Semester 45: First Expedition

Written by: KK, Ella, Geonna, Maya, & Mariema

Group A, or as they called themselves, “The A Team,” led by Dylan and Amy, began their expedition through the Colorado Sawatch by passing through Twin Lakes, Colorado and arriving at Independence Pass. After a lesson on how to properly put on a 90-liter pack (which many of the group’s smaller members struggled with), they were off, hiking through towering pines and over rippling, snow-melt creeks. The group remained in high spirits as the days wore on, exploring an old abandoned lumber mill, a mining tunnel, and Douglass City ghost town. Their laughter and songs (mostly “Your Man” by Josh Turner and “Country Girl” by Luke Bryant) could be heard throughout the mountains for miles. Meals were also a highlight for the group, especially for kitchen fellow Amy, who hosted a “Chopped” cooking competition between the three cook groups, who all brought their (group) A-game. The three mandatory ingredients were potato pearls, Gardetto’s, and a vegetable; the groups were able to whip up some delicious meals such as potato latkes with brown butter provolone sauce, authentic French onion soup, and “igneous plated Brussel sprouts with a demi-glaze.” Smaller snacks were a treat as well, like the summit candy bars everyone thoroughly enjoyed after a sunrise hike up to the peak of Mount Massive. The crew also learned how to make traditional backcountry dumplings with fillings ranging from MilkyWay candy bars to cheese and pepperoni (pizza dumplings!), and pesto and broccoli. Wildlife and extreme weather were also encountered throughout the expedition. Two mountain goats were spotted at Mount Massive’s summit, a fox visited the group’s camp one night, and pikas could be heard calling out until the early hours of the morning. Additionally, they endured days of blistering heat, endless hail, cold rain, and even one morning of fluffy white snow where Christmas songs were sung and hot chocolate was sipped by all. On rest days, the group enjoyed swimming and washing up in beautiful, clear lakes including Slide Lake, Virginia Lake, and Hagerman Lake.  Some of the most special moments shared among the group, however, were the night “circles” under the stars after a long day (no day was as long as the group’s hike up the Continental Divide). Laughter was heard and tears were shed as everyone was able to come together, talk about their experiences and identity, and become one big family. Each day, a sparkly, red jacket was passed around for “Hot Seat” where the recipient answered rapid-fire questions. For all of Group A, one thing was certain. The memories made, the places visited, and the friendships created will be cherished forever.

Liz Andrews, Dylan Barnes and Ray McGaughey lead Group B through 16 days of hiking, singing, cooking, camping and the hundreds of other things that the backcountry can throw at you. The group began with a 2-mile hike to Winsor lake, which according to “Ray’s Best Lakes Blog” is definitely in the top 5 lakes in the world. The following days they continued our “Tour de Lakes”, stopping at Rainbow Lake, Twin Lakes, and Lily Pond to name a few. Waking up to mist over the trees reflected in the water was a beautiful way to start every morning. Whether rain, wind, hail or sun, the 14 members of Group B tried to keep their minds off of soggy socks and aching shoulders with the scream-singing of songs such as “La Bibliotheca” and “The Climb.” Some of the highlights of the trip included summiting Mount Massive, the second tallest mountain in the Rockies, The ABTBCO (Annual B-Team Back Country Olympics), spotting Elk and Pikas, and of course, Cheesy bagels. There were nights of laughter, in which tarp groups got into an intense debate over a trail mix trades or sing while making pizza and cinnamon rolls. There were also days of growth, where someone would finally get their pack up without help, or after many tries, a group would master the cheese to Mac ratio. And of course, there were many games of the group favorite, Yee Haw. Group B looked out at a blinding moon as they said good night before the first day back on campus, knowing that the treasured memories they held would carry them through what ever rough patches may come. And it would be safe to say they all came to the realization that with enough determination, AquaMira and Gardettos, anything is possible.

In the beginning, the thirteen members of Group C were strangers. Hailing from different places across the country, becoming friends seemed like an unlikely thing to happen. After spending three days on campus at HMI, Group C, led by Avery and Erik, headed off into the Sawatch Mountain range. The first days were interesting for the small group. Weather ranged from boiling in the day to freezing at night. Making the most of their time together, the students of Group C tried their best to bond with each other. On one dreary night one tarp group, too afraid to cook in the rain, ate bagels for dinner. With open minds, the students navigated through the backcountry, taking turns being “leader of the day” and guiding the group towards their next campsite. Erik could always be counted on to serenade the group with some nice vocals, Avery was always there with words of encouragement, and Gabi, the history apprentice, was a reliable source to talk about movies with.  Some members of the group ventured out at 4 am on a cold Monday to summit Mount Massive, while the others partook in a makeshift spa day which consisted of playing Monopoly Deal. Trying to keep spirits high, the group hiked through all sorts of weather conditions, having lengthy conversations that seemed to make time fly. Even when the weather was bad, Group C could be counted on for making the most of their time in the backcountry. Every night, Group C would sit together and reflect on some tough questions asked by the group leaders. On the final night of the expedition, Group C held a talent show, where the winning talent was an interpretive storytelling group whose stage name was “They Make It Up As They Go.”  At the end of the expedition, with some final reflections, Group C headed back to HMI to meet the rest of the semester.

Group D started the first expedition listening to “Purple Hat” in the 15-minute car ride to the start of the 16 day trip in the Sawatch Mountain range. All 9 students and leaders (Barrett, Garry, Sam, and Gracie) were amped for the memories they were about to make over the next few days. Throughout the rain and hail, the group kept the energy high and when the sun came out like it always does, the excitement was high. The group loved the ramen lunches on layover days, especially after summiting Mt. Massive on the clearest day of the trip. On the day of group D’s re-ration, they encountered a Lake County Search and Rescue squad with trucks and a helicopter, leaving them to hike with curiosity and excitement. The group crafted their “dough baby’s” and made pizza on the layover day after BuckEye Peak. On September 1st, the group celebrated Aden’s birthday with cake and a dance party! The group had some intense Animal Master games before the circle and our daily spotlight, some still don’t know what sound a cow makes but it’s okay the group is working on it. The group had some difficult, long days but the leaders of the day got us there in sun, rain, or hail. The group always laughed when hearing someone shout “Moon Journal!” at any time of night. Stargazing and moon gazing were big for this group and those moments always involved stories and laughs. The group always found the best swamp campsites, especially on the last layover day they stayed at “alpha swamp”. The group spent many days by lakes, such as St. Kevin Lake, Double Lakes, and Hagerman Lake, while having lessons or classes. Overall, Group D had a blast and took on all the obstacles in their way with smiles and energy. 

Group E, on their journey through the Sawatch and summiting different mountains, found joy, lots of rain, and an everlasting family. The trip first began quietly and slowly in the Gravel Pit and ended lively and confidently at Lackawanna Gulch. The team did not know what they were heading into or that they would form such a bond through the trials and tribulations of heading Mount Massive, Mount Albert, many days of rain falling down hard on us, and the endless amount hours of singing Taylor Swift, other country songs, tiktok songs, and the always spiritual One Direction. All while going through all of those things Group E found power within each other, but within themselves as individuals. The group worked on being vulnerable, finding one’s self, and honesty. This was all due to the power of the mountains and the shelter away from the outside world’s pressures and influences on everyone’s character. The family built-in Group E and the many experiences shared will never be forgotten and while the moments have passed, the memories will last a lifetime. Love you Sea Cukes!