Gap, Traverse: Many the Miles

HMI Gap Blog by Molly Grand and Abby Sieler

The first two weeks of HMI Gap in the American West have been filled with LOTS of walking. We began at Sugarloafin’ Campground, where we had Orientation and learned how to set up a Whisperlite stove and a Mid Tent, divide up rations and pack our backpacks. 

More importantly, in the first three days we got to know the 10 other students we would be spending the rest of our 80-day journey with. 

On the third day, we took the bus to our drop-off point, where we said goodbye to the frontcountry and began our two-week expedition into the Sawatch Mountain Range. We got dropped off at the gravel pit, where we stopped to eat lunch and learned how to purify water. We learned how to put on our pack the correct way and how to walk with our hiking poles. Most of us couldn’t lift our packs ourselves, so we needed someone else to help us put them on. Others couldn’t walk in a straight line, so the 2-mile hike to our first campground was a struggle for many. 

That night, we made it to the most beautiful campground and began setting up camp for the first time on the expedition! We made cheesy pasta together, played a game as a group, and went to sleep with our tent mates. 

As the days went on, the mileage and altitude increased. We walked 7 miles some days with hundreds of feet in elevation gain. It rained, snowed, and hailed often, but we just bundled up and crossed our fingers. We did some off-trail hikes, and even summited Mount Massive, the third highest mountain in continental America!

Our group’s conversations on trail are always entertaining, often filled with stories and descriptions of friends and what we are excited about next. We have spent many hours on trail trying to figure out the complex and quirky riddles that the I-Team tells us. 

We have started with our environmental studies curriculum and have thoroughly enjoyed the engaging conversations that have been generated by simple questions about environmental ethics. We played jeopardy about Land Management in the US, and your authors of this blog post (Molly and Abby) were on the winning team! The best part was the prize of jolly ranchers! We also have classes on leadership and group development, which are always engaging thanks to the improv skits and made-up characters that the I-Team takes on. 

We have watched each other grow physically and learn how to master skills we barely knew how to do on our first day of the expedition. By the last day of the expedition, the whole group was self-sufficient and able to make a delicious meal for their entire cook group, purify water, pack up tents efficiently, and walk at a faster pace with our 60 lb backpacks. We got through each day and became more and more excited for the beautiful scenery that was to come. The sense of accomplishment and success we all felt when we made it to that final parking lot made everything worth it and we can’t wait for more challenging and rewarding expeditions in the future!