Group A: Our ten day expedition began with an eight hour bus ride full of introductions, forgetting each others names and Liz’s extensive Beyonce repertoire on iTunes. We all awkwardly played car ride games and asked where each other was from. As the landscape outside our bus windows turned from a whirlwind of snow to red, Mars-like canyons bathed in light, we nervously unpacked our stuff for the first night. Initially bonding over a love of mac and cheese and sharing our favorite places in the first night of Circle, our journey began. The next day, we hiked 6 miles, singing songs, learning about topographic maps, and got to know each other better. By the time the sun was setting on our second night in the canyons, we were sure of two things: that our feet hurt (from new hiking boots), and that we would make incredible friendships during our ten days in the canyons of Utah. As we trudged through mud, plowed through snow, trod into and then out of canyons, we grew to know the incredible people we got the opportunity to be with, each unique and extraordinary in their own ways. Meredith can tell stories that make people double over laughing. Owen has a bottomless reservoir of positivity. Emma is incredibly in tune with the emotions of those around her, achieved all while making me a killer cheesy bagel. Liz has an impressive repertoire of Dixie Chicks songs, which she serenaded to us as we hiked. Every member of our group contributed something special and essential to our team. Regardless of our unique personalities and backgrounds, we could somehow all come together in the back country to sing loudly, watch sunsets arm in arm, or even just put one foot in front of the other on trail. As we hiked toward the bus on the last morning of expedition, we were sure that we have changed for the better, shaped by the mesas and canyons we were surrounded by and the incredible people we were with.
Group B: One evening, our tarp group was cooking our meal near the edge of a canyon pretty late at night and very far away from the rest of the group. As we were cooking the pasta, Porter shined his headlamp over towards our tarp and a coyote was halfway in it, sniffing for food. We immediately freaked out and the coyote ran away as soon as the light hit it. The rest of the night we tried to startle each other by pretending coyotes were behind others and yelling. We told the rest of the group about what we saw during circle and the entire expedition group, excluding all but one of the adults, were on edge even though we all knew coyotes are harmless. We never saw another coyote but for the whole night we were convinced that the rustling of trees and the wind blowing was the sound of a pack of coyotes coming to attack us. Not to mention we had broken the zipper to our tarp so the top of our heads were completely exposed which made it very easy prank each other throughout the night.
Group C: Group C had an amazing trip filled with beautiful hiking days and sunsets. Here’s an anecdote from one member of our group, Alana: “At first I thought I was wrong about my decision to come to HMI. The first half of my trip came with a milieu of challenges that seemed as though they’d be with for the duration of our 11 day trip. I was complaining about just about everything. The cold. My backpack being heavy. Not being able to wash my face. All somewhat mundane, and now looking back annoying, complaints swam in my head. I wasn’t having a good time, up until the most physically and mentally challenging day I’ve had—it was called Mesa day. My group hiked for nine hours with the last two hours being in the dark with snow waist deep. I cried when we reached our destination. I couldn’t feel my legs, my head hurt, and the tears blurred my vision. I couldn’t find it in me to complain, despite the hardships we faced. Mesa Day made me realize that some things are be hard and not fun in the moment but are ultimately worth it. Now, I am so happy that I came to HMI, and now I know the reason why I’m here. I’m here to be a better me. The version of myself that pushes through challenges and maintains moral. The person my mom will be proud of when I tell her about all the things I’ve done.”
Group D: Our group was absolutely incredible, and we all connected with each other very early on. Going into the experience we were all nervous because we had never spent ten whole days in the back country, and we did not know whether or not our group was going to get along. Our fears subsided after the bus ride to Utah. It was a seven hour drive, and no one thought we would talk the whole
time, but we did. Before the expedition had really begun, we found ourselves knowing more
about some of the people we were with than some of our closest friends. The first night, we arrived and made a pretty decent first meal. Then we had circle where we talked about our plan for the next day and then we went around sharing personal answers to a very deep question. Circle happened every night, and most nights it was the same structure, sometimes with a game beforehand, and sometimes with a silly question. Our first hiking day really cemented that the trip was going to be amazing. The sights were incredible, and the group was so positive and upbeat. It was a short hike, and we reached camp in high spirits. We explored a little and set up our mids. (tents with no floor) We had another Circle, and chose our Leaders of the Day (LODs) for the next day. A couple days later was a birthday and a rest day. We ate pancakes, ramen noodles, pizza, and cake. We had some classes and then finished the
day with a Circle. The view at that spot was divine. We were looking out straight to the canyon adjacent to us and all of its intricate rock formations. At this point we were all learning to read the maps which we thought was amazing because nowadays we completely rely on our phones to tell us where to go. We loved every moment of expedition, even the ones where we were soaking and miserable, because the people around us made it enjoyable. We ate amazing food, and saw some of the most incredible sights of our lives.
Group E: Loud, off-key singing to Mr. Brightside by the Killers was our last sign of civilization for 10 days. Our leaders Sadie, Hayden, and apprentice Davis led us in finding our way out of our comfort zone and into the backcountry. On our first day, the group bonded over shared music and first impressions, as well as an assortment of different stove-cooked meals. Hiking 4.5 miles on the first day with filled packs left us all exhausted, but as we arrived at our campsite we were rejuvenated by the beauty of the edge of the canyon that we slept by. By sunrise it was a different story. Waking up to all of our items frosted over was quite the shock, but we got used to the cold temperatures of the desert nights as the days went by. Our group quite seamlessly fit together and bonded quickly. Most of the days were filled with laughter or renditions of songs that we would wake up with stuck in our heads. Every night we played a hilarious game led by our expedition leaders. However, what I think brought us together the most was getting together for Circle at night. By the time circle came around each night, everyone was tired from the day’s hike or academic experience, but we always left energy for more. We pondered each question and listened to the answers, bringing us closer and able to be more vulnerable. I truly feel as though I know my group in a very meaningful way. One of my favorite moments from expedition was when we woke up to our mid almost completely blown over, and realized we had been sleeping in a large puddle of rain for a few hours. At first we didn’t know what to do, but then we realized that besides from fixing the rocks and hunkering down, all we could really do was laugh about it. I feel very proud of my group for 1) completing mesa day (hiking for 12 hours including climbing and descending the mesa)! and 2) opening ourselves up to growth. From expedition I will take away a zest for life, a newfound sense of peace and happiness, deep friendships and memories, and a curiosity for what is to come at HMI.