Goannas - Adventure Expedition:
This week was full of adventure and teamwork for the Goannas. They started off the week at a favorite site of theirs, which also happened to be the site where some of the members had begun their journey at outBACK. The weather was amazing, with sun and a light breeze. It gave the Goannas an awesome chance to work on skills and spend time as a community.
We had an inspiring trail naming ceremony for Mellow Stingray where all the group, guides, and a few dogs attended. We also had a goodbye ceremony for Lunar Eclipse on their way to the next big thing!
The Goannas set off for their adventure expedition. They visited Gunlock waterfalls, explored Snow Canyon and the petrified dunes, went rock climbing, explored lava tubes, and spent a day hanging out on the sand by a lake. Gunlock waterfalls are a rare sight, they only happen once every few decades. This year the falls are at full power with Utah’s big year of precipitation. We had a footrace over some dunes where the staff were hard pressed to keep up! A few of the students named and navigated through the fears that bubbled up when rock climbing. The newest student especially loved rock climbing and persevered all the way to the top despite their fear of heights.
One of the most amazing moments students and guides shared was in the lava tubes. The students were guided into the depths where we stopped and turned the lights off to sit in absolute darkness. They were challenged to observe the way their other senses improved in the absence of light.
The Goannas dove deep into a few of their gatherings while on adventure as well. One of the gatherings that generated great conversation was one that invited students to ponder ‘What their best selves would look like’. Students dove straight into the topic, and everyone shared moving thoughts about it.
On our adventure expedition, students took turns cooking different meals for the whole group. They absolutely crushed every one of the meals. The group favorites were pizza bagels with pizza sauce made from scratch and handmade ice cream.
Upon returning to our backcountry field area, the Goannas found a complete change of weather. There was a foot of snow on the ground. This meant that making fire would come with some challenges and. the Goannas came together to gather firewood and dry materials. They then made a collective effort to generate a coal and breathed life into it to create a warm fire. We ended the week with a hearty dinner and sleeping the best night of sleep after a wonderful adventure expedition.
Goanas- Backcountry Expedition
We have had yet another epic week in the wilderness with our beloved Goannas here at outBACK Therapeutic Expeditions. We made our way across the mighty Indian Peak Mountain that towers over the plains of the western Utah desert. Each day provided new views and a new perspective of this majestic land, as well as opportunity for endless reflection. We enjoyed moments of intentional silence as we traversed across the foothills of the mountain and pondered deeply on the people we are, the people we want to become, what we stand for, and why. We witnessed lots of wildlife on our hikes – from rabbits, birds of prey, cattle, and mustangs, – relating to their natural beauty and feeling a sense of belonging to the earth just as they do.
Our tenacious students worked very hard to break down camp. They put up shelters, built main sites, dug fire pits and sumps, and not once through it all did they lose their bright spirits and positivity. They hardly even broke a sweat! We were blown away at the sheer ability to work as a team and never lost their steady pace. We arrived at each destination with time to spare, spending time relaxing under the Juni trees and soaking up the sunshine. Toward the end of the week, we were surprised by an overnight snowstorm, our students were in awe to wake up to a winter wonderland in April. But as they are known to do, the Goannas made the most of it. They spent the day playing in the powder, making snowmen, throwing snowballs, and racing through the snowy trails. Laughs filled the air, and joy filled our hearts. The evenings consisted of storytelling by the fire and sharing recipes. Some of these recipes included “dimensional taters” made by Multi Dimensional Super Massive Black Hole, and “gritty ramen” concocted by our very own Gritty Hyena. Exceptional chef skills, these may be at the very top of outBACK cuisine, what a treat to learn from these creative cooks!
As much fun as we had, we are proud to report that these moments were equally met with profound moments of vulnerability, openness, and growth. Gritty Hyena led a wonderful gathering on substance abuse, the struggles that come with it, and ways to rise above it. He expressed a touching desire to use his experiences to help those around him struggling with the same thing. Multi Dimensional Super Massive Black Hole also ran a beautiful gathering at the summit of a day hike on lessons wilderness has taught him. We looked over the valley as the sun set, casting pinks and oranges on the sky as he discussed the patience, humility, and acceptance he has learned here at outBACK. The group added meaningful remarks about things they have learned too, such as the power of community, family, and resiliency. We also touched on how being away from the things we love helps us to appreciate them so much more.
Overall, the week was wonderful, progressive, profound, exhilarating, adventurous, and fun. The thoughts and reflections expressed by these students were not only impressive but inspiring. The growth we hope for here at outBACK was exhibited by the students and it was an honor to witness it. Their memory will live on for generations of Goannas to come in the lore and legends spoken beside firelight under a starlit canopy, rare in its clarity and luminosity. Weare forever grateful for their participation in this program, the impact they leave will be felt long after they have transitioned from outBACK Therapeutic Expeditions.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow”
With the late Winter chapter of outBACK behind us, the groups prepare for one of the greatest changes of the year: transition to spring. Mother Nature can be temperamental, wavering from cold, to hot, to downright downpouring. The Kangaroos got served a spread-out sampling of each in turn!
Our week began hot off the highs of adventure. The group came together, and they once again rose up in a tirade of jokes and jests. Stories were told in the shelter with the songs of coyotes echoing throughout our valley. Snow fell from anomalous blue skies in strange intervals. Steam and mist rose from the carcasses of giant snow drifts. The spirit of spring and the winds of change were palpably present.
The Kangaroos were a busy bunch this week, some of the Roos completed their first camp, others anxiously prepared for their parent visits. We felt the snowless ground beneath our feet as we trekked our way to higher ground, to the tree line above the valley. There the Kangaroos crafted, toiled and foraged in solidarity. Some found rocks for their fire sets, some appreciated artifacts from groups of yore.
Given the warmer weather giving way to melting evidence of winter, our current backcountry location resembled more of an aspiring marsh than what one would imagine as the “western Utah desert”. And so, it came time to shift our location; a space in which the land was laden with sand, not mud or dirt. Tall, undisturbed sage brush and gargantuan juniper trees surrounded by ominous, mysterious mountains that lorded over our journeys. Our single pack hike felt right out of a Tolken novel, meandering and enchanted as we familiarized ourselves with this new place. At our final site we were surprised by another blast of wintry mix. Though it was untimely, we managed to get everything we needed to ready in a timely manner and saw gorgeous herds of deer traverse our encampment, galivanting across the land in all their serene splendor. Luckily, some of the Roos ardently provided and restored our beloved fire throughout the week. One such student busted their first coals this week!
Our gatherings this week were mostly student led. Both a student and a guide told their life stories in gatherings, one gathering centered on the concepts of Heart at Peace and Heart at War and concluded our week with a gathering in which a student read aloud a letter from their parents. This gathering was especially emotional, guides and students alike were touched and inspired by the students’ words. Several students were honored with tokens this week! The peace walker token, a challenge token for openness and another challenge token for seeker were presented in sacred ceremonies this week.
Twas an ever changing, challenging and enlightening week with the Roos overall this week. With promise, enlightenment and introspection on their minds and in our hearts, we leave it to the next guides and to this next week to carry on the torch of progress and perseverance.
“Earn your leadership everyday.” – Michael Jordan
The Ulurus started their week welcoming the incoming guides and saying goodbye to the most senior student, Soaring Thunderbolt. Most of the students in the Ulurus group are still green. And with most transition that says goodbye to the most senior member of the group, we feel the shift in dynamics and embrace the opportunities for others to step into leadership roles.
As such, we had the opportunity to witness some of the Ulurus step up and step in by taking initiative and creating a wonderful trail naming ceremony circle. The group honored a student with the trail name “Adept Emperor Penguin”. The momentum of this ceremony carried on into the next day as students helped each other pack up their possessions before we made our way into a new part of the desert. The new location was sparse. Juniper trees were less frequent and the terrain rocky. The site felt open as the northward winds blew against the group’s tarp shelter. Uluru members could see so much more now, and this motivated a deep desire to hike! Curious Ulurus made our waye to a “slanted pointy stick” in the distance that turned out to be an old 100-foot flagpole. On another day, students pushed to the top of nearby summits. Exploration naturally creates leaders as the Ulurus ventured curiously into the unknown. At night the older Ulurus helped the newer Uluru cook, craft, and live more comfortably. The greatest gift that was given was a cinnamon roll recipe that was cooked over the fire.
Therapy assignments were done on steep mountains and the group was able to spread out and take up space. They spent time reflecting as they journaled and rested. Ulurus crafted spoons, spatulas, and bows this week. Being able to slow down and create with our hands is not only a form of mindfulness, it is also tied to leadership. Creatively seeing value in each part of the group is the heart of a maker, and makers make great leaders.
On the last day of the week a wintry snowstorm came and blocked the warm sun. Regardless, the Ulurus continued to lead. The group honored each other in a token ceremony that took place in ariverbed. As snow fell students were honored with Strong Coord, Seeker, and True Speaker tokens were given and accepted. Another student was given a hand carved Maker pendant. The logistical and emotional leadership roles were also officially changed during the ceremony. What the Ulurluverse looks like drastically changes every couple of months. This new generation of Ulurus, and leaders, will brave the desert uniquely as we welcome in the new week.
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