Group A: The beginning of our expedition started on a snowy road that went on for five miles. We were all equally excited and anxious to start our journey. The first day was pretty rough and it took us some time to adjust to the weight of our packs on our back. We did not make it to our planned campsites due to the unexpected snow and ended up setting up camp in the middle of the road. We woke up early the next day and our instructors taught us how to make cheesy bagels! After our delicious breakfast we packed up and post-holed our way down the snowy road. We soon made it to our planned campsite, called Drill Hole. Happy to be sleeping on slick rock and not snow, we excitedly set up camp and went on a day hike into the canyon and saw ancient ruins. The next day we made our way into the canyon with our packs. Navigating through the canyons with packs on our backs proved to be a challenge for most but we finally made our way to the bottom of the canyon. We spent the next couple days hiking through the canyon, camping on a nice slick rock next to ruins with a great view of the hundreds of stars in the night sky. Then, sad to leave our home in the canyons, but excited about what was ahead of us at the High Mountain Institute, we began the ascent up to the mesa, and out to our van in which sat our cozy cotton clothes.
Group B: In order to get to Utah for our first expedition, a group of fifteen strangers had to embark on an eight hour van ride—and nothing brings a group of strangers together like an eight hour van ride. Within the first hour or so we were bonding over music, movies, and tv shows and talking like we’d known each other for way more than a handful of hours. This ambitious attitude to get to know each other only fueled our expedition group’s grand success. Within the next two weeks we were hiking across stretches of the desert, stomping up and over snowy mesas, wading through ice cold water in the bottom of a canyon, and observing ruins left by the Anasazi people. We let go of any worry about the way we looked or the way we acted in order to truly discover what it meant to live simply and be free. Each day we would break up into two or three small hiking groups which allowed us all to really get to know each other. One particularly long day was spent singing as many songs as we could remember and then making up our own once we’d completed our repertoire. We shared one of our creations on the second-to-last night of exped; we held a “Tarp Group Talent Show” and opened the show with one of our original songs (it was a hit!). The show also consisted of a demonstration from the I-Team on what to do after eating lots of beans and cheese, a unique version of “I’m a Little Teapot,” a yoga-inspired performance of the creation of Canyonlands, and the winning number, “The 12 days of Exped” which reminisced on the past days of exploration. While we all have many different interests and reasons for being a part of HMI, we created incredible friendships that greatly helped with the transition to HMI life. To celebrate our success and final hours together as a group, we spent the last night sleeping together in a circle under the stars—a moment never to be forgotten.
Group C: It feels like we just got to HMI, but we’re already 20 days in. It probably feels that way because we spent 14 of those days hiking through the canyons of Utah. We started our journey by first dividing up sleeping bags and tarps, gear, and food, and learning about “Backcountry Hygiene.” Before we knew it, we were on our way—spending the next eight hours in a bus that took us out of Colorado and into the deserts of Utah. We assumed that the desert might be warmer than the state we left behind, but the first night proved us wrong. We arrived at our first campsite, and quickly noticed that the ground was covered in snow. We spent the first night learning how to cook in the backcountry, and shivering in our sleeping bags (some of us regretting the path of events that took us there)—but when we woke, we were greeted by a beautiful desert landscape. Buttes, mesas, and spires surrounded us and the people debating whether they had made a terrible decision in coming quickly changed their minds. Fortunately, the days became increasingly warmer as the trip progressed and by the last day almost everyone was in shorts—one tarp group even went wading in a small pool of water in the nearest canyon. We spent the days in between those first and last taking academic and wilderness classes, hiking through canyons, becoming increasingly comfortable (and unclean) as a group, and going to bed at nine (at the latest). In history and English we read short stories and historical texts about the Anasazi people, and even visited petroglyphs (rock carvings) that were 800 years old, created by the same people. We learned about land management, specifically regarding the newly declared Bears Ears National Monument and discussed everything from how math can help solve humanity’s problems to how one can effectively go to the bathroom in the woods. All in all it was an incredible, life changing trip that will not soon be forgotten.
Group D: On our first expedition, 12 of us drove down to southern Utah to Bears Ears National Monument. We spent 14 days backpacking along the canyon floors, bonding and laughing along the way. As the expedition progressed, each person’s personality began to shine through more and more. We ended each day with classes, games, and Circle. We had classes about the natural world, Spanish, math, and everything in between. We played every game under the sun including silent football, pterodactyl, and ninja. We learned how to orient a map without a compass due to the features of the canyons. The best part though was the food. Each tarp group (consisting of 3-4 students), had their own stove and ration of food. We made gourmet meals: cheesy hashbrowns for breakfast, granola, seed mix, soy nut butter, and jolly ranchers for lunch, and cheesy pesto pasta for dinner—all of that topped off with some nice scrambled brownies for dinner! As the trip came to an end, we would look up at the interminable sky and gaze in awe at the stars. We learned all about new constellations including Pleiades and Orion’s Belt. On our way back to campus we all ran into the first gas station we saw and asked who won the Superbowl. While it was a great end to the trip for some, others were not too happy!
Group E: For our first expedition, we traveled through Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. The night before we drove down to Utah it was -24 degrees in Leadville, and when we tried to leave in the morning our bus’s engine wouldn’t work. But we finally did get it working, and our trip began. We spent the next 14 days hiking through canyons and on top of mesas, playing games, doing classes, and sleeping under the stars. All of it was amazing, but one moment in particular sticks out for us. On Day 9, we came across a section of icy water at the base of a canyon that we needed to get through. It ended up being quite deep, and we ended up hiking through it for 45 minutes. The whole time we were pushing ice chunks aside to get through, and the only noises were grunts and screams. It sounds horrible, but we had an amazing time. We came together as a group to overcome the challenge, and it was an incredible bonding moment. We’d do it all over again. Not all of our trip was that wild, though. Most of the time we were comfortably hiking through the canyons, admiring the landscape around us. We formed strong friendships with each other, and with our instructors. We learned a lot about how the canyons around us were formed, and about who inhabited these canyons hundreds of years ago. We saw incredible sunsets, towering buttes, and even an Anasazi cliff dwelling. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and can’t wait for our next expedition.