This week in the Goannas we started with dedicated time towards lots of skills such as building “A” Frames, spoons, possibility bags and Magnificent Tree constructing a football we were able to play bad throws (a game kind of like hot potato) and jackpot with throughout the week. We also honored Admiral Mustang with the Awakening token to give insight to the observed growth through his outBACK journey. We also gave a student the trail name Fruity Pebbles. We soon said goodbye to Admiral Mustang and Adventurous Orangutan as they departed on their next experience in life.
Our first pack hike was postponed due to a new intake of which the Goannas welcomed with open arms. This extra day from hiking allowed Courageous Lion to take some extra solo time reflecting on his parent visit and realizing that his next step after outBACK should be continuing his treatment to keep his forward momentum in progress consistent. We ended up having 4 prosperous hikes this week, one being a day hike back to a site from the previous week to practice leave no trace principles, take accountability for their actions and learn to respect the ground they walk on. Our other three hikes were rewarding with spectacular views of the valleys below us, blankets of stars, hikes through Juniper and Pine forests and a full moon to light the way to our next site.
We finished our week at a site with massive rock formation and plenty of wildlife including tarantulas, scorpions, rabbits and lizards. We received a rain storm to cool us off followed by bold sun and scarce clouds. The weather gave us a chill day to relax, sleep in and talk about taking accountability, our collusion between one another, reflecting on how our actions affect others, and realizing we were prosperous and extremely creative.
The group started the week in a slump– after a couple days of therapy, hacky sack games, skills, and PT, we were on the road. Our first hike was one of the most beautiful hikes in the field: we walked along a river, saw eagles, found wild mint, and climbed on a rocky mountain with ancient indigenous petroglyphs carved into it. On top, we held a goodbye ceremony for Lyrical Tundra, who left early the next morning. It was fun, emotional, and peaceful, and at the end Lyrical Tundra honored a staff with the Solid Ground token. The next two days we went on day hikes. The first we returned to the petroglyphs to further explore and give another staff her trail name, Enchanted Eclipse! The second day hike we decided to peak a mountain nearby where we watched a beautiful sunset and mined for quartz. The following morning, we enjoyed beverages by the fire while a staff read fairytales to the group. Then, two students led another trail naming ceremony for newly named Giga Monkey, one of the brightest and goofiest members of our group. Abstract Alien also received the Strong Cord token in this ceremony, given by a staff. The pack hike that evening went long and late, but the entire group remained positive and motivated through it all. One specific student was spreading positivity during the whole hike, uplifting staff and students alike through emotional check ins and always looking on the bright side.
When a wind and hail storm hit the next afternoon, two new leaders in the group stepped up to help fix our shelter to ensure everyone was safe and dry in the storm. At this therapy site, we welcomed Endangered Butterfly back from Peak Week and had an honest and productive group therapy session. Staff said their goodbyes to students and headed out while everyone cooked dinner and sang along to a new staff’s ukulele under the stars.
This week with the Ulurus was eventful! The group hiked 7.5 miles over 3 days on dirt roads with 5 of those miles being done in one day–the group came together and decided to combine two hikes into one. Due to hot weather we had to wait until night to start the hikes. Some of our hikes ended with us going to sleep with the sunrise. The weather allowed us to sleep on the ground under the stars outside the shelter. There was some contention in the beginning of the week but they really came together in a positive light, working through personal and group issues. This led to multiple students being honored with tokens such as Brightness, Vital Fire, Solid Ground, Truth Speaker, and Winged Heart. They even came together to honor staff with tokens such as Brightness and Vital Fire and one staff with their trail name, Fierce Hawk.
A theme of this week was supporting one another through struggles. Students were taking the time to call one another out and intentionally develop their own group culture. They worked on making spoons and backpack frames throughout the week. After obtaining spindles and bottom fire boards some students created their first coals. Creativity was at a high this week when it came to recipes, many students made a new orange peel sweet tea and were so interested in cooking they are making a new role in the group as chef and spent time working on a chef book. A big training group came out midweek and we played the biggest game of werewolf yet with 15 people which was a big hit.
In the end, all students grew tremendously and it was a great week for the Ulurus.
The beginning of the week was a scorching reminder that the desert can be hot and barren. The heat brought challenges that caused us to spend a lot of time in the shade. Under the refuge of dry juniper and sage, we worked on skills. Some of us sewed leather onto our straps, some of us whittled away to make spoons and forks, and others harvested wood for our busting sets. All of us reflected on who we were and why we were here.
This reality check was difficult in the blistering sun. Despite the harsh weather, we adapted and overcame. We hiked when the sun was down and the air was cool. Blanketed by the stars we laughed about conspiracy theories and sang songs. Even though our packs were heavy and at times uncomfortable we were able to complete all of the hikes this week. At night, us students led a gathering on deescalation techniques we can use for emotional regulation. We also held a gathering on family, we were honest about those relationships and how we want our families to perceive us.
We had many conversations with each other about ways we felt wronged or hurt by one another. This helped us to see each other as people, because we listened and took accountability. We grew closer as Brumbies and supported each other. This led us to enjoy 4 unique sites. We camped on rocky foothills, soft rolling sand dunes, a windy valley, and a hillside with a stunning vista. We held a ceremony on top of a mountainside, on the which we could see how far we had come. We celebrated one of our members with a token of Openness. Another was bestowed a trail name Loyal Rhinoceros. Another ceremony was held for a different student who received the Vital Fire token.
Overall we faced many challenges this week, we overcame internal and external struggles. It was almost as if the desert knew how far we came. On the last day of the week, we were rewarded with rain. The downpour was revitalizing, and reminded us that we can always start anew. Then a rainbow appeared in the sky, as if to say the hard work and challenges do not go unnoticed.
On this episode of peak, we ventured out of the desert and into the mountains. We started the week forming our group with a gathering discussing what we have been working on and how we have been progressing throughout our stay. We also set the tone for peak by discussing our goals for peak and our boundaries we would like people to respect. The group bonded quickly, and having only three students we were able to really dive into the dynamics of the group. Our first adventure consisted of spelunking in Meadow Lava Tubes and experiencing complete darkness beneath the earth. In one of the lighter spots of the cave we conducted a gathering on legacy in life and in our group. Next we traveled to Fremont State Park and took some intentional time in an indigenous pit house to discuss how we are on other peoples land and we need to make sure we are metaphorically taking our shoes off and respecting the land. This discussion led nicely into our hike which consisted of hundreds of pictographs from the Paiute tribe. The Fremont State Park staff were super nice and let us borrow Atlatls and use them to throw arrows at targets (as seen in the pictures). .
Day 3 we traveled down to Cedar Canyon to rock climb. Every student participated in climbing and went through our ground school where each student learns how to belay and how to safely climb. After Climbing we debriefed climbing and discussed the therapeutic reasonings behind all activities we participate in such as trusting your belayer and overcoming fears. Our next day consisted of an exploration of the Cascade Falls area. We hiked to see the falls and then found ourselves hiking to the top of a peak with an elevation just under 10,000 feet! During our hike the group was learning about different wildlife in the area. We even got to see a Great Basin Bristlecomb Pine Tree which are some of the oldest organisms on Earth! We also explored an ice cave that day, and the students got to feel how extreme the temperature change and be when entering certain caves. Our evening was wrapped up with a gathering that was centered around role models in our lives and why we are grateful for having those figures in our life.
The following morning we piled in our vehicle and made the drive to Yuba Lake State Park. Everyone was in awe by the vivid blue water, and also the pristine showers that the students were able to use. That afternoon was spent skipping rocks and then driving back to our beloved West Desert. We conducted a ceremony for the students to receive their Peak Patch, where they are honored for their hard work to get to that position in their stay and the knowledge that they gained over the past weeks. That evening was spent playing various games, some climbing, and even a friendship bracelet exchange! The next morning, we were woken up by some light rain, but it was quickly made into a good morning by some fluffy pancakes that we ate while taking shelter under a very special rock formation. The students were sad that the week was over, but happy to go see other friends in their groups.