Wilderness Weekly 1.14.23

Photo Credit: Trevor Allen, CMHC - Primary Therapist


This week the Goannas started off with the group saying farewell to their most senior group member, Authentic Raven. The group held a goodbye gathering for him where they reminisced on their favorite memories of him during his time here and their hopes for him in the future. The group packed up and headed out on their first hike of this backcountry expedition week, crushing it easily!

The Goannas had a week filled with laughs and games as they played “Dogs” a hacky sack game mixed with dodgeball aspects, salad bowl, a charades based game, and Among Us, a game where the group had to figure out the imposter among the group The Goannas continued their week pushing through some tough weather in the west desert, coming together as a group to set up their camp as a team and create fire together where they were able to have countless laughs and mouthwatering meals together. The group showed incredible resilience all week and worked diligently as they set up their camps and made fire with their busting sets

The group ended the week honoring a key member with their trail name, Resilient Roadrunner. Everyone threw out adjectives and nouns that they believed described him and explained why they felt that way about him. The week ended with the group singing loud and proud their favorite songs and even making their own versions of some classics. Here is to an excellent group and another wonderful week in the Goannas!


This groovy group of Kangaroos had a fantastic week here out outBACK. Our week began at our beautiful main campsite amongst the juniper trees, overlooking the mighty summit of Indian Peak. Our students worked extremely hard to build a sturdy and comfortable tarp shelter to protect us from the winter elements during our group gatherings and meals. The centerpiece being an impressive fire pit adorned with a nest made of wood, surrounding the flames. These clever students figured out that this allows them to dry off wet firewood so that we always have a way to stay warm and dry. The Kangaroos week started off with one of the students surprising the group by calmly asking that we follow in silence. The group followed in reverence for the sacred trail name ceremony that was about to take place! That is right, one of our own Roo’s were presented with their trail name! We honored our student as they excitedly accepted the name, “Mellow Rat.” Students put together a magical circle near a sage field to honor this student, as many smiles and memories were shared during the ceremony. The rest of the afternoon and evening was met with storytelling and laughing at jokes under the stars.

The Kangaroos were diligent throughout the next few days as they focused on tasks around camp and students spent their time very productively as they focused on therapy assignments, Ngarrnas, and first camp projects. Everyone began harvesting and creating their A-frame packs. We spent a great portion of time sawing crossbars, and soaking leather lashings to complete these frames. Some students were even able to hike with their A-frame for the first time this week.

The group worked together and encouraged one another to keep a positive mindset and focus on the necessary tasks that would result in a timely departure. All which paid off as they were successful on all accounts. The group carried this energy and maintained a cohesive and supportive environment as they hiked to the next site. This group has a surplus of creativity as some of our students came up with new and innovative ways to put up the heated canvas wall tents, our sleep shelter. Once finished, the Roos high fived one another, confident that we would be dry, warm, and cozy as ever with their mother nature proof home. Later, that night a gathering was held on failures and successes. This gave the group a chance to reflect on more ways to come together as a community to complete common goals.

The Kangaroos were encouraging throughout our time together. Time was set aside so that the group could also work on their fire bow drill sets. Some students spent this time harvesting materials from the surrounding wilderness, others spent this time working on their form and technique, and a few of them came close to busting their first coal! We are so proud of them putting in so much work and before you know it, we will have a full group of professional fire busters. We ended another day with a gathering on goals and expectations as a group and how students can support their peers by keeping a heart at peace and finding empathy for one another. The Kangaroos are in a wonderful place and an emotional and an logistical leader were voted on by peers this week. Many members are proud and excited for their peers to take on more of a leadership role as they continue this momentum of a cohesive and emotionally safe community.

Ulurus - Backcountry Expedition

The group started the week off discussing personal accountability and choice during our group therapy session which set the tone for the rest of the week. Some group members headed out for their adventure expedition week while this crew stayed in the west desert and named themselves Ulurus Part Two.

Ulurus Part Two hiked beautifully after some planning time with staff, including one day of hiking through the snow packed west desert. On their hikes they enjoyed sights of Indian Peaks and Red Pine. The group played storytelling games as they walked and games that involved rhyming. It was a rainy week but the Ulurus Part Two weathered the storm. Each member of the group grew stronger as they learned how to pack their packs properly and learned the value of asking for help and supporting each other.

As the week wrapped up the Ulurus chose a beautiful therapy site surrounded by high hills and juniper trees. On top of one of these tall peaks the Ulurus Part Two had their best day yet. On a day hike, they climbed to the top of one of them, pushing through the high winds and the fresh layer of snow that marked their steps. Many members thought that they could not do it. Yet they reached the top where they could see for miles and set up a one-of-a-kind ceremony circle where Pondering Prairie Dog received their trail name and group members received a token to honor the progress the group had made in their journey.

Off in the distance, the group rushed down the mountain and laughed as they slid to reunite with the group who had returned from an adventure expedition. As they greeted the returning members, they all reflected and shared one another’s journeys from the week. The week wrapped up as members of the group worked on accountability letters and bull roarers to prepare for their parent visits.

Ulurus - Adventure Expedition

Ulurus were huddled around a fire with a couch and loveseat made of snow and bark from nearby juniper trees. The group had really made a home out of their campsite. One Uluru, Blossoming Bobcat, had even hand crafted a chess board that included all 32 pieces. As the group began their adventure expedition, the temperature rose and transformed the snow into rain. The Ulurus found cover under a picnic shelter and set up a slackline on the shelter’s posts.

Our adventure expedition began with a loud “Moooooo” from a nearby cow. Curious Ulurus looked and discovered that a giant brown cow, and her calf were only a few feet from their tent. After being awoken by the local fauna the group ventured to Snow Canyon. They explored Volcanic tubes formed by ancient magma flows. While caving underground the Ulurus and the guides did a sensory deprivation meditation in complete darkness. When the headlamps went off the spelunkers braved the darkness for a few minutes. For some of the Ulrulus the time felt like seconds, and for others it felt like half an hour. The group talked about the importance of implementing quiet times in our lives. After emerging from the cave, the group found a petrified sand dune to take some personal time on. While basking in the south Utah sun the Ulurus journaled and worked on therapy assignments overlooking the red cliffs of Snow Canyon.

Our adventure expedition also included a rock-climbing progression. The group chose to wake up particularly early so that they could have more time climbing. They climbed all day on dark rocks formed by volcanic activity. Each group member witnessed their abilities to push themselves past what they believed to be their physical limitations as they shifted the limited beliefs they held about themselves. The Ulurus supported and challenged one another. When not climbing, group members belayed their climbing partners. At the end of the climbing day the Ulurus debriefed and discussed the importance of pushing past personal limits. The group fell asleep with ease, happy and exhausted from the day.

On the last day of adventure, a trail naming ceremony was held to honor a seasoned Uluru and took place in a ceremony circle made of river rocks. He was given the trail name “Radical Megalodon”. After the ceremony, the group packed up their new southern home and headed north to stop at a collection of petroglyphs. The petroglyphs were purposefully carved and chipped by indigenous people hundreds of years ago. The transformed rock surfaces were used by local natives to record their history and traditions. After viewing the cultural site, the Ulurus discussed how they could “take their shoes off” and respect people who are native to the lands that they use. Due to how the various parts of programming such as bow drilling, ceremonial honoring, and more are derived from indigenous cultures, fthe Ulurus found the importance of looking at, understanding, and appreciating diverse cultures outside of their own without personal bias.

As we made our way back to our backcountry field area, we reflected on one significant realization. The Ulurus make the desert a home not just for themselves, but also for each other. The group continues to grow together and make the “Uluruluverse” a better place for every member that gets to experience it.

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