weren’t leeches). The whole time, we could feel Mama’s now farmiliar presence around us, warming us from the inside out. On our last day, with sunburnt cheeks, and greasy hair, we arrived at the same campsite that we had the first night. We said “goodbye” and “I love you” and “thank you” to Mama as we boarded the white HMI van, And once more, an immense excitement and joy came over us, the same way it did on our first night.