Hello there, parents, grandparents, friends, future gap students, and to anyone else reading! We just got back from our first expedition in the Sawatch Range outside of Leadville. We hiked around thirty miles over the span of eight days, with two days of climbing at a high alpine crag. We started the trip in unusually cold weather, hiking amidst shimmering aspen trees at the peak of their radiant colors. Perfectly symmetrical tiny snowflakes cascaded down, casting a calm across the meadow where we made our first camp. Despite the cold, we came together as a group quickly, playing many rounds of “Big Booty” and enjoying getting to know each other through “Circle.” Soon, the sun came out and days of hiking were glorious—no bugs, perfect temperatures, amazing mountain scenery. We arrived at our backcountry climbing site, excited for two days to get on the rock. A morning of bouldering was followed by attempts on granite slabs and cracks. Pizza night followed, where we experimented with gluten free baking (not advised), dessert pizza, and even ramen pizza, or ramizza! The final days were spent hiking to the base of Mt. Massive, a 14,000 ft. peak towering over the valley. Though we didn’t get to summit due to some rain, we all left feeling a sense of accomplishment for trying.
Spending eight days in the wilderness is a great way to begin this semester-long journey with a group of 19 goofy, friendly, and adventurous students and instructors. To some, backpacking is thought to be one of the greatest forms of entertainment that is encircled by nature, but to many its definition can mean something wildly different. Most would probably describe the sport in the words of Jim Gaffigan: “My wife says ‘camping’s a tradition in my family.’ It was a tradition in everyone’s family, until we invented the house.” Apparently Gaffigan never got the chance to hike while singing “Just Dance 3” classics or get the creative inspiration to invent an entire new food group. Whether you’re dressed to star in a hit music video for “It’s Raining Men” or cooking ramen into a homemade pizza, camping is made fun by what you make of it. Gaffigan wouldn’t “want to burn a couple of vacation days sleeping outside,” yet great moments can’t pop up every hour when vacationing at home. When backpacking, great moments happen without trying. Ramen pizza doesn’t take years to invent when improvisation is the most frequently performed task in nature. Laughter fills the air constantly as we become more present in the moment, simply enjoying each other’s company and making light of the challenges of weather, poor cooking, and living with less.
We leave today to begin the desert part of our semester, expanding our experience as climbers and starting a really cool trail project. Needless to say, we have returned from our backpacking trip closer as a group, a little bit hardened by the weather and climbing, and with greater appreciation for the small comforts of home.