Semester 44: 1st Expedition

Written by: Dylan, Maple, Sam L, Annabelle, & Eloise

Group A, led by Barrett and Erik, began their expedition with a seven hour drive through the dramatically changing landscape of Utah and Colorado. Setting up their tarps at the end of the drive, with Jacob’s Chair towering in the distance, everyone had a certain sense of awe gazing at the canopy of stars above and the rocks visible through the darkness. This sense of awe remained throughout the whole expedition, from the first seven mile day to the last three mile day. The hiking days were varied; some traveled through canyons while others trekked strictly on the road, soupy with red mud and melting snow. Some were more difficult than others, and by day six or seven, the group had tired of slogging under relentless sun only to sleep in the cold with the constant threat of rain. There were of course moments of pessimism, when cars and warm, dry, legitimate beds seemed preferable to the backcountry, but when these moments passed there was constant positivity and wonder at the surroundings. The trip culminated with an exhausting climb up the mesa to the base of Jacob’s Chair. To reach the Chair, however, the group had to soldier through feet of snow on a winding road hanging off of what seemed like the edge of the world. With the wind roaring and tearing at every bit of exposed skin and a seemingly endless climb, it would have been easy for the group to become negative and forgo everything they had worked towards for the last ten days. Despite this, they forged on and dinner that night, cooked expertly on the WhisperLite stoves, seemed especially sweet. Every night, after dinner, the group would have Circle, a time to share and become increasingly familiar and vulnerable with each other. By the time the last circle rolled around, everyone had faced different challenges and grown in different ways. The one thing that was constant for the group, however, were the memories and friends made throughout 12 days of suffering, sacrificing, and living together; these will never leave them.

GROUP B: Pop quiz: what do dehydrated beans, film canisters, and English homework packets have in common? Answer: they’re all among the things that we shoved into our 40-pound backpacks and hoisted onto our shoulders during every day for our 12-day expedition through Utah. Over our week and a half in the canyons, we covered about 40 miles, circumnavigated Found Mesa, watched the sun paint the sky as it dipped behind faraway mesas, and became close friends under the dazzling stars. Each and every member of the group learned so much, from backcountry cooking to setting up tarps to navigation to conflict resolution to land management practices to ecological succession. The trip featured hysterical laughter during jokes, games, and talent shows; a group crying circle after a particularly challenging day; and everything in between. From the first day when we barely knew each other’s names, to the last when we had all shared personal stories and secrets, we had moments of struggle and exhilaration every day on trail. Some favorite experiences include scrambling down into and out of Gravel Canyon during one of the longest hiking days, rolling under a barbed wire fence when no gate was in sight, covering close to 8 miles through snowy and tree-heavy land on the biggest day, and seeing stunning views of Jacob’s Chair from multiple angles. There were rougher patches, too – like the time one of the tarps almost blew into a canyon, or the time a raven ate a significant portion of one group’s food—but every experience has become a memory to look back on and laugh about. We’re all excited to be back on campus and get into the swing of school, but can’t help missing the blood red rock or the sound of coyotes howling at night in the canyons that became our homes-away-from-home for a week and a half. We can’t wait to go back for our third expedition in April!

Group C started their expedition in the bus. Their expedition Apprentice, Lilla, compiled a playlist for the bus ride, to ensure they were not devoid of entertainment. After their seven-hour drive, Group C arrived in southeastern Utah. They pulled on to a dirt road overlooking a small canyon that would be their camp for the night. After setting up camp for the first time, the group learned the basics of backcountry cooking and had their first Circle, an activity done at the end of each day where people share things about themselves and have a discussion based on a question posed by one of the students. Most days consisted of taking down camp, hiking to the next location, setting up camp, then either doing classes or homework. However, two of the days, called “rest days,” consisted of day hikes and other activities. Hiking days were some of the highlights of the trip. On the first day, the group hiked up the Mesa they were adjacent to, and on another day, one of the best days, the group hiked into a small nook of the canyon. First, they descended down a steep rock face assisted by rope, then they explored the narrow canyon. In some spots it was tight enough that students climbed a bit off the ground by pressing on the two sides of the canyon for leverage. After that midway day, the group started hiking back to the bus, and by the eleventh day they had reached their final campsite. The final day, the group loaded up the bus to head back to HMI, and even got to stop for Chipotle on the way.

Group D, aka Mystery Incorporated, led by Garry had an incredibly successful expedition! After braving wind and rain, learning how to navigate the canyons of Southern Utah using contour lines on maps, learning how to cook in the backcountry, along with other things, the group was challenged on a 10 mile Mesa day. After spending the night at their campsite, the group woke before sunrise and climbed on top of the Mesa they had been walking along all week. At the top, they split into two hiking groups and started the hike. After both groups found themselves off of the map, the hikers made it to the edge of the Mesa just in time to see the sunset over the beautiful landscape feeling very proud of themselves but very hungry. Due to the navigational delay at the beginning of the day, group D had to make the difficult decision to spend the night on the top of the Mesa where the two hiking groups joined together again and cooked dinner together. The hikers exchanged stories of the day, melted snow for water, which was a new experience for most of them, and then went to bed early to prepare to descend the Mesa. It was an incredibly difficult day, but the group banded together to have one of the best days of the entire expedition. 

Group E recently got back from the semester’s first expedition, a 12-day backpacking trip in the Southeastern Canyons of Utah. The expedition was complete with lots of hiking, bonding, delicious meals, and incredible views. The group embraced challenge and supported each other on the longest day, a trek up, along, and down a mesa. On a layover day, a day where we didn’t hike, the group descended into a canyon and walked along climbing up and around rocks. Walking inside the canyons was incredible and the group got to see many types of different rocks and took some memorable pictures sitting inside a wall with holes from wind erosion. The tarp groups were quite the chefs and created delicious and inspired meals every night on the WhisperLite stoves. The group persevered as we were met with harsh wind, cold temperatures, snow and frozen boots. Spirits were always high, and the group laughed and supported each other with jokes and stories. On expedition we had many interesting class discussions, talked a lot about leadership methods and embraced the desert surroundings through nature nuggets. One of the highlights of the entire expedition was getting to wake up every morning to an amazing view of the sunrise in the desert and the Henries, a mountain nearby range.