The group started out the week playing a plethora of games! The Goannas played capture the flag Tuesday morning, where they all prepared by painting their faces with mud in an attempt to camouflage themselves. They then played Calvin Ball, a game that is similar to baseball, but with much fewer rules. Then they moved into a ton of skills throughout the week, including creating keeper’s pouches, leather bags, kites, and A-frame wooden backpacks. They held a goodbye gathering on top of a hill at sunset for their most senior member, Wise King Crab, where they all shared their favorite memories of one another!
The Goannas were challenged with a seemingly unsolvable maze, where they could only ask “Am I there yet?”, “I need help,” or “Left or right?”. The only way out of the maze was to ask for help! After the maze, the group had an incredibly insightful conversation on what it means to ask for help and the challenges that come when we don’t ask for help. Students completed a double hike day on Saturday where they made it to the Oasis site–a beach-like site filled with sand.
On Sunday, they played football and baseball. They made a baseball bat out of a plastic tube they found and used a hacky sack as a ball. The football was made with leather and filled it with a scarf and juniper berries. The nights were capped off with Ukulele playing from Adventurous Tree. The Goanna’s also held several ceremony circles, one of which two members were honored with the Openness token, and in another Adventurous Tree was honored with a custom made drum. The Goannas worked extremely hard during their personal time during the week, with everyone finishing their therapy assignments right away. On the last day of the week Courageous Lion announced a quote that really resonated with the group, “Find yourself first and happiness will come along the way”. Here’s to another great week in the Goannas!
The Pindari exhibited strong bonding moments throughout the week–specifically, while engaging in competitive games during sunset and skills. The group played games such as Dr. Nalgene, Ninja, Werewolf, and many more. The group continued growing as a family during night gatherings while being open with staff and themselves. These strong bonds were brightest during the student’s token ceremonies. Several students received the following tokens: Vital Fire, Brightness, Maker and Truth Speaker. Vital Fire was given to a student that has exhibited to be a strong leader within the group, the student has continually proved to lead with their heart. Brightness was given to a student who consistently raised the group’s spirits while morale was low. Finally, Maker and Truth Speaker was given to a student that has shown a passion and dedication to creating. While working on skills this same student exhibited strong integrity and honesty when dealing with staff tools.
The group witness some beautiful wildlife sightings while out and about this week, and took particular interest in a tarantula that was wandering through the campsite. They also spent a lot of the week focused on skills. They made spoons, backpacks, and really focused on working on their busting as a team.
The group started their mornings listening to a staff read from the Anatomy of Peace, and participated in some intentional stretching. They also participated in an initiative based in communication where the group had to organize themselves without speaking based on various categories including height, age, and even who they felt was the most open or closed in the group.
The week wrapped up with the team getting together to create one last strong fire before the ban. This led to the students creating the “Ultimate Firepit” complete with a rocked pit and couch. The Pindari created a strong environment for emotional safety and therapeutic work this week. They are one step closer to forming a strong family between them.
This week began with a new student joining the group and, unfortunately, someone feeling unwell, preventing hikes for the first 2 days of the week. This resulted in lost hiking time however, students pivoted by foraging for material to improve/craft new gear. The group also gifted and honored one of the staff with a new trail name: Brave Wolf. During downtime, the group shared knowledge about their experience at outBACK while making hammocks to relax in or working on their Ngarnas.
Saturday, the group assimilated their newest student into the group, ready for their first hike which was to commence before sundown. To prepare, the group selected a meditation to discuss, they ruminated on a metaphor regarding the nature of trees. They discussed their tempered resistance to turbulent winds that tested their strength every day, reflecting on how they too have been tested both in their lives and in their stay at outBACK. Meanwhile, the corporeal winds blew dust into the clear sunny skies in our valley, providing respite from the harsh heat of the summer sun whilst the group refined their primitive skills. As the sun set on our site, the group helped each other pack their gear before setting off in hopeful spirits through the valley ahead, towards the glowing orange horizon silhouetted by the setting sun. The group reconvened halfway to discuss boundaries and their importance in an improv, mid-hike gathering, still lit by the soft light of evening. Setting up the first new site of the week was short work for the group, the logistics leader and chief displaying remarkable delegation and teamwork all the while in the darkness.
The new site was one laden with surprisingly rare pine trees chirping with songs of cicadas that sounded of droplets of rain, the ground all around us seemed to glitter with the abundance of obsidian shards artifacts and uncommon insects that captivated our imaginations (from a distance). Sunday was the last day for the group to hike, Our goal was to make it to a suitable therapy site. This hike had some in the group questioning their mettle but these doubts were addressed with empathy, sympathy and care by the members allowing us to continue on with the hike as planned. Astoundingly, this hike had the group in higher spirits throughout than the last one, the group arrived earlier than planned and raced against the setting darkness of evening for a thoroughly-built therapy site to be constructed.
With the hikes of the week completed, the group set out on busting coals for their fire pit. All were eager to have a go at providing fire for the group to cook with, their ambition and drive was truly inspiring. It took a few tries from each student but after a short time, their newly formed coals birthed a roaring fire that provided a warm place for us to have our last gathering for that day.
The days at therapy site were used to recuperate and work on skills, many improved the functionality of their busting equipment and pack frames/straps. The group gifted their chief a trail name in ceremony: Blazing Red Panda. Additionally, some of the group secretly set up a ceremony circle to honor each other with tokens to recognize the many ways they had grown during their time at outBACK. When the group wasn’t convened, we observed many critters (from a distance) around our site including a neighboring tarantula in its den, a perturbed scorpion and a rare sighting of the elusive desert badger!
By the end of this week, the students had made amends, progressed their skills, supported one another, and displayed impressive levels of grit that will surely carry over into this next week with the guidance of some of their favorite staff.
The Brumbies fully encompassed the theme of the week; resilience. At the beginning of the week, the group discussed the way a tree grows more resilient as it is pushed by the opposing winds through its life. Just like the metaphor, our group experienced literal and figurative winds of their own. As the Brumbies set out for a night hike, we experienced equipment failure in the form of a backpack frame that needed adjustments. While this setback would keep the group from hiking, the students rallied together to build a makeshift shelter for the evening. After a day of recovery and rebuilding, the Brumbies demonstrated resilience as they set out once again to complete their night hike. The following hike would be met with a new obstacle; this time, in the form of a mild ankle injury. The injured hiker was given transport to the following campsite and is now healing up just fine. Once again, the Brumbies rose to the occasion and carried all of the group equipment with one less hiker.
During personal time, the students showed dedication in completing their therapy assignments and some of these assignments included leading nightly gatherings. Among the gatherings Curious Polaris led a gathering on healthy and proactive habits, other topics included sharing life stories and learning adaptability in challenging scenarios. The Brumbies learned how to cook on individual wood burning stoves as a fire ban would be put into effect. We crafted slings and held a group-wide challenge to see who could hurl rocks the farthest. We played Billy-Ball, a variation of basketball.
As the group reached the end of the week there was a noticeable difference in the way the students carried themselves and interacted with each other. To honor these students they were given the tokens of Letting Go, Vital Fire, and Making Amends during a ceremonial gathering. Thanks to the increase in resilience from our trials, we were able to rise above them and have a fun, fulfilling, and strengthening week.
This peak week, students were gathered late in the evening from their groups and spent a full moonlit night retracing by car all the ground they had thus far covered by foot. They passed pronghorn, badgers, owls and jackrabbits along the way, finally arriving at their campsite near the edge of the field. It was a ride that allowed the students for the first time since their intake day, appreciate the full scope of the vast desert they had journeyed through.
The following morning they were led in silence to a ceremony ground where they shared an in-depth account of what life experiences had led them to outBACK, then were given the challenge of making an attempt at using Peak week to understand themselves better. The group accepted the challenge and took off again, this time out of the desert that had been their home for months, and towards Fremont, a historic state park full of preserved artifacts left by indigenous people.
The next day the group set off for an interpretive trail through a canyon that had once been home to the Fremont Natives. The longest pause of the hike came as students passed canyon walls covered in petroglyphs, where the group stood silent and marveled at the still undeciphered etchings left behind by natives. The trail ended at “shooting” range, where the group launched spears at foam animal targets using an atlatl (a primitive weapon used by the native people).
After some time spent wildly launching spears and embedding them haphazardly in hills abutting the canyon walls the group honed in on the animals and were able to successfully impale their targets. When the group had their fill of firing spears they packed back into the van and headed further south to Cedar Canyon.
In the morning the group hiked into Ashdown Gorge. They crossed streams deep into the high walled canyon, where the trail culminated in a waterfall that the students stood underneath, getting drenched then drying in the sun alongside the stream before returning to camp. After a hot meal the group gathered to reflect on the challenges they have faced in their lives and discussing how to face the future optimistically.
Next, the team journeyed even further south to St. George to ascend the black igneous slabs of Shotgun Alley. When faced with the challenge of rock climbing each student persevered through the strenuous activity despite fear of heights, and hot weather. On the first routes they rose to the occasion and were able to solve the sequences to reach the top of the climb. Next they attempted a more difficult route that, although it was beyond their skill level, provided an aspiration to continue climbing and a goal to complete that level of climb in the future. Afterward the group gathered to discuss how the challenges faced that day related to challenges in their personal lives.
The following morning the group headed to the final peak week destination, Yuba Lake. The group was greeted by high winds that deterred most from getting in the water. But the group still enjoyed relaxing by shore. That evening the group sat by the water and shared what they were most grateful for in their lives and the importance of incorporating gratitude into their daily routine.
The next morning the group woke to find that the wind had abated, the lake was calm and the sky was clear and sunny. For the final activity before returning, the students took SUP boards out on the lake and spent time paddling out and racing one another before returning to shore and loading up a final time.
Their final ceremony was held on top of a ridge just on the edge of the desert they were returning to. The group was honored for the respect they had shown staff and each other. They were challenged to continue the final leg off their journey with the same attitude that they all brought on peak week. Then, they returned to their groups.