Wilderness Weekly 4.08.22

Photo Credit: Heather Robinson

Goannas:

The Goannas had a rockin’ week and are working hard as a team to achieve maximum emotional safety and efficiency. The week started out with a trail naming ceremony, and Curious Squirrel received his trail name. The group also wanted to honor a staff member, and Valiant Stingray received his trail name! We had an epic navigation course which ended in the group learning new skills AND finding and enjoying a watermelon on a glorious sunny day.

Wednesday morning there were lots of goodbyes and students leaving have been dearly missed. Shortly after group members left, we received a new group member! The group was super welcoming, teaching him new recipes and helping him build his A-frame. We had a rest day as our new group member settled in and we made moccasins and two group members completed their H-frames! We held another trail naming ceremony, and Collected Elk and Intentional Supernova received their trail names! The theme of the week was Identity and gatherings were held on our perception of ourselves vs how others view us, and the identity and culture of the Goannas and what the group wants that to look like. We hiked 2 more days to the therapy site, knocking out a 4.5 mile hike with relative ease. On that hike we headed up to an outlook with an awesome view and Honorable Rhino’s naming ceremony was held. We arrived at the therapy site on a beautiful sunny day and four group members set up their solo sites for their parent visits. Spirits are high as those students look forward to reuniting with their parents.

To end the week off with a bang, the Goannas were able to welcome another new member that arrived during our Milan therapy session. Group culture is strong in the Goannas as they endure rain, sun and snow together. The group has an awesome trajectory moving forward. We’re so stoked to see what happens next for them.

Pindaris:

The Pindari had an absolutely epic week characterized by camaraderie, growth, and fun. Several group members had the opportunity to leave to go on Peak week, while another beloved member of the Pindari, Energetic Beast, had a goodbye ceremony as his time at outBACK was drawing to a close. While it was certainly bittersweet to see so many of the group members depart, it was a heartfelt experience to witness the current Pindari wish their group members good luck on their new adventures! As the week continued the Pindari had the opportunity to play games, complete hikes, observe animals in their natural environments, and honor each other with tokens: Openness to honor the Pindari’s progress in being vulnerable and talking about his experiences with drugs and emotions. Letting Go to honor the Pindari’s work towards letting go some of his harder emotions and letting others carry some of the weight as well as letting go some of his fears and anxieties. Strong Cord to represent a Pindari that was consistently described as “the glue of the group”, he led the group on a ghost challenge, and shared his wilderness knowledge with others. Winged Heart for one member who showed a lot of growth in seeing others’ perspectives and stepped up to a challenge from his therapist to be a leader amongst the group.

Towards the end of the week the Pindari were able to welcome a brand new member into the family! As the new member acclimated to the Outback environment, the Pindari were able to rally around him and offer the new member support and guidance. During the Pindari’s final hike day they completed a “Ghost Challenge” which entails staff taking a step back for the day and allowing students to run the day. The Pindari utilized positive coping strategies, executive functioning skills, communication, and leadership skills to crush the Ghost Challenge without staff assistance. Overall, the Pindari had a fantastic week characterized by emotional resilience, therapeutic growth, and compassion. It was an absolute privilege to work with the Pindari this shift.

Ulurus:

The Uluru had a dynamic week that included lots of skills, team building, and exploration. The week started with Illuminating Saphire leading a beautiful goodbye ceremony for one of the outBACK Field Coordinators. From there the group crushed a 2 mile cross country hike on Thursday that pushed some students and was overall a major accomplishment for the entire group. This hike also provided an opportunity for more tenured members of the group to lend a helping hand and support some of the newer members with packing their gear and making their backpacks. The next few days provided a wonderful opportunity for the group to explore the area with some day hikes. One day hike included a token ceremony for one Uluru who received the brightness token because of his ability to make the group laugh and his seemingly permanent smile. The group also got lots of time to work on skills this week with most students making at least one new spoon. Some other trail crafts that got made this week were desert sandals, utensil pouches, vegetable cutters, and Majestic Sunrise finished up a beautiful pair of moccasins. The week ended on a high note with the entire group engaging in the giant busting set initiative. This requires every member of the group to work together to hold a 5 foot tall spindle, huge top board, and bottom board in place while running a climbing rope wrapped around the spindle back and forth in an attempt to bust a coal. After lots of determination and problem solving, the group was able to make smoke – a major accomplishment.

The week winded down with the group gathered around the fire to honor Cunning Squirrel in a beautiful goodbye ceremony before he departs outBACK.  

Peak:

This week 3 members from Uluru and 3 members from Pindari joined together for the challenge and journey of Peak week! This is a week where we take the students out of the West Desert and challenge them in new activities and environments. The adventure first brought us to lava tubes where we explored around in the dark and roamed over cool formations. Early in the week one student from the Pindari was honored with the Maker token for his trail skills, like incredible croc-like moccasins and how he made space for other members of the group to feel seen and heard. The ceremony occurred in a teepee in the Fremont Indian State Park. At this location we explored some canyons, looked at pictographs, played with an atlatl and discussed how the natives in the area lived. We explored an ancient pit house and tried to imagine ourselves living in this space and creating pictographs. We talked about the parallels of living a life like this and how we live in the desert. The trip continued on with climbing and repelling in the beautiful desert mountain area.

The mental and physical struggles of climbing and repelling brought up many emotions for the students: happiness, pride, frustration and more. As a group we discussed the parallels of climbing/repelling to the experience of outback and life. Sometimes we don’t reach the end goal that we hope for but it’s what we learn along the way and the attitude we have while doing so. On top of rock formations and around the fire we had conversations about our wishes of the future as well as the roles of leadership each student will be taking on as they return to their respective groups. Along the way we also made many friends including wild horses, pronghorns and puppies! The end of the week we found ourselves at the very top of Dutch Mountain–a peak that very few outBACK students have reached. Among hundreds of ladybugs, while taking in the view, the six students received their very own peak patch to commemorate this week and the journey they have been on. The patch represents the three main mountains in the field (Indian Peak, Red Pine, and Black Crook) and has lines that run down the mountains to represent what can be gained and learned from outback. Each student ended the week with a reflection and a new understanding of their time so far and their time left at outBACK. We are excited to see how their final chapters in the west desert will go and how their leadership will continue to grow. 

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Outback Therapeutic Expeditions is continuing to support families through this unprecedented time. We are closely monitoring information related to COVID-19, adhering to recommendations set forth by CDC, and have implemented additional safety precautions to mitigate risks. To learn more, contact us at 800-817-1899.