HMI Gap: Enchanted by the Canyons

Wilderness Group (F-Trek)

Written by Miranda Mix and Coleman Walsh

Salutations from the slot canyons of Southern Utah! Our group has been through thick and thin during the past two weeks. Whether through surveying the riparian zone in Bullet Canyon, or swimming through the murky, intimidating waters of Gravel Canyon, our group has bonded over the shared adversity and adventure of life in the desert.

HMI Gap student in Gravel CanyonEven though the expedition was challenging, both physically and inter-personally, we have come out on the other side stronger and with many great memories to share. Ally offered one of her favorite moments with us, which was stemming through the narrows in Upper Gravel Canyon. Stemming was a process that involved smearing and using friction to avoid swimming certain parts of the narrows. The day Ally referenced was one that included a myriad of technical obstacles, such as rappelling, going through third and fourth class terrain, and swimming with the assistance of a hand line. On that same day, Will experienced the height of his expedition, too. After stemming for 150 feet through the narrows, Will was the first to attempt a technical jump from a 15-foot ledge that opened up climatically to the end of the canyon. This dauntless move started a trend among the group: five other students tried it HMI Gap students in Gravel Canyonafter him!

Graham, on the other hand, enjoyed the time we spent together after a long day’s work. He specifically mentioned the time the whole group played a game of “Werewolf”, also known as “Mafia”. Graham, for one, played the role of narrator, who instructs the townspeople to perform their tasks. Everyone in the group will always remember the statistically anomalous turn of events in which the townspeople witnessed Mike deftly escaping Werewolf accusations several times, which led Brad and Sofie to their sudden demises as the true Werewolves of the game!

HMI Gap instructor admiring petroglyphsAnother significant aspect of this expedition in Southern Utah has been learning about the fascinating history of the surrounding area. Sheiks canyon gave us great insight into the lives of the indigenous peoples who lived there over 700 years ago—the Ancestral Puebloans. During our exploration of ruins, we encountered petroglyphs, pictographs, fossilized corn cobs, shards of pottery, and fully intact structures that have survived the wear and tear of centuries. Tamir shared his disbelief that an entire civilization could survive in this inhospitable region—he also was the only who could pronounce the name of the canyon right, thanks to his background in Arabic!

HMI Gap students admiring ancient petroglyphsEvery night, many of of us opted to sleep outside the tent under the stars. Due to our remoteness, light pollution was virtually nonexistent, so the beauty of the Milky Way could cut across the sky almost every night. There were a few nights where the whole group decided to sleep outside, and our collective appreciation for the stars brought us closer together.

We had a great experience in the canyons, but we are already looking forward to going to Patagonia and experiencing a new culture. We will miss the warm weather, sun, and red rock, but now it is time to head off to Chile!

Signing off,

Miranda and Coleman

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