Semester 47: 2nd Expedition

Written by: Anna, Ben, Luis, Selayni, & Juliana

Group A: As we thought about going on expedition number two, two things occurred to us. One: we would be hiking again… by choice. Two: there was no way that this exped could be nearly as life-changing, epic, and beautiful as the last one. It was unfathomable to us that we had the potential to get as close with another group of thirteen people as we had the first time. And yet, we sit here writing sixteen days later still in absolute awe over the experiences that second expedition provided for us. Needless to say, we did in fact forge these thirteen connections, yet again, that only HMI has the capacity to harbour. This exped was filled with endless singing, dance routines, an unimaginable amount of hash browns, endless star-filled Utah canyons and of course—chalky, milky, wonderful water. Furthermore, this expedition brought to us a sense of pride and accomplishment for the amount of knowledge that we each had from our previous expedition. We could now all pack our bags in an organized, balanced fashion, navigate efficiently, and cook delicious meals without help from the I-Team. This provided us time for goofy photo shoots, long games and more time together, which typically meant finding a water source (our version of bonding!). One night, our group decided to partake in a “gleep” or a group sleep. This typically entails everyone setting up their sleeping bags as close to each other as possible, watching the stars and attempting to pull an all-nighter which, shockingly, is never a success after a long hiking day. Our group made it to about 11pm… but only because we were bribed by chocolate filled quesadillas by one particularly motivated cook group. That night was filled with meaningful conversations and a sense of understanding of one another that most of us have only ever experienced here. We saw roughly ten shooting stars that night which was an incredible experience for those of us coming from urban areas, where shooting stars are replaced by airplanes and city lights. That night transformed us from a group of ten friends, to best friends, to family. Now as we come back on campus, we have each others’ backs, and we feel secure knowing that we have the love and support of our second expedition group. We feel incredibly lucky to continue our endeavors in Leadville and beyond.

Group B: This journey began on September 27th, when we left campus in order to travel to the canyons of Utah. No one could imagine the friendships we would make and the physical hardships our group would endure in the following eleven days. We arrived late that night and began backpacking the next morning. We woke to a storm over the horizon and a sunrise brighter than any other. The desert is supposed to be dry with less than ten inches of rain per year. And all of those ten inches and then some happened during our trip. The starry nights were blocked and group sleeps had to be cancelled because of the almost nightly rain. We started from one canyon called Owl Canyon, and over the next ten days, we trekked through two other canyons and climbed out three others! We found the time to do classwork while exploring new lands that we had never seen anything like before. Canyons of red, orange and yellow rocks, towering over one thousand feet in height. There were many impossible ways out and one real “exit” every few miles due to drainages or broken rocks. Many of the exits took us over an hour due to how difficult the terrain was to go over. Many are filled with loose rocks and sands. But all that into account still the trip was great because of the bonds made and the Native structures we could see whether up close or from a distance away. All in all, the trip turned out great with all of us growing immensely physically and mentally. 

Group C: On the day of our halfway point on second expedition, our plan consisted of hiking three miles and passing another HMI group on trail. With a very challenging navigation and hiking day, hearing the voices of an entire new group of people filled our group with so much joy and excitement. Our meeting, planned to have lasted at most 20 minutes, led to over three hours. This felt like such a deserved reward for both groups after hiking through an entire canyon in the span of five days. Afterwards, when we said our goodbyes, our group had one of the most fun nights cooking as a little family. Running out of rations we somehow managed to make a meal, and we still vividly remember eating out of our not-so-clean Nalgene bowls while reading Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets. Our emotional roller coaster of a day ended with loving memories we can from now on look back upon fondly.

Group D: The beginning of our second expedition was a combination of two emotions: nervousness and excitement, or as we like to call it, nervo-citement. We were nervous to be with a new group of people and to have to get used to a new dynamic. We were excited because exped serves as a break from academics, and as many people remember from first, it’s a formative experience. The exhausting bus ride only prepared us for the first hike into the canyons. Whilst difficult, making it to the bottom of the canyon was very fulfilling. We would end each day with the beloved Circle. Circle, the mix of deep questions, spotlight, and strange but fun games, brought us all together. It allowed us to see other sides of each other, something that wouldn’t have happened on a normal day on campus. A major shift, noticed by many on this exped, was how comfortable everybody felt, and through that comfortability in hiking and in oneself, we connected on a deeper level. The games and the jokes and the laughing and the falling gave us each an experience to remember. Some highlights specifically from our group, led by Jesse, was the visit to the Citadel and the flash flood. Flash floods are very rare in the desert, so everybody was really grateful to see it. Those that went to the Citadel got to see a beautiful sacred place with pottery, bricks, and dwellings. It was truly a sight to see. Throughout the entirety of the trip, not having clean water was something that almost every group struggled with; for sure, it made us eternally grateful for our access to clean water and changed our perspectives of water. The heat, the pizzas without sauce, the sunbutter and the sand were more than just kinks. They made this experience memorable. Although not the same as the first exped, this one offered new memories, friendships, failures and successes.

Group E: On our second expedition, our group came across a few big issues:. rain in the desert??? Four broken water purification pumps, and getting lost for nine hours. The things that got us through it were our trail names, deep conversations, and sleeping under the stars together. We started the trip by driving our bus, Tommy, eight hours east to Utah. Most of us had never seen canyons before, but when we say that there’s nothing on Earth we could use to compare to those soaring walls of sandstone, you’d better believe it. We slept under the stars that first night and woke up to the eager lens of a man who was hired to film the first few days of our trip. He documented our trip for the next four days. We spent the next few treks confused and disoriented by our new surroundings and learning to navigate the canyons with our maps. We saw an environment that we’d never experienced before and all the new animals, issues, and atmospheres that came along with it (including rats.) Then the rains came, making the water rise, and making our drinking water harder to filter. Two of our four water pumps ended up shattering, and we were left with two water pumps for our group of 14. Mid-trip, low on water that wasn’t brown, we did what was supposed to be our most straight forward hike of our trip, but we got off route and we didn’t notice until after two pack drops and four miles. We were on our way to our new campsite and ended up back at our first campsite. There we had to take our bus (Tommy) for a little ride to our campsite for the night. We made it there nine hours after we left camp on what should have been a three hour hiking day. It was the highlight of our trip. It was a time that made us closer to those we wandered with and showed us the value of clean water (we got to refill our bottles with nice water we had left in jugs on the bus). Overall, our time in the canyons was like nothing we had ever experienced, but it was a time of such astounding change and transformation for us. Through the water scarcity, we learned how to value the comforts of our lives back at home. Getting lost showed us that we can make it through any day as long as we are surrounded by these brilliant and supportive people.