The Goannas had an exciting week filled with beautiful sights. adrenaline fueled games, and stunning conflict resolution skills. The Goannas went far this week with their hikes and with their words. The start of the week brought new guides and new trail names for group members. Radiant Star received his trail name in a beautiful ceremony circle surrounded by juniper boughs and sage. One member of the group led the naming ceremony and explained that the six juniper sticks in the middle in the shape of a dwelling represented the seven group members and how they lean on each other for support and the three juniper clumps in the entrance represented the guides. Another ceremony was held where the Goannas honored a guide with their first trail name.
The sites the Goannas stayed at were beautiful; they hiked back to a group favorite and spent a day working on skills like making pack frames and friction fire. They discussed how compassion is like fire and how one kind act can travel like a forest fire or on the contrary how you have the choice to extinguish the spark with your actions.
They also pushed through every hike and with vigor. After a day of working on skills the group decided to do a double hike day, hiking farther in one day, than they had before, in the West Utah Desert. This motivation continued and led the Goannas to hike up a mountain the following day, to honor group members “Story Keepers”.
The Story Keepers marked the incredible transition in group dynamics for the Goannas.One student led a wonderful discussion about taking what you have been through and letting it make you stronger. These Story Keepers were gifted after an amazing day hike to the top of a knoll, which they had a blast sledding back down to the bottom. The Goannas enjoyed a nighttime ritual of telling stories and making up their own immersive one. Along with other daytime games that gave the group an outlet to let out their “rowdy side”. They also applied the principles to be accountable for their emotional self.
Amid the disarray that can bubble up in the wilderness, there were so many moments of growth amongst the Goannas this week. By the end of the week, we felt more connected to each other and the earth. With more enthusiasm and tools, both physical and emotional, to conquer the future.
“In the heart of winter, I found within me an eternal summer”
– Albert Camus
It has been a long, implacable winter. It’s spell seizing the land with enchanting qualities, and ominously beautiful mystique for many moons. For all of us to coexist with such a force of nature has thus tested our resolve, inspired us with visions of the sublime and paved avenues into self-discovery and actualization. In a twist, this week the will of winter was thwarted, if only temporarily. It was as though the very grip of winter had relented around the potent fire from the hearts of our Kangaroos. Aspects of community, kinship, hope, and accomplishment melted the very grip of winter that has blanketed us in our environment. What a fitting conclusion to the journeys of our most senior Kangaroos here at outBACK.
The plan was simple: our backcountry expedition was to include three consecutive days of hiking and carry them out with logistic excellence. Every day, the logistical leader rallied the troops to pounce on the day’s responsibilities with a vigor rarely seen! They broke down our enormous wall tent shelter and put it up again day after day with unparalleled teamwork. “3, 2, 1! Heave! Ho! Heave! Ho!” we all shouted as we combined our strength. Once upon the trail, we maneuvered our way around treacherous muddy terrain, the forerunners marking out the safest routes forward. Scarcely anything is more satisfying than a hearty meal after a hard day’s work. They reminisce about the days of their outBACK journeys with one another, voiced their excitement and anxieties for the group to collectively process. [Guide Note: I was present for the first week of 4 of our most senior students and here for the final days, the character arcs these young men have undergone has nearly brought me to tears. I was once a student in wilderness therapy, and they are leaving better off than I!]
Many-a-gathering was led by the students this week. One reflecting upon Stoic Silverback’s parent visit. Another, now known to all as Determined Fire Ant, read aloud a letter he had received and allowed space for feedback and contemplation from the group therein. They discussed the dichotomy of the sublime and the mundane: the moments in which gratitude can be ascertained from the simple and wondrous moments of life. How family can at times feel like a given, ordinary and regular thing in life. How upon a change in perspective can be so incredibly sublime, that beings of such implicit love for us exist freely in this world. One of our final gatherings was led by another student regarding methods of combating grief and despair which lasted long into the night as students held space for each other to get deep.
In the twilight of this week, the group gathered once again upon the ceremony circle. Sacred space where one of our members was honored with the name Determined Fire Ant. In this space Stoic Silverback was honored with yet another Peace Walker token. Universal Meerkat was honored with the Openness token and Fiery Roadrunner: the well-deserved Maker token!
Proceeding the ceremony, a Roo exclaimed at the sublime sight of the setting sun and the group rushed off into the open field to witness its gorgeous glory. They hooted and hollered as though they were all trying to get the attention of its purple-reddish rays that colored the winter scape in a dreamworld of colors. The atmosphere in the Roos this week was truly enchanting, perfectly befitting the end to the journeys for some of the Roos. Gone was the contention I once saw upon their inception to outBACK and in its place were the smiling faces of comrades in arms against their obstacles. The students in the Roos now will not be in the desert forever. Today they are just students, but in the future, they will be known as legends that braved the heart of winter and paved a way for new Kangaroos to thrive.
Once again, the Ulurus have conquered yet another thrilling expedition in the red rock paradise we call Southern Utah! The trip to our first destination of our adventure expeditions was entertained with the beautiful tale of “Touching Spirit Bear”. The main character in this story learns about taking responsibility for his own life throughout his journey in the wilderness. Just like our students are learning in their own journeys here at outBACK, this story expresses the value of connection, and being a part of a bigger whole. Whether it be mother nature, our communities, or our families, it is important to know how our actions contribute to not only our well-being and happiness, but to those around us as well. After reaching our destination in Gunlock Reservoir, we set up camp, and drifted off to sleep, soundly awaiting the start of days of adventure and exploration.
Our mornings consisted of hot breakfasts, following peaceful meditations in the serene landscapes. We skipped rocks across the lake’s surface, metaphorically releasing inhibiting habits, beliefs and all things which hold us from moving forward and becoming the best versions of ourselves we can be. We hiked up mountains and practiced breathwork, bringing our minds’ attention inward to our inner worlds. Students expressed appreciation for the practice of grounding themselves, and shared ideas on how to put these practices to use when they are feeling overwhelmed or anxious in their day-to-day life. We stretched our muscles to the views of lava rocks and ancient dormant volcanoes taking in the breathtaking sights to the rhythm of self-care and self-love.
We kicked off the week’s activities with an exciting hike over mighty petrified sand dunes. Our students could not take their eyes off the formations as we walked in awe of the desert’s natural creations. We climbed up and over what appeared to be an arch forming into the side of a mountain, the elements eroded the rock into this shape, as seen in the popular Arches National Park. We enjoyed a satisfying prolonged period of silent appreciation of our other worldly surroundings. We also had the opportunity to do some rock climbing in the area, and we discussed the value of getting out of our comfort zones, and allowing ourselves to experience discomfort, as this is often the area of growth. As our adventure went on, we enjoyed some relaxing frisbee golf in the stunning Brian Head canyon, near Cedar City Utah. The last day of our expedition concluded with spelunking in the lava tubes of Utah. We fastened our helmets and made our way into the dark caves, with curiosity nearly bursting at the seams.
Our gatherings were often incorporated into our activities, such as a sensory deprivation activity in the lava tubes, and a student favorite, “I wonder” gathering under the stars. For “I wonder” we open the space for students and staff to say aloud any thoughts that came to mind as we gazed at the constellations and shooting stars above us. Some wonders were silly, others serious, yet all thoughts put out were received respectfully by the group. One night, one of our students shared a letter he had received with the group, wearing his heart on his sleeves, and opening up to his peers. Vulnerability is celebrated here at outBACK, as vulnerability is often the bridge to building trust and strengthening relationships with our peers, and families. Letting people in, allowing them to see us in our true colors, can be a scary thing, but it sure has a way of bringing light into the darkness.
Our activities took up a lot of our time and energy, on days like these there is nothing more satisfying than a hot dinner and a warm sleeping bag after a long day of play. We told jokes and stories at bedtime, this was one of the best times of the day as it allowed students to unwind and get to know each other more, reflecting on not only their adventures and the memories they are making, but their personal lives as well. Our last morning concluded with a special trail naming ceremony that took place in a bat cave. The centerpiece was adorned with tumbleweed representing this desert chapter in their young lives, topped with icicles and flowers surrounding the rest of the piece. The icicles represent the seasons of life, and just like they will melt, the earth will thaw for the coming of spring, and then summer, and fall, and winter once again. Just like we see in nature, our lives have seasons as well, and it is important to recognize the ebb and flow of all things including ourselves. After careful consideration by the group, the trail name Intuitive Crow was honorably given to our student, for his intelligence and naturally keen senses. The ceremony was the perfect ending to this memorable week on our adventure expedition with our beloved Ulurus.
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