Expedition Group A started off the trip south of HMI doing trail work near Twin Lakes. We quickly became accustomed to hauling wheelbarrows full of dirt across a bridge to the trail site and tamping the dirt down. When we finished there, we drove north past HMI where we met with Liz’s group the next day to do more trail work. That morning we were all surprised when we woke up to a collapsing tarp, and looked outside to see a blanket of snow. We met up with Andrea from the Forest Service who gave us tools, and then we walked to the new trail work site. At this point we were pros at hauling and tamping dirt, and building French drainages. With both of our teams working together, we accomplished so much that we did not need to return for the second day of work at that site. On our third day, we drove south to the base of Mt. Elbert where attempted the summit early the next morning. We hiked for about two hours in the dark until we stopped to look down at Leadville lit up in the darkness. We watched the sunrise and took lots of photos before continuing on our way. We reached the top around 12pm and celebrated with Swedish Fish and took many more photos from the highest point in Colorado. We made it back to camp at 4pm and took naps before making dinner. Over the next five days we made our way back to HMI. These five days were full of games like “Little Sally Walker” or “Pika Pika” and many more snowball fights. On our second-to-last day we woke up to the most snow we had seen and our morning meeting quickly turned into a snowball fight and snowman building. On our last morning, we walked 6 miles back to HMI and felt the familiar feeling of going down the driveway, only this time on foot. We are happy to be home, but already missing expedition.
Expedition Group B spent our first few days of expedition at Missouri Gulch. We did trail work with Spencer and Margaret from Colorado Fourteeners Initiative before getting dumped on with four inches of snow on the second night. Our spontaneous dances and games to stay warm will never be forgotten. Our instructor team of Dylan, Avery, and Alex smartly decided that hacking at the frozen ground was not too productive so on the third day we did our science lab reports and our history readings instead of trail work before getting re-rations from Andrew. On the fourth day, we conquered the snowy hike over Elkhead Pass to begin the backpacking part of our expedition. We found a flat section along the Colorado Trail to camp for the night. After making a delicious dinner of stir-fry and brownie scramble we had a meaningful talk under the stars. On day five we had a lovely four-mile hike to a site with abandoned cabins that we got to explore before our Practices & Principles class. For dinner we all got together and made backcountry pizza. On the sixth day, we gained a few thousand feet of elevation hiking up toRainbow Lake. The maps confused us and we ended up on a ridge where we had a beautiful view of the Arkansas Valley. When we got to the lake we wrote some poetry for our English class, ate pasta, and went to sleep. We woke up at 5:00am to grab a bagel on the way to watch the sunrise. We climbed up onto a ridge and watched the sun come up and then started our ascent up Mount Harvard. It was a long, breathtaking hike. We could see the peak from about half way up the mountain and that motivated us tremendously. Another thing that kept us going was the wildlife. First we saw a herd of about 30 elk cross through a field in front of us and soon after we scared a herd of goats and they ran up the ridge and summited the mountain that was daunting us. Four hours later we scrambled up a rocky snowfield and collapsed with relief on the peak of Mount Harvard. When we got back to camp we read our English book Ceremony and recovered from the long day. On day eight we left Rainbow Lake and hiked around the outskirt of Mount Harvard to Harvard Lakes. This last night was cold and rainy but we made the best out of it. We all caroled and told stories, remembering all the brilliant little moments that only the 12 of us will ever truly understand. On the last day we got up and debriefed our experiences before hiking out to the bus. It is nice to be back with beds and bathrooms but we do miss the simplicity of the woods on expedition.
Expedition Group C started our 2nd Expedition with a short twenty-minute ride to a trailhead near the Mount Massive Wilderness area. There we rendezvoused with Abby and Annisa from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, who we would be collaborating with on trail work for the next couple of days. We then grabbed some hard hats and heavy trail tools including shovels, pickaxes, heavy rock bars, and rakes and headed out on a three-mile hike to our base camp in the foothills of Mount Massive. Eventually, we arrived and set up our tarps and stoves for our base camp, where we would be staying for the next four nights. In the morning, we bundled into our puffy jackets and pants, met back up with our CFI friends and headed out with light daypacks along with our work gear, up the Mount Massive trail. Hiking uphill with the rock bar was hard work, but we were well rewarded with a beautiful view of Leadville when we reached above tree line. We got to work fixing up a social trail that had been started on the side of the main trail, trampling the delicate alpine landscape. For a couple of hours we were hard at work digging up rocks and moving them onto the social trail, allowing the plants to regrow where they had been trampled. In addition to this, we also dug out an eroding side of a trail and filled it with flat rocks and dirt, stopping erosion and allowing for more plant growth. After the trail work we were exhausted and returned back to camp just in time for dinner. On the third morning, we woke up to even more snow on the ground and October began to feel more and more like winter. We then started the hike back down to the trailhead we started at. We dropped off our tools, said goodbye to the CFI leaders, and gathered up our re-ration bins to fill up our backpacks with new food. All packed up, we headed back to our basecamp. The next morning, we packed up our bags to summit Mount Massive. The hike was long, uphill, and pretty daunting at first but with some good trail conversations and good spirits, we made it up to the ridge where the summit was farther up. On the ridge, we bundled up in some layers and hiked along the snowy ridge in single file. Up there, the wind was very strong and the temperature was cold so we kept moving along. We climbed and climbed until we got near the summit where we casually ran into another expedition group led by Josh, who was also summiting that day. After a nice hug line 14,400 feet in the sky we continued on to the summit of the second highest mountain in Colorado. It took us about six hours in total to reach the summit, but we were rewarded with a beautiful view in every single direction. The next morning we had our mid-expedition check-ins with our advisors. We then got into three new hiking groups and set out on a six-mile hike to our next campsite. Along the trail we passed Native Lake, climbed a big hill, and crossed a saddle in a high pass that led us downhill to another trailhead. After a quick break and snack, we got ready to travel off trail and reach our campsite near Hagerman Lake. We navigated our way through the woods using natural features and maps and eventually all made it to the campsite. The following day, we took a quick hike over to the Hagerman tunnel, where we had our English class. We both read and wrote some nice poems and had sunny weather to enjoy it all in. After lunch we headed back into the field for science class, where we tested our hypotheses with our own deigned experiments and then calculated some interesting results. Continuing with our full day of academics, we had a class on gender and leadership followed by another history study hall where we got to create a song about the American Revolution. We woke up early to the last day of our expedition and hiked as one big group off-trail to the trailhead where we were picked up. After a thirty-minute ride, we finally made it back to HMI, and organized and de-issued our gear. Second expedition was a good one with a lot of enjoyable memories.
Expedition Group D started out the expedition by driving to a trailhead on the south side of Mt. Massive. We met up with people from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative and had a beautiful stream close by our first campsite. The weather was really cold all day, so much colder than we expected. This expedition was cool because we were all friends before, but had the opportunity to get so much closer. At Circle, we all expressed the same feeling: we’re excited to get to know each other on a deeper level. That’s what makes expedition so fun. One of the members of our group is really into Dungeons and Dragons, so a small group of us stayed together to play a few rounds. It was awesome. We looked up at the stars, and they truly were incredible; the Milky Way was so clear and there were thousands of stars shining down on us. At 7:30 we met up with the people from CFI and headed up the trail. It was gently snowing, and the white flurries were truly beautiful on the way up. We started out by closing social trails. We used rocks, fallen trees, and we planted willows to keep people from going on the wrong path. We built some cairns to mark the right trails for hikers and then we began to build drainages to help with water runoff and erosion. The next morning, we left at 7:30 to hike up Mt. Massive, the second tallest peak in Colorado at 14,429 feet. It was a long, long, day filled with trail songs, cool stories, trail Dungeons and Dragons and really cool people. We summited the peak around 2:30, which totals about 7 hours just to get up the mountain. The whole way up it was gorgeous, and as we reached top, we could see another HMI group heading up too. We waved to them from our perch on the ridge. We could see all of Leadville and Turquoise Lake and the whole Arkansas Valley sprawled out in front of us. It was awesome. We walked through a couple feet of snow on top of the ridge in order to make our way to the peak. Finally, once we hit the peak, we hung out for a little while and took some really nice pictures. It was super windy up there and very cold. But we had a truly incredible 360-degree view all around us. The Rockies are quite a sight from up there. And there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky: it was a beautiful blue and the sun was bright. All of the mountains were dusted in snow and everything around us was white and blue, white and blue, and wonderful. We then did a ceremony where we dedicated the peak to someone we love. As we began to head back along the ridge to work our way down the mountain, we ran into the other expedition group. We said hello and hugged everybody. The rest of expedition was an experience that consisted of us all getting to know each other. All we had to entertain ourselves was each other in the backcountry, so we had to have really cool conversations with people. At the end of each day, we found ourselves feeling incredibly grateful to be in such an amazing place with such amazing people. There was nowhere else we wanted to be. We thought a lot about ourselves and the type of leaders we want to be. We thought about our experiences and our backgrounds in comparison to other people. We thought about how these differences make us a stronger group. We thought about what it means to stay positive, what it really means, and how it defines your character when you’re caught in bad weather, or adverse circumstances. Part of us didn’t want to leave the next day. But the last day, the 12th, we celebrated a birthday and what better way to start it off than to watch the sun rise over the Arkansas Valley and reflect off of Mt. Massive with the world covered in snow. Pink, orange, purple, cotton candy colors and peach in the distance. It was a moment to remember. We hiked out this day and headed back to HMI. It was sad to leave the backcountry, but there were so many people we were excited to see.
Snow greeted Expedition Group E the second we stepped out of the bus to start our expedition. To start off the trip, we met up with Andrea, who works with the Forest Service. Once we grabbed some shovels, axes, dirt bags, and pickaxes, we started to hike to our trail work site. The first afternoon we filled a turnpike with dirt that we had dug up and collected. After a few hours, we hiked back down to our campsite. Following study hall, class, and our first backcountry dinner of the trip, we met up and started our evening tradition. We played eechie-meenie-hoy, had spotlight to learn about each other, and had a beautiful Circle under the stars. Following goodnight wishes from our expedition leaders, we went to bed. The second morning, we woke up to a couple inches of snow. Squeezing in some quick sledding, we got in a few smiles before the trek up to the work site. We met up with Libbey’s group to construct a whole turnpike from scratch. It was amazing to see how much work we could do with our bare hands and a couple of tools. The third morning we awoke to even a bit more snow and quite the view of Homestake Mountain. We drove to our next trailhead and re-rationed for the second stretch. We then climbed up about 1000 feet to a very cold campsite on a ridge. We had a brief circle looking out over Leadville on one side and Mount Massive on the other and then bundled up in our sleeping bags. The following morning we had class, study hall, and a nice yoga session before leaving camp. Next, we set out for our 4 mile hike to the designated camp site by the Massive trailhead, which we completed in about an hour and a half. We had a leadership class and then set up our one and only group kitchen of the trip. It was also a designated campsite, so we were able to have a campfire and still respect our LNT principles. While we had Circle, and a fox paid us a couple visits. We shouted for Torey to scare the “critter” away, which she did, even though he kept returning. After an exciting evening, we hung our food bags and headed for our tarps. Alarms started going off around 4:30am. We all packed up some lunches and warm layers before starting our trek up the tallest mountain in Colorado: Mt. Elbert. The sun began to rise just as we were getting above tree line. Riddles about staying in certain cities for a few days, singing Taylor Swift, and crazy stories got us through the 4,000 feet of elevation and numerous false peaks. Along the way, Liz had us gather rocks that represented a person we wished could climb Elbert with us but was not able to. At the top be had a beautiful ceremony where we shared who we brought with us. We made our way down after taking a ton of pictures, half walking and half sliding down on our butts. The next day was Alex’s birthday, so we obviously decided to wake him up with a booming chorus of the happy birthday song. Our last full day entailed a quick hike down to the Lily Ponds where we saw some beaver dams. The rain, which had held off the whole expedition, made sure to pay us a visit before we left the backcountry. Eventually the rain died down and we were able to have an amazing final night together. We sang, played limbo, and ate carrot cake to celebrate Alex’s birthday. We calmed down and got to reminisce about the 8 previous days and how much we grew and learned. We enjoyed a beautiful last night under the stars. Our final hike together was short and downhill. We all walked down to Twin Lakes together, thinking about our mornings singing self worth and the penguin song and evenings full of cinnamon roll hugs and thoughtful conversations in the moonlight. Second expedition was an incredible experience, we had a wonderful group, and learned so much about ourselves and each other.