HMI Gap: Testing Ph Levels & Perfecting the Backcountry Pierogi

By Charlie and Liam

Wilderness and Conservation Blog #1:

Backpacking is hard, but it sure makes it easier when you have a group like ours. We started our adventure at a hostel in Leadville, CO and haven’t looked back since. The first couple of days were all about rules and learning how to actually survive in the wilderness. After we learned everybody’s names and where they were from, our confused and enthusiastic group started to form. When we finally got to the HMI campus to double check our backpacks, we took an exhausting one-mile hike to our first site. The stoves started working and we started our first meal in the backcountry. It wasn’t the greatest, but little did we know that a couple of days later we would be making pizza, pad thai, and pierogies. The night sky was breathtaking and the exhausting days behind us were enough to send us right to bed. The next couple of days were the most organized and detail oriented times of my entire life.

We learned to navigate without a compass, pack all of our belongings into one bag in 15 minutes, and to leave no trace behind after leaving our campsites by 9 am. We were basically backpacking pros by the end of the first week. When the first week was over, we base camped for a couple of days and assisted the Colorado Mountain College with some water quality monitoring service work. We measured things like pH, conductivity, and flow rate after taking a water sample. We learned about why the water in that mining region was so bad and steps organizations are taking to remediate it.

A few more days of getting up, cooking breakfast, breaking camp, packing up, hiking a full day, getting to camp, unpacking, setting up camp, cooking dinner, having a thoughtful evening meeting, going to bed, and repeating, we were ready. On day twelve, we summited Mt. Massive with full packs. The climb (which was off-trail) was full of challenges and a lot of wind. We spent a bit of time at the top then descended on tired legs. Thankfully, no one was injured on the whole expedition except for the occasional blister or scrape. Through many intentional discussions, we formed a strong, supportive, and positive community that never seems to stop laughing. During some evening meetings, we had environmental studies classes complete with talking about some assigned readings. We also had leadership and communication classes to help us form independent leaders and make sure we know how to communicate effectively with one another.

When the expedition came to a close, we returned to HMI’s campus and de-issued, resupplied, and cleaned the gear. Then we had delicious non-dried food and much-needed showers and laundry. We reconnected with loved ones, listened to music, watched funny youtube videos, and looked at the pictures from the expedition. The friends that we made these past two weeks will continue to bond stronger throughout the rest of the course and, hopefully, throughout the rest of our lives. We still have yet to accomplish one of our group goals: to snap a group picture in an amazing place. Fortunately, we have a lot of time left for that, along with many more laughs.