Semester 37: First Expedition

Expedition Group A had a trip to remember. Our group was full of energy and beautiful singing voices. Caroline and Julia always made sure there was at least one song being sung at every moment in time. Our hikes were full of laughter and games and our campsites were full of either unreal hail and lightning or amazing skies with a clear view of the Milky Way. Our group was also lucky enough to summit Mount Yale, even though the weather was no so ideal. Getting to the top was amazing and highly rewarding. Despite the fact that we couldn’t see 20 feet in front of us, we knew that we had come a long way and we felt proud that we had persevered through such a tough hike. On the last night we slept under the stars, which was the perfect way to end the trip. There were certainly challenging parts of this expedition, but we all had the time of our lives.

Having only known the entire semester for two days, going off on our first expedition and getting to know an even smaller group of 10 students was an exciting experience for Expedition Group B. We hiked over 50 miles in 12 days, peaked a 13,200 foot mountain in a hail storm, and played lots of fun trail games along the way. In addition to all the hiking, we had many classes throughout the day, ranging from wilderness ethics and L.N.T (Leave No Trace) to leadership styles and group conflict resolution. For English we read A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, a short story for P&P (Practices and Principles), a few articles for history on the 15th and 16th centuries in the Americas, and a poem in Spanish. All of these assignments had an underlying theme of the relationship we have with nature and the environment. They also created ample opportunities to find our own space, whether by a lake we had hiked to or in an open meadow surrounded by trees and mountains, to reflect on the experience we had embarked on. On top of the games played and discussions had in the backcountry, cooking was another favorite activity. Cheesy bagels, brownie scramble, and pasta with vegetables were among some of the best meals we cooked in the last two weeks. One of the most memorable and rewarding parts of the expedition was reaching the top of a ridge or a peak, turning around, and seeing how far we had come since the first day.

Expedition Group C had two weeks full of bonding, fun, summits, and firsts. Every night in our circle discussions, we talked about everything from biggest fears to proudest moments. Overall we talked about a lot of important experiences in our lives and no one held back. Every night we engaged in a different game, from Vegetable-Vegetable to Pteradactyl. We summited two peaks on the trip, Mt. Aetna (13,450) and Mt. Ouray (13,979). Aetna was first, and the scramble up the ridge was unforgettable. However, the experience was a bit overshadowed by our sunrise summit of Mt. Ouray. In 3 hours (3 am to 6 am) we were able to walk the miles and gain the elevation needed just in time to reach the summit as the sun rose over the ridge in the distance. It’s something burned into most of our group’s memories forever. Additionally, many people on the trip encountered a lot of firsts. For some it was their first time camping, while for others it was their first time cooking pizza in the woods. All in all, everyone had a great trip and we all can’t wait for next expedition.

Expedition Group D cultivated a close relationship with the natural world. Each and every morning, with 40 pounds on our backs, we started on a 3-4 mile hile. Starting at Starvation Creek, we settled on the base of Mt. Ouray on the second night. With the night stars above us, we woke up at 4:00 am to summit the mountain. As we tackled each ridge the sun would rise beside our shoulders. When we got to the peak, we sat down and let the moment soak in, appreciating our surroundings and accomplishments. Every night we would sit around in a circle, sharing parts of ourselves and our stories. Though getting lost, having a broken stove, and losing a tarp to the strong winds in the middle of the night were challenging, these moments shaped us and helped us to appreciate the smaller things in life. The erratic weather was a hindrance but it only reminded us of how powerful nature is. When hiking, we were also reminded of the fact that we were stepping into the home of different plants and animals and we felt vulnerable knowing that nature exists in a world of its own and moves on without us. As we gathered together around a fire for the last night, we reflected on our incredible achievements and learned how to cope with our re-entry to the front-country. Filled with laughter, the Hamilton soundtrack, and “repeat-after-me” songs, our expedition never failed to remind us to have fun and embrace the present.

Overall Expedition Group E had a ton of fun. In the moment it was hard, cold, and challenging but it was probably one of the best experiences we all have ever had. We would wake up every morning and with our awesome tarp groups attempt to make a meal. They were usually delicious but there were also a fair share of meals that needed quite a bit of improvement. Then we would split up into our hiking groups and the L.O.D.(Leader of the Day) would attempt to get their group to the destination. We leaned navigation skills, communication skills, and how to work together. We all made S.M.A.R.T. goals and everyone accomplished something. We summited Buckeye Peak and Homestake Peak and they were some of the prettiest views we had. With snow on the first day, we all huddled together to stay warm, and in the process, began building close relationships. Most nights we would look at the stars together and it was such an amazing view. We all enjoyed each campsite we stayed at but the ones with close water were definitely preferred. By doing most things on our own, we all gained so much. Our 10 students and 3 instructors made the group work, so without them it would have been an entirely different experience. First expedition was amazing and we all can’t wait for the next one.

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