Semester 45: Third Expedition

Written by: Emily, Lilia, Mia, KK, & Jaden

Expeditions at HMI are a core component of the HMI experience and life at 10,000 feet. From exploring slot canyons, to hiking Mount Massive, there are so many amazing sights that are visited. Expedition is a key factor to bonding and forming a community at HMI. The first expedition takes place four days after arriving on campus. This expedition is in the Sawatch Mountain Range in Colorado. The second expedition takes place in Utah. The groups are split to either go to the San Rafael Swell or Cedar Mesa. The third and final expedition which occurred these past two weeks took place in Jacob’s Chair, Utah. Each landscape is different and unique in its own way which makes every expedition something new and special. Every night after a long day of hiking, students sit down for games and circle. Circle is a time when a question is posed and everyone goes around and answers that question. This past expedition, students got to have Circle on their own, without the adult members, which made for a powerful and vulnerable experience. While Circle was just one of many things in the day that students got to do solo this time around, it stands out as one of the more transformative memories from the trip. The Third Expedition is perhaps the most memorable one due to the significant amount of time students get to experience on the trip without adults, and led instead by the student-elected leader. With this independent travel, Semester 45 was able to show their knowledge gained and even put it to the test.  Expeditions as a whole feel as if they restore a sense of balance and instill a calm. The ability to be in the terrain which students learn about is something very special.

On Friday, Semester 45 students arrived back on campus after ten days of hiking, backcountry cooking, and sleeping under the stars in Jacob’s Chair, Utah. This was their second expedition in the canyons of southeastern Utah; while the landscape was not unfamiliar, it was still breathtaking and humbling. What separated this final expedition from the other two was the opportunity to embark on Independent Student Travel (IST) for several days at a time without instructor guidance or direction. Instead, students nominated Student Expedition Leaders (SELs) while on campus, who really stepped up once they got to the backcountry. These SELs were responsible for navigating the mesas and multi-layer, red rock shelves, facilitating group activities and bonding, and keeping spirits high overall. Without instructors present for the majority of the trip, students were able to establish even deeper connections with themselves, each other, and the land that they lived on for about ten days. Included in this was a land acknowledgement of the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Ute, and Puebloan peoples whose heritage is deeply ingrained in the Jacob’s Chair area. Other highlights from Third Expedition were the stunning sunrises and sunsets, a meteor shower, and of course, the Chipotle lunch on the journey home to Leadville. While we were reluctant to leave the canyons, we are cherishing the last few weeks on campus and making the most of every moment as a community. 

Led by Temple, Sam, Avery, and student-elected leader, Henry, students in this group headed to Jacob’s chair. While Henry was in charge of the larger agenda, students continued the normal practices of being “leader of the day,” and it truly felt like we were all able to step into leadership roles. On one layover day, the group ventured out on a hike into the slot canyons. With ropes and all, the group got to experience a more technical adventure. The group got to have a lot of solo time away from the adults, which further proved the competence and growth developed. One day, such pride was met with a mesa dance party! The group also encountered a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) group on a backpacking trip in the same area. In this group was none other than Syd’s (a member of semester 45) sister! Other highlights of the trip included delicious cheesy bagels and carmelized brussel sprouts. All and all, the Third Expedition was a blast!

Third Expedition was unlike previous expeditions because students were able to travel independently. Though the group checked in with the adults daily and even overlapped some days in the beginning and end, groups were able to solidify their navigation, communication, and overall competence in the backcountry by virtue of being on IST (independent student travel). In Jacob’s chair, the group led by student-elected leader Jeremy enjoyed the canyons and the new weather (it was much cooler than Second Expedition!). This group was predominantly in Gravel and Cowboy canyons. Students listened to stories by Trapped and Judith (characters in a book) under the stars at night. The group was able to celebrate one of the apprentice’s birthday on the trip, Wayan, early on by making skillet cookies! The students also found a mysterious note written about meeting on the “red mesa” (which the group thought was hilariously vague language considering all the mesas are red). The note made for a mysterious and eventful spell of story-telling. In summary, this group had a trip full of fun stories and nights under the stars.

Group D led by Jacob, Gracie, Gabi, and student leader Asa traversed through Gravel canyon in Jacob’s chair area. While the group was mostly atop the mesa, it was not until the last couple of days they saw the grand landmark that is Jacob’s chair. With unbelievable sunsets and the canyon’s enormous walls below, students had every meal with a view! One student, Ryley, even brought watercolors for us to paint with on a layover day. Though nothing can quite capture those sights, it is something the students will cherish forever. The days were full of study hall, hiking, and then creative dinners followed by seas of laughter. Though some of these dinners and desserts were cause for controversial feedback (namely the brownie scramble Jaden made one night that became rock-solid), students went to bed happy. Nights were cold, but days were the perfect hiking temperature. The group got to have four days of independent student travel, whereupon the group was able to flex all the skills the semester has taught them. They even learned preliminarily wilderness first aid skills (though they luckily did not need to put them to use!). Third expedition for Group D was nothing short of magical.