Wilderness Weekly 3.31.23


This week at outBACK the Goannas experienced some rough weather conditions, only to shatter its attempts and persevere through challenges. Lunar Eclipse led a gathering on regret in which many students shared their opinions on regret and different things they did and did not regret. It was productive, vulnerable, and well-done.

The Goannas held a welcoming ceremony for a brand new Goanna this week. The Goannas all took an opportunity to share some of the experiences they have had at outBACK and what they have learned. Our newest member of the Goannas took strides at making his first spoon and quickly made friends with the rest of the group.

The Goannas took this week as an opportunity to rest and recover. They did, however, end up hiking once during our backcountry expedition. When we arrived at our new campsite, the group struggled to bust on their fire making sets. Two students Multidimensional Supermassive Black Hole and Special Star both lead the group in busting and with the help of busting in tandem with a guide, a coal was lit.

A big focus this week given to the Goannas by their therapist was the challenge to establish a culture and pillars by which the Goannas could cultivate, embody, and nurture. The leaders of the Goannas asked the Goannas one morning what they truly valued, and they made a list of positive attributes to exemplify. Later that night the Goannas held a gathering to try and make an acronym that represented them. They settled on H.I.K.(e)R.S.

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Kindness
  • Respect
  • Sassafras – an inside joke amongst the Goannas representing light heartedness

As the week dwindled down the students began to focus more on their education with several students taking initiative to work on the Nagarna Wukas which count as high school credits. One student, Special Star, was very creative and worked through several days sanding down and filing a deer antler into a very beautiful ring.

The Goannas finished up their week with a Trail naming ceremony of grand proportions. Lunar Eclipse took several hours prepping a ceremony circle. This circle was ginormous. There was a grand entrance that had walls of 2 dead juniper trees with a big circle lined with essentially juniper bushes. In the middle of the circle there were junipers that were fully alive, partially alive and dead surrounded by rocks symbolizing growth. Lunar Eclipse announced for everyone to follow him in silence amid staff exchange, so this ceremony circle held the Goannas therapist and several more additional guides to honor one Goanna with the trail name Mellow Stingray. All in all, the Goannas continue to grow as a group and establish a strong community of shared values.

Roos - Backcountry Expedition

This week was the beginning of anew for the Kangaroos. Inviting a student to start his first week, the group spent the week without some members of the group who headed out for their adventure expedition. This gave room for one of our beloved members to step in and provide mentorship to our new student in the various skills that make up life in the west desert of Utah. Working as a team to take on logistics, they knocked this week out of the park. This was followed up with outstanding emotional safety from all around to come together and share our identities in gatherings and even talk about loss and what that means to us individually. Coming to the end of the week we were able to enjoy the sunset and the welcoming back of our senior students with a ceremony of what it means to be a Kangaroo and the pillars and motto of coming together and what we as a group stand for. During this ceremony all students received a meaningful token and spoke about the good qualities they see in one another. Given out was Seeker, True Speaker, Brightness, and Maker. Leaving this week happy and healthy.

Roos - Adventure Expedition

Adventure for the Kangaroos brought trial and triumph as we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones to reach new heights! Our Adventure students made great strides in their personal journeys and made lasting memories together this week as they explored southern Utah.

As we made our winding way down to St. George (The Adventure Zone), the students eagerly listened to the audiobook Touching Spirit Bear. It follows the story of Cole Matthews, who chooses to leave home and live on an isolated island in Southeast Alaska for a year instead of entering the standard criminal justice system he would have otherwise been subjected to. His tale follows him through emotional lows and highs, and through much growth and change. We were able to find many correlations throughout the week to our own lives and emotional battles.

For our first Adventure activity we had the opportunity to go to the White Rocks Amphitheater in Snow Canyon State Park for a refreshing day hike. Taking in the sweeping vistas, we were able to pinpoint some challenges to overcome within the group dynamic. As students explored the amphitheater and surrounding area, they were also able to explore their emotions and feel heard as we discussed how to work with other students and find common ground. Later that evening, we talked together about how to increase emotional resilience by managing the thoughts/beliefs we have about our circumstances in life as they occur.

The next day brought some great opportunities to push ourselves as we went rock climbing in Shotgun Alley. The students were excited to get moving and get on the wall after completing their ground school training for belaying. Determined Fire Ant started us off, building on his previous climbing experience by running time trials for himself! He resolved to make sure he got faster every time. He also made a great mentor for another Kangaroo, who had never been rock climbing before. This student showed incredible resolve by continuing to challenge himself to go just a little higher, to not call it quits, and by refusing to not make it to the top of his first climb, no matter how long it took to get there. With a chorus of cheers buoying him up, he showed himself his own strength and fortitude by rising to the challenge and reaching up to touch the anchor at the top of the wall! As the group reflected on the day, everyone was able to see the ways in which they have strengths they don’t often recognize. We also discussed our growth and how we can push past the mental blocks that limit us and keep us from reaching our full potential.

Building on some of the skills we worked on in climbing, we put our fears of heights to the test as we rappelled in Pioneer Park in St. George. Kicking off the day, we tackled a smaller rappel, just to get our feet wet and practice our technical skills with our safety gear. Our group of students had never been rappelling before, providing a great opportunity for them to try something together that was out of their comfort zones. Each of them showed amazing bravery, pushing past the fear of inching over the edge of the rock to the sheer drops below them. Our second rappel was much higher and included about ⅔ of the rappel being dead air, meaning they were suspended with no wall to push off on their descent. Although one of the students had a really difficult time convincing himself it would be worth it, he ultimately decided he needed to prove to himself he could do it. The students showed amazing support to one another throughout their rappelling experience. In talking with the students about the experiences they had, we discussed what it looks like to belay ourselves and be belayed by others in our personal lives. We were also able to talk about some of our personal rock faces/challenges and how we can better belay ourselves through them and use and ask for the help of other belayers in our lives. Later that night we also had a chance to examine our mindsets and better understand victim mentalities and vulnerability and how they impact our relationships.

We also had the opportunity to visit the petroglyphs and had a good time. We read about the Native American Indians that carved them and hypothesized over what each of them might mean. When we finished, we had a meaningful conversation about our experience and assumptions of Native American Indians we may have held throughout our lives.

Closing out our adventure expedition, we held a ceremony about living in the moment. Standing on the edge of a circle together, we discussed inspiring moments from the past week and our emotions about them, how we were feeling in the present moment, and hopes we have for the future, making note that our futures and lives are shaped by the ever-changing now. That all we have control over is the present and brought back our discussion about shaping our beliefs about our present circumstances to have more control over the emotions we experience.

All in all, our adventure students had an amazing experience of growth and learning this week as they navigated the challenges presented to them in our Southern Utah oasis.



Prince of the Desert 
by Perceptive Sage 

“We princes of the desert 
Are paupers among mankind 
Our hands are worn, 
Our clothes are torn, 
We left our lives behind. 

We princes of the desert 
Are gathered around the fire, 
We add more wood, 
Sneeze at whiffs of smoke, 
And watch the flames go higher. 

We rarely stay 
in one place on the trail; 
In rain or snow, 
Through mud we show 
Our strength will never fail. 
We princes of the desert work 
Long hours with a knife, 
Our creations teach us 
How to cope with real life. 

We princes of the desert set 
Shelter amidst the trees. 
It’s late at night, 
There is no light, 
We’re hiding from the breeze. 

We princes of the desert have 
Learned so many new things; 
We shall join mankind 
And then we ‘ll find 
We have become great kings.” 

This week, the Ulurus were still journeying through the juniper forests of the windward foothills in the Sheep Rock Range. The near peaks surrounding us include Black Mountain, Red Pine Mountain, and Indian Peak. The mountains are solid with snow, but where we made our camp, only intermittent shallow snow remains. The weather is blustery March weather. Clouds sail across the sky like corsairs, laden with brief flurries of snow or of tiny beads of hail. When the clouds lift, the mountains are even whiter. At night the ground froze, but we were in bed, warm. And in the morning, we had “good walks.”  

One of the field guides marveled at how the Ulurus thrive in this environment, including how to rig tarps or how to set a good fire pit, the center of camp life. As we hiked with our packs, a snow shower came upon us, yet the Ulurus reveled in the storm. They looked after each other, kept together, and supported each other when one of them was challenged–adjusting each-other’s packs or offering to help each other carry their gear. And most importantly, they learned the life-lesson of allowing others to lighten their loads on the trail. 

We traveled to a new campsite and made camp in deeper spruce woods where we discovered Elk beds and studied the contents within owl pellets. One student read a letter aloud to the Ulurus, which was a sacred time of sharing and understanding. Uplifting Tetradactyl welcomed our newest Uluru into the group and Intuitive Crow and Perceptive Sage patiently and gently guided the new student into camp life, helping him begin many new skills such as how to cook on a hot bed of coals with a sierra cup and how to carve wooden spoons. Part of what comes up throughout times of transition is to feel homesick and Perceptive Sage was able to sit with and teach our newest member how to prepare and bake cinnamon rolls on the fire, which helped him feel more at home. 

Meadowlarks have begun to sing on the edges of the juniper forest, and a scrub jay has been flitting around camp on the lookout for scrap.  Every day before dinner, we each share what we are grateful for, and there is so much for which we are to be grateful. Green blades of grass are beginning to poke their way up through the soil, The night sky is dazzling when the clouds lift off. Coyotes sing in the hills far from camp, and their music is enchanting. 

We spent a lot of time learning, teaching each other, and practicing our woodcraft and coal-busting skills. At night as we settled into sleep, we listened to Enlightening Nomad‘s Indigenous flute music, listened to stories, then listened to the occasional pop of fire in our wood stove as we drifted to sleep.   

Read Past "Wilderness Weekly" Posts

Wilderness Weekly 3.31.23

Goannas: This week at outBACK the Goannas experienced some rough weather conditions, only to shatter its attempts and persevere through challenges. Lunar Eclipse led a

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