Written by: Aden, Sedi-Anne, Declan, Perrin, & Grant
Group A: The phrase, “It’s 5:45, we missed our alarm!” echoed off the canyon walls on a brisk morning as sixteen foggy eyes poked out of their sleeping bags and began to pack. The cold air of the moonlit desert was misleading as we all knew the hours to come would be filled with dry, sun-scorched air. The group began its descent down the canyon, where hashbrowns and oatmeal awaited to be cooked for breakfast. Inside jokes were exchanged and spice suggestions were made but, for the most part, it was a quiet morning. Later, our leaders of the day (LODs) presented the map and explained how we would survive until we could find good camping. Droms were emptied into nalgenes and purification of the water began; three liters would last us until our next source. We began our descent. Crossing empty rivers, climbing mounds of slickrock, and taking well-deserved breaks every hour was an experience that never crossed the line between fun and disheartening. When we finally arrived at the camp, dinner was prepared. Sometimes a warm bowl of noodles or beans and rice but most often mac and cheese were the entrees of a night’s feast. Dirt stained and tired from a long day’s hike, we entered our sleeping bags once again staring at the stars and wondered what the next day held.
Group B: Garry and Amy and apprentices Keinan and Temple led “House Slytherin” (or HoSly) on our trip in the San Rafael Swell. After an eight hour bus ride from campus down to Utah, the group was ready and eager to dive into the canyons. That night, the group spent their first of many nights sleeping under the stars, and everyone was thoroughly impressed by how clearly they could see the milky way. On the first hiking day, the group donned their already dust-covered packs and descended from the mesa into the canyon. The route meandered along a canyon stream and the group had the first run-in with canyon navigation, with a healthy amount of bushwhacking. The group set up camp in a horseshoe dubbed “Isengard” by Garry in reference to the tower of rock that rose out of the middle. Coming around the bend of the horseshoe they were met with a herd of grazing cattle who seemed just as surprised to have visitors as the group was to meet them. After a brief standoff, the cows abandoned their post and the group was free to set up camp. The next two days were spent laying over at Isengard and exploring the canyon scenery. There were adventures into slot canyons, a sunset mesa hike, a fruitless search to find a spring up Saddle Horse Canyon, and a Chopped competition led by Amy (the winners made backcountry onion rings). On the second day of hiking, the group wandered their way to the San Rafael River which they spent the remainder of the trip traveling by. In yet another magnificent display of canyon country, the group watching a small rockslide tumble down a mesa at the next bend in the river. Another day of hiking brought the group to Virgin Springs, a campsite a small trek up the canyon wall with a view of the river, and plenty of slickrock to sleep on. The next two days brought two more layover days, filled with solo time in the canyons, eating through rations, and doing discussions for History and P&P. Amy taught an impromptu pottery class with clay she collected at the river, and members of the group tried their hand at making clay dumplings. Although the rest days were full of fun and relaxation, the group was ready to keep moving down the San Rafael River to the final campsite before exiting the canyon. After the longest day of hiking, the group was relieved to settle down for two nights at a large open field but had to be careful of staying clear of prickly pears on the way down to the river for water. The last days of the exped were spent being as creative as possible with hashbrowns, soaking in a few more nights of starlight, and finishing up any last school work. The final day of hiking brought the group to the end of the canyon where the land flattened out with some spires of rock poking out of the desert sand. After one final night spent under the stars, House Slytherin bid the desert farewell and packed into the bus (eagerly filling up nalgenes with fresh bus water) for the drive back to campus.
Group C: Before the group even arrived at the trailhead, the bus, named Tommy, started to breakdown as they passed through the town of Blanding. They decided to stay the night there, in a park that sat directly on the border of civilization and desert. The group slept on the cold grass of the park for only a few hours, until they were interrupted by the park sprinklers that persistently spayed them until they gave up, and moved to sleep on the uncomfortable concrete. Once on the canyon floor, the group experienced many challenges, the most prominent being water. They were always on the lookout for water, luckily, they came across more than expected, even though it may not have always tasted pleasant, they had water nonetheless. Living in the canyons is an extraordinarily unique experience, especially with the rich history that you can still experience today. The group took full advantage of these pieces of history, visiting ruins, looking at petroglyphs, and reading all about the people that once called the canyons home. Long nights full of stories, poetry, and the best stargazing that you could experience, made life on the trail even more enjoyable, and ultimately brought the group together as one unit.
Group D: The trip began with a long bus ride. The children screamed the lyrics to their favorite songs and took many hours to rest their heads before a long expedition into the canyons of Utah. Tooty Mob (The name bestowed to the rowdy bunch) arrived to stunning views and prepped their first backcountry meal. Tooty Mob the prequel (cook group 1) made a classic HMI cheesy pasta, Tooty Mob the sequel (cook group 2) creatively crafted a delicious stir fry, and Tooty Mob III (cook group 3) fried up some quesadillas with leftover tomatoes for lunch. The following days were spent climbing in and out of canyons. Heat was a major factor on this trip, so our group opted for long days with early wake-ups, leaving ample time for four rest days. On their first real hiking day the group explored some ruins of the Ancestral Puebloan peoples. Along the way, many more ruins were spotted. Our final day hike to Neville’s Arch was an 8 mile trip starting a little before 8AM, which ended with scrambling out of the canyon under the hot sun. The bus ride back was marked by homework, naps, and Chipotle. Overall a great experience with memories that will last a lifetime.
Group E: Second expedition brought Group E from the high country of Colorado to the canyonlands of southern Utah. The group departed the interstate at an off-ramp labeled “no services”. After many miles on a gravel road with little signs of civilization, the bus pulled off the gravel road and parked at what could be considered more a sandy clearing than a parking lot. What little water that remained in the San Rafael River looked disgusting. As the students departed for the first full day of the expedition, a sort of anxiety about water developed in the back of their minds. Yet, the austere, majestic landscape of the San Rafael Swell quickly enveloped the hikers, and soon—a couple of miles upstream—the San Rafael River flowed again. At the second camp, water was plentiful, if not a bit lower quality than in the Sawatch, and Group E was able to comfortably settle into a wonderful expedition experience. What followed for nearly two weeks was an exploration of the land, history, and the mind – students often pondering their deepest thoughts. The expedition followed the San Rafael River and as each day passed, the group became closer; they laughed, cried, cooked, and celebrated together. In a day and age when nothing is certain, and much seems precarious, the group found solace in having their own bubble of wilderness—seldom did Group E run across outsiders, and never did the workings of the outside world become surfaced by the quick conversations with the strangers. Near the end of the expedition, Group E left the San Rafael River and found themselves in a magical land of mesas, cattle herds and slot canyons. When the time came, the group hiked up the mesas and drove the bus back to the general starting area. After a jovial yet bittersweet night of camping on BLM land, the bus entered onto the interstate as a golden sunrise cast its welcoming auras across the land. Although Group E returned to campus later that day, the memories and experiences of the canyons will be a part of each and every member for the rest of their lives.