They say “she’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes” but ‘twas the Goannas that came around the mountain this week, specifically around the Western front of the Simpsons mountains. The Goannas were only able to experience one hike during our backcountry expedition, but it was a challenging and long distance trek nonetheless. Our solitary journey led us to a veritable oasis; a pond vernal and brimming with life unbefitting of the arid desert environment. As the gentle, sweeping winds of the new fall breeze permeated the desert, the Goannas gathered materials for their busting sets amongst other nifty scattered trinkets which they assimilated into their unique crafts and creations.
The Goanna welcomed some new members this week. Their welcome was warm, and they fit into the group culture like snug gloves. It is almost unheard of for every student to receive a unique token in one week yet alas, every student was honored with one for their efforts and endurance. Additionally, a student was honored with their trail name: Steezy Clownfish, a unique moniker to say the least. Throughout our backcountry expedition, the Goannas spent time engaging in team building games, activities and exercises such as tug of war, team jump rope, limbo, high jump, a thought provoking gathering led by the most senior student and word-of-mouth mind games that challenged their wit and cooperative skills. When one member struggled, the other members were eager to offer words of encouragement and empathy; the sense of unity amongst them was almost palpable. Half the group was able to bust their first coal by the end of this week, one of them before completing their first week!
The group finished this week preparing their therapy site for the arrival of parents for parent visits. They crafted spoons, bull roars and other crafts to show off for their arrival. The challenges of this week proved their resilience and willingness to change, more promising journeys surely await them in the coming weeks.
This week, all the Kangaroos made great leaps and bounds in their progress at outBACK. Several members completed all the assignments to transition from First Camp, including crafting an A-frame backpack out of juniper, leather, padding, sewing a leather keeper’s pouch, and busting a coal on a bow drill kit. The group is well on their way to mastering fire making, which was once a big challenge.
We started off the week with a lot of “chefing up.” where the students shared recipes for burgers and breads, and fruity desserts. Outside of meals, the group took advantage of a hacky sack and a football that were crafted in the group this week. Games like DOGS and 500 were played almost every day. Students managed to pull everyone into the fun and develop a sense of community for the whole group.
Multiple token ceremonies took place, with staff and students awarding each other with tokens recognizing openness, peace keeping, and letting go. Other ceremonies included a trail-naming ceremony for Radical Western California Deep Sea Starfish, and a goodbye ceremony for Eternal Sandstorm. We also held some special gatherings that allowed everyone to open up and share personal thoughts and emotions. We did an exercise called “Empty Chair” where everyone individually spoke to an empty chair as if it were a person in their lives. It allowed everyone to be vulnerable and practice saying the things they felt they needed to say to those people. It was a special and emotional evening for everyone.
The group pulled off some rocky hikes and worked through trust-based initiatives. Anytime a student felt as though they did not wish to hike any further, the group took time to motivate one another and find compromises to complete their goals. It was no surprise that the students who transitioned from first camp did so on the same day this week. They motivated one another throughout the process and helped the students transition together.
All in all, the Kangaroos came together closer than ever this week. They grew individually and even more so as a whole. The trust and camaraderie that was built helped everyone in their personal journeys. The desert is fortunate to be a part of the great things that are happening.
The Ulurus were off on their adventure expedition this week. All the students had a lot of fun and grew from the opportunities of being able to experience new and challenging high adventure-based activities. At the start of the week the students used a foam pad to create a chess board and made their chess pieces using wood. Throughout the week the students had a lot of fun playing chess with each other and grew closer as a result.
Students were excited to explore the cave formations of Meadow Lava Tubes as a group. One student had a good growth opportunity while doing this activity. This student was struggling with the fear of falling. Although the descent into the cave was completely safe, the idea of going down this descent was scary to the student. We did not force the student to do the activity, we simply encouraged him to explore the idea of challenging his fears and seeing the possibility of growth from overcoming the challenge. The student chose to continue and explained to us how good it felt to move through his fear and take on a challenge he did not think he would be able to overcome.
Paddle boarding filled everyone’s brains with excitement as we set off for Yuba Lake. All the students went out on the paddle boards. Although some of them struggled with balance, and sometimes fell off the paddle board into the water, they all got back up on the paddle board and continued to try until they found their balance. They all thoroughly enjoyed the activity and gained confidence and resilience from overcoming the challenge of falling into the water and finding their balance despite failing at times.
After excelling in the water realm, the group moved towards the rock realm. While most were initially anxious about the activity, they were all committed to at least learning about it. Only one of the students rock climbed, as he had prior experience of rock climbing. However, the rest of the students, despite their fears, geared up and learned how to operate the rock-climbing equipment safely and while the one student climbed, they all spent time cheering on the student who was climbing.
The Ulurus continued their opportunities to explore and examine the various fears, excitement, and beliefs they held about themselves by heading over to Little Saharra to sand board. While the group faced some unexpected challenges with sand boarding, every single student went out onto the dune and gave sand boarding their best shot. At the end of the day, we headed back to prepare for our upcoming backcountry expedition.
That night we held a gathering and each person was open to reflect on their week and set one goal that they wanted to achieve going into the next week.
As the new Fall Days come closer, we worked to build our skills as coal busters and in building strong campfires. This week, Mending Velvet Ant busted several coals with much tenacity. So much so that their bottom board broke in half from how much they have used it throughout their stay here at outBACK. The week was filled with wilderness apple pie, cider, and ramen. We spent our time this week doing crafts, busting, playing games, setting up camp, working on reflections and therapy sessions. Early in the week Mending Velvet Ant had their parent visit. It was absolutely amazing to see the obvious growth in their relationship and to witness their reconnection as they hiked and ate lunch together as a family.
The week brought forth insights and reflections on past, present and future lives as well as a wonderful token ceremony that celebrated the hard work it takes for one to incorporate healthy coping skills into their lives and remain committed to living life with purpose and meaning. We were also able to hike to a new camp spot that provided us with wide open spaces and a beautiful view of Indian Mountain.
Overall, this week had lots of growth and reflection.
Read Past "Wilderness Weekly" Posts
Wilderness Weekly 3.10.23
Goannas: As the snow melted from the Goanna’s site so did their hearts. The Goannas shared goodbyes with senior members of the group which opened
Wilderness Weekly 3.3.23
Photo Credite: Alyssa, “ERV” @ outBACK Goannas: This week the Goannas started out with enthusiasm and spirit. Welcoming in a new student with joy and
Wilderness Weekly 2.25.23
Goannas: The Goannas had an exciting week filled with beautiful sights. adrenaline fueled games, and stunning conflict resolution skills. The Goannas went far this week