Giving Back to the Trails we Hike

Olivia DeVol
August 1, 2019

Summer Term Blog – Olivia DeVol

As the sun shone brightly on my tent, my tarp group and I prepared for our day of trail work. After a filling breakfast of a half bag of hash browns split between four cranky and hungry girls, the group quickly departed from Winfield, destined to meet Tambi and Steve, forest service workers. We hiked two miles uphill, inch-worming to the South La Plata trailhead where we would begin our trail work. The group ecstatically donned our work gloves, clutching loppers and saws to our chests. This was the most anticipated day of our entire expedition, more so than actually summiting La Plata. Tambi and Steve explained what we would be doing for the day and split us into three groups.

The first day, my group was lead by Tambi, an energetic and passionate woman dedicated to the forest service. We were tasked with installing three signs near the North Fork Clear Creek Trail. Tambi led our group to where there would soon be be a trailhead and wilderness boundary sign. Charlie, Lilli, and I decided where we wanted to work on the signs and began digging a hole with the heavy post digger. Knowing the hole had to be at least 24 inches deep, it felt like we were making no progress. JP, our expedition leader, then came to the rescue. Golden locks flowing in the wind, he demonstrated for us how to use the rock bar and post digger correctly. As a team, we dug three holes and inserted the signs into the ground quickly and efficiently. Finishing early, we all felt a sense of accomplishment and so joined our peers to assist them. It is amazing to be able to look back and say “yes, we did that.” Tambi then graciously thanked us and explained how much of an impact this makes for the forest service, who has one person in charge of all of the miles of trails we hiked on in our expedition.

The second day of trail work, we hiked past the newly installed signs, filling us with pride, and began working on different sections of the South La Plata Trail. My group consisted of Charlie, Matt, Chris, and JP. Our section of the trail had been disappearing because of the overgrown spruce trees. After carrying up heavy pick mattocks, my group began to create a secure wall. While some were clipping the brush, others were collecting large rocks to create a retaining wall. Through this process, JP explained to us the structure of a trail and how to create the longest lasting trail. While my group recreated a section of the trail, the other students were clearing the trail up until they hit tree line. At the end of the day all of the groups did a great job giving back. The next day we donned our heavy backpacks again to hike up nearer to the La Plata summit. The trail seemed open and clear after all our work. It felt amazing.

Between the Expeditions

Grace Johansson and Aurora Marruffo
July 23, 2019

July 13

Today we woke up in the wilderness and went to bed in our cabins. After long and exciting expeditions in the beautiful backcountry of Colorado, we got to come back to our beloved HMI campus for a week of fun activities and writing classes. While everyone had a great time with their group, we were all ecstatic to greet each other off the bus. After all the warm hellos, our instructors guided us to de-issue and clean all of the gear we had used while on exped. We split into groups and finished in record time with the incentive of a cheeseburger lunch and hot showers on our minds. After a bit of free time, everyone loaded up for a quick trip to turquoise lake. Although the water was cold as ice, many people jumped at the chance to sport wade. To finish up our first night, we all feasted on pizza and cozied up in the library to watch movies.

July 14

Since we had just gotten back from a long, yet seemingly short expedition, we were able to sleep in for the day and were welcomed back with warm, syrupy pancakes. After a hardy brunch of five pancakes and tons of fruit, we had some activities to join in on. One group went to do laundry, which was smelly from our eleven-day backpacking trip, while the other group made, cards, collages, and maybe some frustrating puzzles that had more than enough missing pieces. Later, we had fun in an interesting and engaging writing class. After, we had some free time to go bouldering in the gym on campus, just hang out with friends singing songs and playing musical instruments, or play a quick game of ultimate frisbee. The game was played on campus and I am proud to say the team I played on took the victory.

July 15

We started our day off with cream cheese bagels and hot cocoa, we made our lunches and put them in identical white paper bags and set off to the bouldering rocks a couple minutes from campus. We arrived at the enormous rocks and ate our lunch while we waited for the staff set up the crash pads. After a quick show of how to belay and properly climb rocks, (which doesn’t seem like a hard task but we all quickly found out how tough it can be) all of our group made it to the top of the boulders at least once and were all having a blast before we were sadly rained out and had to leave an hour early. Since our rock climbing journey was cut short we played a couple rounds of capture the flag. The rounds became an intense battle of wits but in the end we all had fun running around trying to get the flags to the other side. After the game of capture the flag we are all given free time to hang out amongst ourselves.

July 16

After an early breakfast, we headed off to Kodi rafting. We were fit with PFDs and helmets before we set off on our journey down the Arkansas River. Accompanied by five amateur comedians otherwise known as our raft guides, we began our 14-mile river adventure. Starting off mellow, my guide, named “Catfish”, pointed out some of the prominent features located on either side of the river. We saw all kinds of things, from unique boulders and rock faces to a bridge used to film Indiana Jones. Slowly but surely we picked up speed hitting thrilling class III and IV rapids. After a break for lunch we continued with the rest of or trip. When we began to approach Seidel’s rapid, our guide warned us of its size rapid and explained we would have to paddle the hardest we had that day. With the mystery rapid lurking in the distance we all tucked in our feet tight and braced ourselves. We were splashed and rocked when all of a sudden Jack fell out of the raft! He was quickly thrown a rope by some rafting bystanders and pulled back into the boat by Emma. Luckily enough the only damage done was a lost pair of sunglasses and shoes. Once the frantic moment had passed we nervously laughed off the whole experience and ended our epic trip.

July 17

We began the day with a great writing class talking about how to peer edit each other’s work. All week we have been working on the first draft draft of our essay and taking classes everyday to improve it.  Continuing on after writing we geared up with climbing shoes, harnesses, and helmets for our day of top rope climbing. A short bus ride and a hike later and we were at the wall where we would spend the rest of the day. There were four routes to choose from ranging from beginner to intermediate. Taking turns climbing, belaying, and back up belaying, we all got our chance at scrambling up the wall.

July 18  

We had been eagerly awaiting this day since we had returned to campus. Finally we would get to explore Leadville: the town that has been, and would be our home for five weeks. With everyone split into advisory groups, we jetted off to town. While some went to Tennessee Pass Cafe, we decided to eat at High Mountain Pies for some delicious pizza. When we were all finished with lunch everyone raced to the Melanzana store for their chance to get a micro grid hoodie. They are all the rage up here! With Mellies in hand we sauntered around the rest of the main street, buying ice cream, sorting through thrift shops and taking in the local culture of Leadville. When we returned to campus, each cabin had prepared an act for the talent show. Eager to show off our silly skit, cabin three opened. We showcased a french cooking show where one girl acted as the face of the character and a partner acted as the arms.  Everyone laughed along as the girls hands fumbled spilling cereal and milk all over the floor of the stage. Next, Theirno debuted some ‘original’ jokes, Cabin four did a musical number and Cabin five did a hilarious song mashup. Charlie and Bennett began on guitar and piano with ‘Thinking Out Loud’ only to be interrupted by Henry and Matt in Ariana Grande fashion singing ‘Seven Rings’. We finished off the night with an epic dance party and campfire songs on the porch.

July 19

The day before we leave for our second expedition we were tasked with preparing food rations for our groups and packing up all of our gear into our backpacks. We were also placed into the groups that we will be spending the next eleven days with.  Once our backpacks were filled to the brim with gear, we spent the rest of the day hanging out with each other. When dinner had finished up we joyously moseyed over to the parking lot for square dancing, laughing while we all stomped on one another’s feet.

Rejected from Harvard

July 17, 2019

We woke up at 4:00am while the sun remained asleep, and we fumbled in the darkness to find our headlamps. As we prepared our routinely plain oatmeal with sprinkles of sugar for breakfast, the cold morning air was filled with excitement. Today was the most anticipated day of our expedition; this was the day that we planned on summiting Mount Harvard, a 14,423’ mountain.

I felt ecstatic, having received the honor of leading the group through this exciting day. My oatmeal tasted unique, and sweeter than usual in the darkness because of my peers and my eager anticipation to climb Harvard. The sun snoozed as we mounted our backpacks and tiptoed along the trail towards Harvard. On our long journey, the sun woke up to our boisterous laughter and entertaining trail games. I felt nervous because I lacked confidence in my map skills and possessed a general fear of getting my group members lost, but they and JP, our expedition leader, were active followers and aided me in the navigation process.

As we approached the shoulder of Mount Harvard, a giant patch of snow blocked the trail and forced us to find an alternate route to the ridge, so we decided to cross a nearby stream and walk around the snow. After shuffling across the lively stream, we rested and located ourselves and the ridge on the map. Fueled by excitement, we continued our march towards the ridge, where we would drop our packs and summit Harvard.

We faced a long uphill battle. There were wildflowers and dead trees decorating the mountain, making the views beautiful. The climb up was extremely difficult, as we had one injured and another sick member in our crew. We took a lot of breaks, allowing them to breathe, and as we climbed higher, the view grew more beautiful. To our left we saw blue mountains stretching into the distance. To our right was a ridge resembling a serrated knife with snow capping it. Finally, shouting in victory, we reached the shoulder.

We lay on the shoulder, waiting for the other group to catch up, as well as our breath. We ate and relaxed as ants marched through the wildflowers around us. We climbed on a pile of rocks to watch the other group’s approach, cheering them along. When they finally joined us, at 11:30, we rejoiced and took photos in front of Mount Harvard to commemorate our victory. JP told us that it was too late to summit Harvard, to our great disappointment.

However, as we continued to hang out as a group, our mood bettered. We extinguished our shadow of disappointment with radiant smiles and thundering laughter. We commemorated our achievement of having reached the ridge by taking a jumping picture in which we reached for the peak of Harvard. We converted our seeds of disappointment into flowers of joy, and Harvard seemed jealous of the lively ridge. Time seemed to stop as we admired the views around us and each other’s company. When time continued its march, we walked alongside it down the ridge with our boisterous laughter and entertaining trail games, coming full circle from the beginning of our journey. We did not reach the crown of Harvard, but I was relieved to be a part of this ebullient and unforgettable adventure.

We extinguished our shadow of disappointment with radiant smiles and thundering laughter. We commemorated our achievement of having reached the ridge by taking a jumping picture in which we reached for the peak of Harvard. We converted our seeds of disappointment into flowers of joy, and Harvard seemed jealous of the lively ridge. Time seemed to stop as we admired the views around us and each other’s company. When time continued its march, we walked alongside it down the ridge with our boisterous laughter and entertaining trail games, coming full circle from the beginning of our journey. We did not reach the crown of Harvard, but I was relieved to be a part of this ebullient and unforgettable adventure.

Trekking in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

July 17, 2019

Hello HMI community! It’s Jane Lovett here to tell you about my group’s breathtaking expedition in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness! Over our 11 days in the backcountry, we hiked South on the Colorado trail between Twin Lakes and Mount Yale Peak. 

On the first night of exped, we all proved our culinary skills by cooking delicious mac and cheese with brussel sprouts. Although each cook group prepared the meal together, my tarp group was especially proud of the spices we put in our meal. 

Over the next few days, we hiked about 20 miles until we got to our layover campsite in Pine Creek. On our layover days, we had classes on Aldo Leopold’s Think Like a Mountain and discussions on conflict resolution. After our much-needed relaxation, we hit the trail once again. We sluggishly packed up our campsite not wanting to leave the beautiful landscape, but were all filled with anticipation as we were to climb up to Harvard Lake that day. That night, we had a debrief of the day overlooking Buena Vista from the distance and went to sleep with bellies filled with beans and rice.

The next day, we arrived at our favorite campsite by far: Kroenke Lake. Besides the fact that we all pronounced the name in a funny accent, we had a gorgeous view of sun-baked mountains and a cold lake for wading in. That night, several of us stood in the lake for hours on end trying to catch a fish. Finally, we had the genius idea to use our bug nets to catch the fish. They finally caught a rainbow and cutthroat trout but don’t worry, they didn’t eat them! 

On day 9 of exped, we began our day with an off-trail climb up to a ridge overlooking Brown’s Pass. On the way down from the ridge, we hit vast slopes of snow in our path. Instead of trudging knee deep in the snow, our instructor of the day, Brittany, taught us how to slide down the snow on our butts. It was so exhilarating to have our backpacks propel us forward instead of them weighing down on our backs. After a long day of hiking, we camped out in Denny Creek at the base of Mount Yale, which we would attempt to summit the next morning. 

Finally it was time for our summit attempt! It was 4:45 am on our last full day of expedition when we started trekking up the 14,196 ft tall Mount Yale. For the first hour of our hike, we had to use our headlamps because it was still dark outside. When we reached the tree line, we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise over the valley. Even though the hike was extremely difficult, the view from the top was so rewarding. Our hard work was finally rewarded with a 360 degree view of beautiful snow enveloped peaks. 

After 11 days of hard work in the field, we got back to campus feeling content and excited for a shower!

HMI Gap: Leading with Purpose

Written by: Becca Schild and Chris Barlow, Co-Directors of HMI Gap
July 11, 2019

If you are a teenager, live with one, or have even ever been one, you probably recognize a fascinating paradox that characterizes adolescence: phases of seemingly intractable apathy, listlessness, and angst contrasted starkly by periods of intense focus, passion, and remarkable creativity. Ask any educator, and they’ll tell you that it is a wonderful gift to witness this vibrant engagement, one only tempered by the capriciousness in finding a way to catalyze it.

It’s not that there’s a secret teenagers aren’t letting us in on. This engagement comes from the feeling of doing something meaningful, something that captures their imagination, something that matters. But of course, that’s not the problem. The challenge is in finding the material, the right fuel to light the fire. A conversation is emerging among educators that what we’re talking about is purpose, and there is a growing community that thinks we may not be serving teenagers as well as we could in this respect. 

In The Path to Purpose, William Damon suggests, “The biggest problem growing up today is not actually stress; it’s meaninglessness.” Many of today’s students suffer from a lack of direction or engagement, leading to feelings of emptiness, apathy, or even crippling anxiety. Damon goes on to assert, “Even in the most privileged schools, there are students who find little meaning in the work they are expected to do [and rarely link this work] to their aspirations for their lives.” As young adults consider the prospects for their future, parental or societal expectations are likely stronger driving forces than a more personal, intrinsic motivation. As Robert Fischer M.D. explains in Psychology Today, “The young adult must have an inner motivation in order for success to be possible, and they often need guidance to gain clarity and focus in this area.” 

At HMI, we’ve been really lucky. The novelty of the HMI experience has afforded us the benefit to observe this engagement in our students in many ways, and likely more than when they’re in more familiar environments. Intuitively, we know that when we feel a sense of purpose, an ability to take action at the intersection of our unique passions, skills, and a need in the world outside of ourselves, we feel more valuable, capable, and engaged, and the unique context of learning at HMI creates that intersection for many students.

Recently, we’ve begun to explore this intersection more specifically, especially within the HMI Gap curriculum. In much the same way that we believe that anyone can learn to live comfortably in the backcountry or to lead more deliberately and effectively, we aim to help students reflect on, clarify, and develop a personal sense of purpose over the course of our semester.

Particularly for young adults who are transitioning into college, living away from home for the first time, and beginning a trajectory toward a career, this quest to articulate purpose is paramount and correspondingly, a central focus of our Gap programming. Our curriculum specifically asks students to consider essential questions throughout the semester such as “What are my passions in life; how can I shape my life by and through the things that inspire me most?” and “How do my values and choices empower me to live the life I envision for myself and to effect change in the world?”

Many discussions and activities throughout the semester urge students to reflect on their identity, values, passions, and beliefs. Mid-way through the semester, these reflections take shape as students draft their personal mission statement, a credo articulating their core values and how they hope to weave them into the fabric of their lives as independent adults. Building off this activity, students consider how to be a purposeful leader and integrate their mission statement into their leadership style. Finally, students can put this reflection and development into practical terms through working activities such as career mapping and writing personal ethics statements.

Transference, the idea that what students learn and do here must impact their lives beyond HMI, has been one of our core values since our founding. Our hope is that students leave HMI Gap inspired to connect the what with the why and empowered to pursue their hopes and dreams for the future.

Gear Up for Good

Written by: Chap Grubb (Semester 21 alum)
May 23, 2019

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Henry David Thoreau

Hello! My name is Chap Grubb. I went to HMI back in 2008, as a member of RMS XXI. My time exploring the wilderness with Molly and Danny made me the man I am today. The choices I have made to this point are a direct result of learning in the Rockies with mentors and peers. I used to think I hated everything about school—but, HMI taught me how much I love to learn. The lessons taught through those formative months so many moons ago still advise me.

I am so grateful for my opportunity to have experienced such a legendary approach to teaching. My goal for the past decade has been to make outdoor education, and wilderness in general, more accessible, while maintaining a strong moral compass and respect for the undisturbed wild.

I wasn’t quite sure how I planned to accomplish that ambitious goal. I studied English, Education and Linguistics at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO. I considered teaching. I studied Wilderness Medicine. I lived in a Westfalia. I climbed. I skied. I rafted. I guided.

I have been blessed to experience so many of the complex systems that make adventure sports exhilarating and safe. It is so important that we help facilitate both access and education for all wilderness sports. This is about training humans, young and old, to appreciate, respect, preserve and advocate for Mother Nature. This thinking is a direct result of the discipline and education I received at HMI.

To pay it forward, I created a business that hopes to achieve this goal. The company is named The Rerouted Co-op. We are a new way to buy and sell used outdoor gear on the internet. Our focus is to get gear back in the mountains and provide additional funding for local, wilderness charities. We are encouraging people to not hold onto their gear until it’s outdated and only a collectible. The Rerouted Co-op is gearing up for good in many ways. Supporting other small businesses, up-cycling all equipment, and making accessing the outdoors more affordable.

We accept both consignments (we take the photos and do all the work, you get the money) and full donations. On consignments, The Rerouted Co-op gives 10% of profit back to wilderness charities. Donations will earn 60% of the total sale for local wilderness charities and nonprofits. HMI will be an option for people to choose to donate to when selling or donating gear through The Rerouted Co-op. We are gearing up for good and ready to rock and roll.

The High Mountain Institute achieved its mission when it came to young Chap Grubb. I am a die-hard adventure athlete and passionate wilderness advocate. I connected with nature, became a leader, became a critical thinker, and fell in love with learning. The lessons I learned at HMI inspired me to bring The Rerouted Co-op to life. I am ecstatic about the responses I have received across the board. We are actively growing relationships with the Access Fund, Leave No Trace, and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, in addition to HMI.

The rerouted co-op is currently planning Gear Up events (collection and sales) in our home state of New Mexico and the front range of Colorado around Memorial Day weekend. We are actively accepting consignments and donations—building inventory is our most pressing goal. If you have any gear to sell through our program, and are interested in earning money for HMI—PLEASE CONTACT US.

We are easy to find on the web— Our social media handle across the board is @reroutedcoop. Additionally, my email address is and my phone number is (575)-741-6153. Either find us at one of our Gear Up events (schedule coming out shortly) or contact us directly to organize a pick up.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Ed Abbey’s Desert Solitare, “wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” There is no better way to sum up our mission at The Rerouted Co-op. #gearupforgood.

Semester 42: A Week in the Life

Written by: Annabel, Anna, & Will
May 13, 2019

As the semester is coming to a close, our lives have become increasingly filled with intense activity and excitement for the future. It can get a little stressful sometimes, so the weekends are a great way to relax our minds. As the days get warmer, we’ve all been enjoying time outside slacklining, playing Frisbee, and just hanging out in the sun. Two Saturdays ago, after taking the SAT at Lake County High School, we had some time to hang out in town, followed by a square dance before dinner! Everyone dressed in their best western attire, and we were professional dancers by the end of the night. After dinner, we rearranged Who’s Hall into a movie theater and had an “HMI Film Festival” where students could show their videos they made during expedition to the whole community, followed by an impromptu dance party before bed! The next day, we had 2 hours of solo time, and then drove down to Buena Vista to play soccer, eat food, and hang out in the warm weather. Everyone was ecstatic to be able to hang out together again after expedition, and this weekend helped us relieve the stress of taking the SAT and the ramping up of academics in the coming weeks.

Last week, we woke up to eight and a half inches of fresh snow. Prom was on Saturday which meant that prom proposals were a daily occurrence last week, especially during meals. From food-based asks to full-on skits, the campus was full of excitement for prom. Some memorable prom proposals were Caroline D’s biscuit prom ask to Ayden that included her whole cabin prancing in the snow and Coco’s stolen portrait ask to Carly which involved half of the administration as well as a multi-part set up. Among the prom craze and plenty of fresh powder, student led cook crews have begun shaking up the usual campus menus during these remaining weeks. Here, residential life is buzzing with activity from Frisbee throwing challenges over the East building to music jam session in the cabin at night!

At HMI we read… a lot. A typical day of school includes two to five classes filled with discussions, analysis, group collaboration, and the occasional set of notes. Each class is taken four times in a six-day school week, and often has some sort of reading, writing, or assessment homework between each class. In science, we write a book chapter every week, accompanied by reading for lab day, and reading for discussion. In English, we read a section of a book or a reading about the American west. History class often has a few readings to be discussed as well as a writing assignment. In Practices & Principles: Ethics of the Natural World (also know as P&P), the one class a week outlier, has multiple readings about the same topic to be discussed and responded to. Math class requires little reading, but does have take home assessments every week. All of this combined seems daunting, but after a week of school here you figure out a system to get all of your work done, and you become a pro at reading and annotating. All academics at HMI revolve around the West and understanding the different points of view or ethics that are found here, with the exclusion of a group work-based math class. In general, the academics here are engaging, hands on, and a ton of fun. They let you and your peers discover things, without boring monotonous notes, and the ever-increasing pressure of traditional grades. Feedback is also key all curriculum here and is provided on a four point scale that lets you know how you are doing and what you can improve on, instead of a letter grade that tells you little about what needs to be improved.

Semester 42: Third Expedition

Written by: Lucia, Caroline D., Evan, Jacob, & Alana
May 9, 2019

Group A: Being only with women for 11 days in the back country was an empowering experience. We hiked over 40 miles in Lime and Road Canyons, hiked to see ruins, and did a 10 mile day hike to see Neville’s Arch. Each day we awoke to the warm desert sunlight on our faces— we never slept in our tarps— and the sounds of others waking up and packing their bags. We proved to be better at navigation than we thought, and the lack of adult authority taught us how to resolve conflict and talk to each other in a healthy way. We completed wilderness first aid and got Independent Student Travel (IST) the second day that we hiked. Although being without Emily and Renee (our expedition leaders) was hard at times, having a student leader and all being able to participate in group decisions brought us closer than we ever thought possible. At the end of each day we would laugh and cry, sharing memories and making so many more. We fell asleep to the soft snoring of our tarp mates, and the millions of stars above our heads.

Group B: For our third expedition, we headed to the San Rafael Swell in Utah. When we arrived, we were surprised to see so much plant life, as our first trip to the canyons had been pretty barren. We rarely slept in our tarps, instead choosing to sleep under the stars. We did get a bit of rain, however, and a lightning storm struck just as we were doing a river crossing on our fourth day, our first day of Independent Student Travel, or IST. Everyone in the water was quickly helped out, with Fran and Eliza taking packs. We stayed on other sides of the river until the lightning passed. River crossings were more common than expected due to this winter’s record snowfall. It all melted into the rivers, so where the maps showed a path between the canyon wall and the rover, there was none. We didn’t let it break morale, though—we found ways to cross and stayed positive, always singing. Our expedition group was probably more often singing than not. Some favorites were the national anthem and Sweet Child O’ Mine. We also learned and practiced rounds of a song called “Dominica,” which we then performed at dinner when we got back to campus. Another thing that kept our spirits high was the Lord Of The Rings theme Jacob employed. Our mission was to throw a ring that we took turns wearing around our necks on a cord. Each of our campsites was given a LOTR-inspired name. Some highlights were Rivendell, where we had our first layover day; Isengard, where we got to see the other expedition group that was in the Swell; and our last campsite at the gates of Mordor. In the morning of our second-to-last hiking day, we had a naming ceremony where Jacob gave us all character names, then we hiked up a mesa. On our very last day of hiking, we went down into a canyon where we met a cowboy who gave us directions. We followed the map to Mordor, which was a huge, beautiful, amphitheater-like canyon. We threw the ring in and celebrated, then completed our hike to the bus.
On the last night, we stayed at an established campsite with a campfire. We took turns staying up and stoking the fire, reflecting on our final expedition with HMI. We were sad to leave the canyons, but excited to visit the supermarket for fresh fruit and lemonade.

Group C: After about 8 hours of driving with two stops the boys made it to Utah. Based in cedar Mesa, we started our journey with a day hike to the citadel which is a unique cliff dwelling connected by a land bridge. After our day hike we dropped down into Road Canyon where we spent four out of our eleven days. On day four when we arrived to our site, we decided to camp on top of the canyon. From there, we had views of the whole valley, the canyons, and Bears Ears. From this site we were able to explore a new canyon section never before explored by and HMI group. The following hiking day was the longest of the trip, nine miles, exiting one canyon and entering a whole new one and at the end. During the last two miles, we saw our first glimpse of freedom from the I-team which marked the beginning is IST, or Independent Student Travel. We hiked in Fish and Owl Creek Canyon for a few days before we got to a site where we did a day hike to Neville’s Arch. That afternoon, we had an enlightening four-hour solo and the true beginning of IST. For the last three days of the trip, we hiked closer and closer to the bus until one day, we got to the bus. The next day we got up at 5:45 AM and made on our way back to HMI with excitement for the future and smiling faces.

Group D: For the first four days of expedition, we camped in Lime Canyon. We found amazing places to camp at all of our campsites because Lime Canyon is very wide and does not have steep walls. We had our layover day on our third day in Lime Canyon. We took our free day to do a lot of wilderness first aid training. That night, we had a group kitchen where we made pizza and hung out. While hiking the last couple days in Lime Canyon, we saw some amazing views and took some amazing pictures. On our last day in Lime Canyon, we had a push day where we hiked nine miles. We were supposed to climb out of Lime Canyon, walk on Cedar Mesa, and finally descend into Road Canyon, but somewhere along that long arduous hike, we got lost, and we ultimately did not make it to our X. So, instead, we camped with another HMI group about a mile and a half from where we were supposed to enter Road Canyon. That night, we did a group circle with the other group and talked about the awesome times we had had so far. The next day, while hiking along the road, we had amazing views of Bears Ears National Monument, but the highlight of the day, and maybe the expedition, was when we ran into several trail Santas. The trail Santas gave us clean water and tons of snacks. After about ten more minutes of hiking, we arrived at the mouth of Road Canyon where we waited for our Instructor Team. We decided to go on a day hike along the edge of the canyon to the Citadel where there were beautiful and perfectly intact cave dwelling ruins. We dropped into the canyon later that day where we camped for two nights. On our last night, we camped at Neville’s Arch and did our final circle. Overall, our exped was amazing full of hilarious moments and amazing views.

Group E: On First and Second Expedition, and I didn’t feel like I proved my outdoor competency, but in the San Rafael Swell it felt natural. The weather, my group, and the Instructor Team truly shone on this trip. I fell in love with the outdoors again while backpacking through those canyons. The circles we had made us talk, laugh, and sit in silence. In those canyons I thought about the future. I thought about how I could stay out there forever. We talked about HMI being over and were content with our trip being at the conclusion. Now, when I look back to Third Expedition, I think about when our laughs banged against the canyon walls in a chorus of echos. I read my journal entries and will forever be on the lookout for similar experiences and feelings. I’ll be looking for warmth, companionship, and togetherness. I’ll be looking for an experience that only the ones out there with me understand. I’ll be looking for a true connection.

Grounding Our Sense of Place

Written by: Claire Sutton (Admissions Associate & Gap Faculty) & Barrett Donovan (Alumni & Development Associate)
April 26, 2019

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself: What is the history of the land I’m standing on? Through whose hands has it passed ownership? How can we acknowledge these histories?

Throughout all HMI programs, a key part of our school’s mission is to engage students with the natural world.

During the HMI Semester, each student takes the course “Practices and Principles; Ethics of the Natural World.” This class is designed to “challenge [students] to think critically about the way in which [they]…interact with, use and think of the natural world.” HMI Semester students spend roughly one-third of their semester sleeping under the stars, and exploring what it means to be a thoughtful citizen and steward of the places we travel through.

During our Gap Semesters, students complete a robust Environment Studies curriculum. We ask them to consider: “Are humans part of, or separate, from nature?” Gap students spend close to 60 days immersed in a backcountry environment.

Fundamental to any HMI student experience is this bold union of rigorous intellectual inquiry and experiential learning.

We hope that out of our students’ inquiry into the land we live, learn and play on, and through their experiences with it, that they develop what we call a “ sense of place.”  

To have a “sense of place” is to have a connection, relationship, or attachment to a place that results from experiences and memories associated with a place. Through a rooted understanding of “sense of place,” people form values associated with land. Land holds many emotions for humans: it is nostalgic, it is peaceful, it is traumatic or it is sacred. Sometimes land is “useful” or deemed “useless.”

Our students, current and former, are connected by powerful associations with the land that we built our school on. These places feel uniquely “ours.” The sense of belonging these shared places foster are why when any alumni walk in the door at HMI for a visit we say “welcome home.”

The lands our community associates as homethe deep canyons of Bears Ears National Monument, the alpine tundra in San Isabel National Forest, or the sagebrush field behind Who’s Hallwere all once home to different peoples. We believe that it is necessary to ground our students’ sense of place by first honoring the people that came before us.

The Ute have hunted game and fished trout in the Sawatch Range and Arkansas Valley for centuriesand many Ute continue to do so today. President Obama declared the Bears Ears region of Utah a National Monument after an inter-tribal coalition made up of Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Dine, and Ute leaders created a management plan “to assure…the area will forever be managed with the greatest environmental sensitivity…where [they] can be among [their] ancestors…where [they] can connect with the land and be healed.” Before settlers wiped out the entire indigenous populations of Chilean Patagonia, the Mapuche people created elaborate rock art inside their cave dwellings. The lands we love have been loved for centuries before us, and are still loved by indigenous communities today.

As we encourage students to develop a deep “sense of place” while they are at HMI, we must also help them understand that caring for the land we love is an ongoing, nuanced, and complicated act. Without acknowledging that our programs take place on lands with intricate and biased historieslands that have changed hands from indigenous peoples through the often brutal tactics of Western Expansionwe would do a great disservice to the indigenous communities who spent centuries as the stewards and protectors of the places we love, and still continue to steward and protect them today.

To properly engage in the natural world is not an easy task. True engagement requires students to use all of the habits of mind that we hope to instill in them during their HMI experience: accountability and collaboration, critical analysis, curiosity and inquiry, and effective communication. We encourage our students, and the wider HMI community, to use these habits of mind when exploring topics of land stewardship and acknowledgement.

One of the ways that HMI works to acknowledge the traditional indigenous inhabitants of public land is by including land acknowledgements on our social media posts. These land acknowledgements specifically identify the traditional indigenous inhabitants of the land that our students travel through while participating in HMI courses. The US Department of Arts and Culture, a grassroots organization working to shape a culture of empathy, equity, and belonging, writes, “Acknowledgement is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture and toward inviting and honoring the truth.” To read more about the practice of land acknowledgement, check out Honor Native Lands: A Guide and Call to Acknowledgement.

HMI Gap, Futaleufu, adventure and conservation

We hope that the HMI community at large will join us in acknowledging the traditional indigenous inhabitants of land throughout the United States, and world. We are proud to support land acknowledgement and are excited at the process of continuing to educate our students, and community, about the rich history of the places we have all come to love. 


HMI Gap: A Festive Final Expedition

Written by: Selena & Deming
April 16, 2019
In the small town of Villa Cerro Castillo, in the valley below the jagged and fortress-like peaks of Cerro Catillo, we made preparations for our final expedition of the semester. Part of what makes the final expedition at HMI special is that we have the opportunity to earn “Independent Student Travel” or “IST” time. To make this model work we elected a Student Expedition Lead or “SEL.” She held the main vision for our group and actively worked with the instructors to plan what each day would look like. Our SEL coached us to work together as a group to plan out our trip. Each night we gathered to prepare a “Route and Description” or RAD plan. We, as students, were in main control of this expedition.
Hiking in the Cerro Castillo backcountry both stunned and challenged us with its breathtaking beauty and steep, exposed mountain passes. The terrain forced us to use the team-building skills we’d worked up to all semester. We assessed the risk of the scree and loose rocks–putting into practice terrain assessment techniques we’d gathered from a semester’s worth of coaching from instructors. Using our decision-making matrix we decided that it would be safest to cross the furiously windy mountain passes without any breaks. Emboldened by months of hearty adventure, we powered through!  Despite the difficult terrains, we kept our positive attitudes and supported each other throughout the hike. We were rewarded with humbling views of the valley below.  On top of our second pass, we could see Villa Cerro Castillo and an overview of all the rivers and valleys surrounding us. (Personally, I was so appreciative of what I was seeing that I teared up!) Looking back up at the mountains, seeing the places we had been and the trails we took, we felt a deep pride for how far we’d come–both literally and metaphorically since first arriving in Patagonia in February.
After making it through a few difficult days of hiking through mountain passes, we hunkered down to do some volunteer work in the Porteadores campsite. There, we worked with Senderos Patagonia to help clear more camping spaces to reduce the overall environmental impact visitors to the park had on the area. For three days we worked with park employees and learned valuable skills (like how to roll logs downhill!). On day eight of the expedition we headed up the valley we were camping in onward to the Neozelandés campsite, where we planned to complete a 24-hour solo to bring the course to a close. The solo is a cornerstone of any closing to an HMI program. Sometimes students choose to spend a few hours in reflective seclusion from the group and other times–an entire day! Unfortunately, it started raining in the middle of the night so we had to call ours to a close early.  We enjoyed meeting back up and were grateful to be able to stay warm and dry in our tents. We ended that night by making an epic feast from our remaining rations and by playing lots of silly games. That night, a snowstorm hit the higher elevations on the mountains. We woke up in the morning to a gorgeous dusting of powder. This inspired the group to begin singing holiday tunes. On our final day of hiking, we chose to embrace the snowy weather and belted the holiday songs out the entire way down the mountain–it was a definite highlight for everyone!  Now we have the bittersweet final days of saying goodbye to each other and heading back home. Though we’re all excited to see our families, we’ll all miss HMI, Patagonia, the beautiful sights, and the friends we made.