Goannas - Backcountry:
The start of this week began with the joyous return of Rhythmic Fire Ant, who was away on a solo expedition with support from outBACK guides. The group welcomed him with open arms and was excited to hear about his experience. The reunion quickly transitioned into another shift in the group as most of the Goannas made their way out for an adventure expedition. After the emotional “good-bye for now”, the remaining Goannas began preparing for a challenging hike for their backcountry expedition. The hike up the mountain was short yet steep. The Goannas persevered through their hike and they pushed through to set up their shelter and call it a night.
The next morning, the group found itself in need of working as a collective to get their camp site set up with all the necessities for desert living. While the group members were not initially eager to get things started, they realized that it needed to be done to set themselves going to reap the benefits of the comforts that come with being proactive and working together to take care of group responsibilities. As a result of their motivation, the group also had the chance to spend the day relaxing and recovering from the previous days’ hike.
Although we planned to continue hiking the next day during our backcountry expedition, incoming weather conditions postponed the trek. With that, we got our first snowfall of the year, which was met with excitement! The group worked quickly to set up the winter shelter and made the main tent winter proof with the use of extra tarps. We focused on staying warm and keeping the fire burning, which involved dedication from all the members to keeping a good amount of wood available. With a break in the weather, we saw the return of the rest of the group from their adventure expedition. The group had a joyful reunion, and as the members came together as one Goannas group again, we found ourselves in the forming/storming stages of group development. This brought upon a great gathering that allowed each member to share what they needed in the group so that they could all move forward into the norming phase of team development. Each member was heard, and this allowed the group to find a deeper place to allow for growth as individuals and as a collective. Rhythmic Fire Ant brought back to the group a game called Zoogle and the game was an instant hit that led to a Zoogle tournament. With this, another week is setting on a white capped desert.
This week with the Kangaroos, we said goodbye to Exuberant Wolverine as he began his journey outside of our desert. Though we were sad to see such a seasoned group member go, we were all overjoyed at his progress through outBACK and excited for his future. Early this week, one of the Roos was given the trail name Grounded Bear. The other students created the ceremony circle and invited them to come and hear what the group had to say about what they thought represented them. He worked relentlessly on Ngarnas and even made a fully functioning fanny pack out of leather and beads!
Crafting came incredibly easy this week as we spent countless hours making and sewing novel items that each student was proud of with great precision and tact. Grounded Bear made a fanny pack and a wallet. Radical Western California Deep Sea Starfish were working on their moccasins, and quite a few of the other students got into the creative spirit by creating spoons for themselves and their family members.
During this week, the parents of Admiral King Salmon came out for a Parent Visit. They were welcomed with the wonderous sound of a bull roar. They embraced their son and sat by the fire while eating and sharing stories with one another.
The short season of fall began to end this shift, and part way through we received a glorious first snow. The students absolutely loved it, rolling in the fresh snow and having snowball fights in the Utah desert mountains! Throughout the day, roaring fires were there to keep everyone dry and warm as we started to change seasons. We all gathered wood and broke sticks to keep our shelter warm at night.
During our backcountry expedition, the students decided to go on a night hike. The night sky was beautifully lit with stars and a gorgeous view of the Milky Way Galaxy. During the various breaks in our trek, we spent time naming and pointing out the clear constellations in the Autumn Sky. Throughout this whole week, the Roos were all incredibly supportive of one another, showing lots of love and unity.
It was a momentous week within the Ulurus for this week was greeted by the hailing winds from the north and the shift in seasons. The beginning of the week came with swift changes as the hot desert environment we had become so accustomed to was about to end and turn into a brand-new environment. Eagles and vultures soared over as the group prepared to seek higher elevation towards Indian Mountain. We did our best to savor and triumph over our first hike and finally, we hit the final stretch: a steep mountainous incline denoting our arrival at the base camp of Indian peak. It was a race against time as the group worked to set up camp before the sun set. As the sun set, and with it the natural light in the sky, setting up the rest of camp became a bit of a challenge for the group. This experience presented a valuable lesson, however, on time management and working as a team amid adversity for the Ulurus.
In the following days, the group kept busy by sharing life experiences and displaying a remarkably keen ability to discuss and process elements of the group’s culture and changes they wished to see. A crafting challenge was presented, and materials were provided to the group to utilize. The task was to see who could produce the most creative usage of the items provided. Notably, the group reciprocated engaging responses with each other during a gathering about perception and perspective and the implications these concepts have had in their lives. All this was done before the days leading up to our attempted ascent of Indian peak. We set off with this goal in mind as clouds gathered ominously around us. It was not long before snowflakes were felt upon our cheeks and the winds began to sweep across the valley. We still had most of the hike ahead of us, so the group decided to cut their losses and prepare for the approaching winter weather. Indeed, this is exactly what it did and our high elevation provided us with the thickest blanket of winter the lands had to offer. Thankfully, we had prepared for this and spent the remainder of our day sheltering from the storm and discussing diverse topics around the warm hearth of our camp.
The next couple of days were spent debriefing on ways to stay warm and safe during the winter season. The mountainside also hosted a ceremony circle in which two of our members were honored with their trail names: Alpha Wolf and Kind Boulder. The group prepared for their first snowy hike to a warmer elevation. Our arrival was marked by an inspiring display of teamwork and companionship that allowed us to learn and build our new winter shelter and stoke our stove before the day turned colder. The next morning, our gathering was centered around describing the poetic and mental associations winter has had on their minds. The group focused on the “both/and” mindset rather than an “either/or” mindset as they examined the beauties and austerities of the winter and summer seasons.
We polished off this laborious week with another ceremony circle where students and staff were honored with tokens and keen observations of progress made since the beginning of the week. Of all the tokens given, there were two giver tokens, a seeker token, a vital fire token, and a true-speaker token. This week was a week in which lessons were indubitably taken to heart and to be remembered in the weeks to come.
Goannas - Adventure
This week, senior members of the Goannas group had the opportunity to share the adventure expedition with some of the students going out for their first high adventure expedition. With the words of Dan Milman, author of “Way of the Peaceful Warrior”, resonating as we trekked south, we made camp next to a dried-up riverbed. We gazed at the stars, meditated with our questions about the universe and prepared a group meal for our first adventure expedition feast together. The next morning, the group made their way to the nearby reservoir and learned the ins and outs of paddleboarding! After gearing up, we spent a few hours on the water and explored the beaches until we were ready to set up camp once more. The students processed their emotions and thoughts that bubbled up as they paddle boarded during our evening gathering.
Our adventures continued as we decided on a nook in a slot canyon to explore that eventually led to an impromptu gathering on the clifftops where we discussed the many interpretations and ample meaning to be found in any moments of truth in life. The physical and mental challenges of rock climbing were something the group was able to experience and process during our adventure expedition. Each student learned the ropes of climbing and conquered at least one climb; many of them ascending harder and harder routes throughout the day! Valuable lessons of persistence, adaptability, and trust were discussed by the Goannas as we processed their rock-climbing progression. The lessons of the day continued into the evening and night as we were met with some stormy weather. The group collaborated to get tents and windbreak shelters constructed, eating a quick dinner and making an early night of it to rest and conserve our energy.
The latter portion of our adventure expedition had us making our way back north to the Meadow Lava Tubes. There, we soon descended into the warmth of the dark caves. Soaking in the sights and smells of the caves, we journeyed underground for a while until we came to the end of a tunnel that served as a perfect place for our gathering. After a zen-inducing silent challenge in the darkness, we concurrently delved deep into our minds and discussed the value of stripping away our distractions to make the most of our autonomy and maximize our potential. We concluded the excursions with a lesson in adaptability as the weather kept us from sandboarding yet blessed us with the opportunity to honor a senior student, Giga Cuttlefish, with a ceremony commemorating their time spent in the desert. After an eventful and growth filled week, we returned to our backcountry field area where the group rejoined their peers with exuberance and optimism.