Semester 43: First Expedition

Group A:
For 18 days, from August 24th until September 10th, our expedition group lived in the Sawatch region just outside of Leadville, Colorado. Our expedition group was split up into four tarp groups, which were the same as the cook groups up until our re-ration of food. We spent our days doing many different things such as hiking, setting up camp, playing group games, and much more. Throughout the expedition, we had many different wilderness classes as well as academic classes. We learned a lot about leadership and the good qualities of a leader. Those were self-awareness, influence, and ethical compass. As the trip went on we used those lessons to become better leaders ourselves. We also learned how to deal with conflict using a method called SBI. SBI is an acronym that stands for situation, behavior, and impact. When using SBI to give someone feedback on a conflict you would have to give the specific situation in which there was conflict, the behavior in which the other person exhibited in the conflict, and how it made you feel. In total, our group walked 55.5 miles until we finished at Box Creek.

Group B:
Hi families! We just got back from our first expedition in the Sawatch Range and we had an amazing time. Over the course of 18 days, we hiked 65 miles and gained 12,000 feet in elevation. Some of the highlights of our trip were seeing incredible views each day, learning how to cook and be creative in the kitchen, summiting Mount Massive after waking up bright and early at 2:30 in the morning, and the entire group getting so close and becoming a family. Although we had a few troubles along the way, such as a fox raiding our kitchens and an enormous hail storm, we learned to find the joy in everything. We made each and every day super fun on the trail by singing songs at the top of our lungs, playing games and being silly, and having deep and meaningful conversations with each other. We had many academic and wilderness classes, where we learned communication and leadership skills, how to make some yummy meals, how to navigate using maps, and much more. Each night we played a game, which almost always ended with everyone on the ground laughing, and circle, a time to talk about our feelings and lives. My group also had a special tradition called the ultimate cuddle puddle, where we would snuggle under the stars and sing songs. We had the best 18 days with each other and we are all super excited to start school and get into a routine here on campus!

Group C:
We hiked a total of 61 miles over the course of 18 jam-packed days. We proudly summited Buckeye Peak, Mount Massive, and Mount Elbert before returning to campus, and every member of our expedition discovered what former HMI students mean when they say that the days here feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days. In our studies, we learned why “wilderness” is a nuanced and culturally biased term, why looking and searching aren’t truly seeing, and that there are three types of fun (the experience of learning about fun was a type two fun endeavor if you were curious). Between classes and hiking, we cooked delicious meals including a tart that we made from the wild raspberries we picked from around our campsite. We even hosted Backcountry Iron Chef with banana chips as our secret ingredient. It was a heated competition, but one group pulled ahead with their loaded nachos and banana cinnamon bagel bites. The group was united through our evenings of star gazing, sport wading in nearby lakes, and laughing until we cried while playing Animal Masters. At the end of the trip, each of us got the opportunity to hike alone for three miles through an autumnal aspen grove. Though we were blessed by beautiful weather almost every day of the trip, we were caught in a massive thunderstorm as we entered into our solos. We each found this to be a moment of clarity as we walked individually through the woods with sporadic claps of thunder overhead. Overall, we experienced beautiful and challenging things with an incredible group of people, and we are so grateful to begin new adventures on the HMI campus.

Group D:
Over 18 days group B hiked 85 miles and did 19,000 feet in elevation. Our highest point was on top of Mount Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado. Some other notable destinations were Hope Pass, Elkhead Pass, and the saddle of Mt. Harvard. We spent two days doing trail work in pine creek where we cleared over a mile of trail covered by willow plants. We loved cooking as a group in what we named “Grechen” standing for “Group Kitchen”. Some of our favorite meals included homemade pizza, hash browns, cheesy bagels, cheesy pasta, and fried Milkyways, which are a Milkyway burrito. Our favorite games included silent football, yeehaw, and contact. Our longest day was 11 miles as a result of a bear visit the night before which unfortunately got into our chocolate and cheese. We had lots of wilderness classes as well as some work for our classes back on campus. We had many discussions and learned skills like making pizza and Leave No Trace. We also enjoyed 11 days of beautiful weather which we greatly appreciated. Having many of our days be longer than five miles, we learned perseverance even when the days were long or routes were challenging. We got to hike on and off trail using maps to find our way through forests and over mountains. We had the opportunity to “solo hike” for a few miles on the Colorado Trail which gave us the opportunity to take time to think and reflect while we hiked. On the last day of our trip, the journey came full circle when we walked back onto campus to meet the rest of the groups. Over 18 days we had only traveled by the power of our own bodies, moving no faster than our legs could walk. Ending exped by walking back to the place we will call home for the next four months set us up to really understand the intentionality that HMI is teaching us.

Group E:
The group of 12 hikers, newly named “ The Trash Pandas,” hiked a total of 60 miles. We faced small challenges: wet sleeping bags, hope pass, and night sky field observations with a cloudy sky, but we also triumphed in times of greater struggles. Summiting Mt. Elbert was amongst, if not, the most challenging day of our expedition. In order to make it up the 14,439 foot mountain, we woke up at 3:00 am. The Danny Devito Fan Club, The Socks, and The Senators, with the help of the “I-team” (instructor team) made it to the top by 9:45. We started our journey on August 25, and came back September 10th having sung every song on the Pitch Perfect sound track, played three games of miniature tanks, and annoyed our i-team enough to almost be left in the Colorado backcountry. Our greatest attempt to drive our “i-team” crazy, was our performance of every nickelodeon show’s theme song ever. I think the reason we didn’t see a bear is that no bear dared to investigate the aggressive harmonizing coming from our camp.
One of the most pivotal point of our trip was our trail work. In partnership with the Colorado Fourteeners initiative, the Trash Pandas helped restore a section of the trail that has become increasingly more eroded. By digging large rocks out of near by areas and naming them creative and appropriate names such as Patrick Swayze and Dwayne the ROCK Johnson, we were able to move a good amount of rocks that helped build the best trail rock wall you have ever seen. We are truly talented trail restorationists. We learned to work as a group, growing the bonds we had made in the first portion of the trip. We united for the Trash Panda Nation.
Even though there was definitely more challenging parts of the expedition, my favorite part of the expedition was seeing the group come together and use each other for support, as well as see individuals push themselves. Whether it be physical or mental growth, all 9 students found a new part of themselves in the backcountry.