It’s been about a week since expedition ended and we are all settling into our new home here at HMI. Our days are full of debates, science experiments, rock climbing, fly fishing, morning runs, and a fair share of laughter! The stars and wilderness that we experienced on expedition are sorely missed, but the HMI campus is not a bad place to call home for the next few weeks. Tuesday was cabin inspection, so we all cleaned our cabins and prepared bribes for the cabin inspector. Bribes ranged from original songs to artwork and flowers, in the hopes that the cabin would be chosen as the cleanest cabin in the summer-long competition.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, HMI took us around Leadville to different lakes to learn how to fish. Some of us were a bit luckier (or perhaps more skilled) than others, and caught upwards of six fish while others caught plenty of trees and bushes! Encouraging words were shared and plenty of the taller students were called upon to help untangle the hooks and lines from trees. Despite some frustrating first attempts, the camaraderie and good spirits were evident from the stories and jokes that were exchanged. As the week progressed, morale stayed high. On Friday we took a hike up to Timberline Lake to fish, and many of us caught our first fish! The quiet solitude of the lake and the relaxing rhythm of fly fishing made for a Friday afternoon well spent.
Academics this week were split between Humanities and Science. In our Science classes, we traveled to six different sites within the Arkansas River Valley to test water quality within a series of parameters, including dissolved oxygen levels, pH levels, turbidity, water temperature, and heavy metals presence. Our sites tested sections of water downstream of old mines and water treatment facilities, next to bustling highways, and near to neighborhoods. Humanities classes proved to be just as interesting. This week we studied the mining history of Leadville and took a trip into town to see the mining museum. The week ended with a spirited debate on the ethics of mining and its contributions to Leadville’s culture and economy by addressing its impact on the environment and the residents here.
Everyone was excited to take some time off and have a relaxing evening after a long day of activities on Friday. We knew that there was a square dance after dinner, but were excitedly confused about what that meant. Most people decided to wear some sort of Western clothing or donned costumes from the legendary HMI costume bin, and we all gathered in the parking lot as the caller, Randy, began to explain the first dance. At first the dance was simple: hold hands in a big circle and walk towards its center or walk to the left. As dust clouds formed in the parking lot, Randy began to call more and more difficult maneuvers. After two hours of dancing, everyone was exhausted and went inside to devour root beer floats before heading to bed.
Our Saturday was thrilling! After a bus ride full of singing and chatter on the way to the Arkansas River, we were all ready to raft. Looking ridiculous in PFDs and helmets, we listened to our guides’ safety talks and then carried our rafts to the riverbank. In groups of six or seven, we floated down the river and admired the environment around us. As much as the rapids were the highlight of the day, the beauty of the river valley amazed us too. The stunning wildlife and landscape of the valley seemed like a piece of artwork. Our fun raft guides kept us all informed about the river and happy in our rafts as we paddled and learned the importance of teamwork on the river. Overall, we bonded further with our peers and had the experience of a lifetime!
On Sunday, we ventured north to Vail to visit the Farmers’ Market. We roamed the streets in search of gifts, food, and free samples. Many people had come to show their artisan crafts and creations as well. The clothing and jewelry booths sprinkled among the delicious food booths provided the perfect break so that we could fully savor the last free sample we had just devoured. Some of the booths sold dumplings, homemade juices, kettle corn, sandwiches, fruit, and salads. After three hours in Vail, we were all excited to see what one another had bought and experienced. The bus ride flew by as everyone showed their purchases and chatted about the day. The majority of us returned with candy and snacks, while others returned with retro accessories and cool souvenirs. The whole experience was full of hilarious memories and yummy food, and we arrived back in campus excited for that night’s talent show.
Lots of people signed up to participate in the show to showcase their various talents. A group of boys performed a funny movie skit, two girls amazed the audience while juggling, and other students and faculty played instruments and graced the room with their beautiful voices. There were a few standout performances, including Marshall, a VMS (Vail Mountain School) student, rapping an original song that he had just written that day. It was impressive, especially considering that English is his second language. For the finale, Sherry (another VMS student), played a classical song on the piano and dazzled the crowd. Everyone who participated in the talent show did a great job! The night ended with a dance party in Who’s Hall before everyone went back to their cabins and quickly fell asleep.
Laughter can frequently be heard ringing through the woods just before lights out as we all share stories of our day with our bunk mates. Nightly guitar solos and singing can also be heard, drawing us all into a well-deserved night of sleep. As the halfway point of the Summer Term has come and gone, we are all having an amazing time here at HMI. The showers, clean clothes, and large community are a well-deserved luxury after expedition. In one more week, we will head back to the mountains for another eight days of backpacking. For now, we are all just enjoying each other’s company and loving a summer spent here in Leadville!