Wilderness Weekly 7.14.22

Photo Credit: outBACK Staff


The week started off with the group preparing to hike through Judd Canyon, where the students participated in a “Ghost Challenge”, where the students took on the role of the staff and ran their group for the entire day! Goofy Goose was made the logistical leader of the group and took this challenge head on, showing a tremendous amount of maturity and leadership, not only this day, but throughout the week! The group also had plenty of fun alongside their logistical greatness! The Goannas engaged in countless group singalongs throughout the week, belting out the lyrics at the top of their lungs in a hilarious fashion. The group held a goodbye ceremony for their most senior member, Courageous Lion, that was filled with laughter, reminiscing about their favorite memories, as well as their hopes for the future for him. Courageous Lion was honored that night with the Goanna token! As staff put it, Courageous Lion is the “Gold standard” of everything being a Goanna represents in the group. The group hiked back to their site after this, stopping by the Petroglyphs they had visited many times for one last time before getting ready to continue their journey. The group’s motivation to hike this week was at an all time high. This week the Goannas totaled about 20 miles hiking, an impressive feat! The group pushed hard on back to back days of double hikes, and reached their therapy site days early! The positive attitudes and fun throughout the hikes kept the group morale extremely high, and made it easier for all members of the group to accomplish their hiking goals!

The group reached the therapy site, where many insightful group gatherings took place. The theme of the week was “attitude” and capitalizing on our experiences! The group impressed staff with the thoughtfulness they put into their words during the gathering. The Goanna’s favorite gathering on the week touched on some of the hardest experiences we have had at outBACK and our favorite  memories, during which the group recounted numerous favorites and shared plenty of laughs along the way! The group also showed such positive attitudes in discussing how they want to take advantage of their opportunities for growth at outbACK.

Later on that Saturday night, Goofy Goose held an extremely emotional ceremony circle for all involved, during which he honored his father with the Strong Cord token, placing the token into the fire stove while he discussed what his father meant to him. This ceremony circle opened the door to multiple group members to want to open up and share with the group. The next day, the group set out to peak Black Crook mountain! They got this opportunity with all of their hard work hiking previously in the week, getting to a site close to the peak in order to make it happen! The hike was a great test of both emotional and physical resilience! The group conquered Black Crook, the tallest mountain in the field, and were rewarded with spectacular views! One of the group members then held a gathering at the top of the mountain, reading his placement letters to the group! The specialness of the thought and intention that went behind the gathering was apparent.

Afterwards, the Goannas came across an unexpected surprise that blew the entire group away. The group came across a cache of items stored on the peak of the mountain from previous generations of Goannas! The cache included notes from previous members including advice on how to capitalize on your stay, an emotional leader stick, as well as a list of the trail names of previous Goanna’s emotional leaders! The group added advice of their own to the cache via notes, as well as wrote the names of the emotional leaders in the current generation of the group on the emotional leader stick, Adventurous Tree, and Peacekeeping Panda, who received his trail name this week! The group came down from the mountain, and honored Goofy Goose with the Vital Fire token to represent how important and vital he is to the group, as well as honored another key member with the Openness token for his gathering on top of Black Crook where he shared his placement letters! The Goannas showed tremendous love, support, and camaraderie towards each other all week, as they truly were all perfect examples of what Goannas are! The motivation this week was at an all time high, as the group truly lived this week by our quote of the week, “Don’t count the days, make the days count”!


The Pindari conquered yet another week in the mystical Utah desert. The days were filled with crafting, competitions, and cooking, and the nights were filled with hiking, stargazing, and storytelling. We completed three pack hikes, hopping from canyon to canyon and encountering desert wildlife, including rabbits, lizards, butterflies, rattlesnakes, and wild horses. The group helped navigate the trail and keep spirits high along the way. While taking water breaks, we learned about different constellations and their stories, and made up a few of our own. 

Our final campsite was nestled up in a canyon in the shadow of a mountain range. We had a breathtaking view of the expansive desert below us and mountains in the distance. From that site, we peaked the tallest mountain in the area as the sun was rising. Our echoes from the top resounded for miles and were met with a response from a pack of coyotes. At the summit, we held a special ceremony to honor three students with tokens (Giver, Truth Speaker, and a personalized Peak token), gift a staff member with a trail name Nomadic Yeti, and mark each student with a symbol of a sunrise over a mountain using yellow oqquirh to represent their accomplishment and the bonding we experienced as a group. It was an overall incredible week full of accomplishment, laughter, and camaraderie! 


This week in the Uluru began with several students returning from their parent visits. Their individual campsites sprawled across the desertous yellow fields and rocky outcroppings that protruded from the landscape like miniaturized mountains. Goodbyes were hard for some but these partings would go on to show the strength of character harbored within these hearty Uluru. The group as a whole began the week socializing, processing and recollecting the dynamics of their parent visits and how it affected them.

By day 2, the hot sun had sapped us all of our vigor and motivation to venture too far from the shady refuge and into the fiery open fields that stretched far and wide about our camp. Some of our staff had nifty crafting material at the ready for the students to engage in whilst we endured the heat. They spent much of the day making friendship bracelets, carving spoons, notating and cooking revitalizing new recipes. That same day we welcomed our newest member of the group with whom the group eagerly began indoctrinating the ways of the Uluru, providing tips and advice for a healthy transition. 3 students received trail names that day and later in the week: Courageous Hyena, Authentic Moonlight and Mischievous Raven

Although the group was limited in their opportunities to hike, one could argue the hike days were packed into one, arduous yet enriching night hike experience. The Uluru’s mettle was tested when our first hike of the week took place during the beauty of the star-speckled night. This particular night which was illuminated by the colors of the milky way and luminous glow of a nearly-full moon began with undeterred spirits clearly exhibited by the songs and jest that rippled from our caravan of spritely and determined students. Along the way the students demonstrated their empathy and compassion when some of our staff had an accident, slowing the pace going forward– they rushed back and assisted however they could, showing little regard for the late hour of the night that had, by that point, had us all weary for sleep. Despite the difficulties met on this hike, they would not put a damper on these students’ moods, the laughter, songs and jests persisted until our destination was reached. 

That site became our therapy site. The days spent at that site were full of sightings of fascinating wildlife: kangaroo mice, blue-bellied lizards, a strange night sparrow species, the eerie howls of coyotes, an elusive baby fox, and several golden eagles scouting our camp for pesky rodents and in the distance we witnessed brawling stallions. Some of the Uluru received tokens from one another, honoring the valuable traits they exhibited that week.

The students began work on a variety of crafts and plans for a day hike to a most peculiar knoll nearby we made until the day at the end of our week. Lightning had pummeled the mountainous landscape just a few miles away and started a bush fire which was visible from our site as we had group therapy. This was an awe-inspiring facet of nature–even still, we quickly and efficiently packed up our camp and high-tailed our butts due North to the place that would be our next therapy site: the place which said our goodbyes to the Uluru bidding farewell to the eventful, progress-imbued week for us all.


This week started on a slightly sad note as we said farewell to two of the formative members of the Brumbies (Curious Polaris and Chaotic Orca). However, things turned around quickly as we prepared to hike that night. Spunky Monkey started to craft the mafia inspired game called Brumbietown. All the roles of Brumbie town were based on outbACK staff and students in the Brumbies.

The first night hike was a breeze as it was mainly downhill and fairly short, a little over two miles. There was a challenging moment for one of the group members and the rest of the group rallied around him to provide support and assistance. We finished the hike and arrived at the famous Oasis, where the sand rivals that of any 5-star beach. We quickly set up shelter and called it a night. We spent the next two days at Oasis where we attempted the Zero to Hero Busting challenge set by Mark, the reward being potatoes and oil to make french fries! The objective was to create a busting set from scratch with each group member contributing a different piece (Bow, Top rock, Bottom Board, Spindle, Coal Nest) . The group went to work and was able to gather all the pieces fairly quickly. The group worked hard to get a coal and were successful, however, the wind played a factor and took their coal as they tried transferring it into the nest. Determined, the group got another coal but again were bested by the wind. The group was down but not defeated, They swore they would succeed at this challenge and try again another day. In addition, we had a token ceremony at Oasis. This time Electric Aspen and another student received tokens. Electric Aspen received the Solid Ground token and the other student received the Letting Go token. Our time was also spent playing chess as the newest student crafted an entire chess board and pieces from juniper and leather. One by one each student challenged the student who created the chess set and all were defeated, including the staff! At last it was time to hike again and the group got an early start to the prep work.

Once the temperature cooled we were off to Death Canyon. During the hike, one group member started to feel a little ill and so we slowed down the pace. The group was in good spirits and continued to fight the good fight through the night till we reached our destination. Once we arrived we found the spot for shelter and set it up and said goodnight to an epic and challenging hike. The next day we took it easy and rested from the hike as we focused on eating and hydrating. The group was famished so we decided to go all in on creating different recipes and building a strong cooking culture in the Brumbies. Different ideas were passed around as they tried to replicate some of their favorite meals from back home. Electric Aspen created the outBACK version of cinnamon rolls.  During this time Spunky Monkey unleashed his finished creation, Brumbietown. The group was left in stitches from all the laughter that was had as we played the game. Electric Aspen took this down time to create a ceremony circle on top of the mountain to do a trail naming ceremony for one of his peers. The staff took this opportunity to also honor the same student receiving his trail name with the letting go token and another newer student with the Brightness token. The trail naming ceremony was a hoot as we generated a number of great trail name options but the final product was Tenacious Horizon.

To end the day we had a good hot meal and the newest student lead a gathering on internal vs external motivation. The next day the group awoke determined to finish what they started back at Oasis, the Busting Challenge. The group went to work quick to regather all the pieces they needed and within an hour they had everything they needed. The next hour they spent preparing their tools and quickly got to busting, within five minutes of busting they got a coal and this time they would triumph. They transferred the coal into the nest and within a few seconds blew it into flames! The group was ecstatic and relieved that they accomplished what they started so many days ago. I am happy to report that all the students did get their french fries and ate them in one fell swoop. With this success we draw a close on another successful week in the Brumbies.      


This Peak week began with students being picked up in the morning and driving out of the field that had been their home for nearly two months. As the mid-day sun rose and the West desert reached blazing temperatures the group arrived at lava tubes hidden in the desert, where they descended from the bright heat of the day and into caverns reached by less and less daylight until they arrived at a point of complete, cold, darkness. Here, they were honored with an introduction ceremony to Peak and tasked with using the week to better understand themselves and the reasons behind the behaviors they were engaging in back at home. After some further exploration of the lava tubes the group returned to the surface and set up camp, spending a final evening in the West desert before heading further south.  

The morning was spent striking camp then driving up Cedar Canyon. The first day students enjoyed spending the afternoon in the relative comfort of a campground with amenities like bathrooms and running water as well as challenging themselves by attempting to walk across a slack line. They gathered that evening to discuss what it means to “rise to an occasion” and how that concept might apply to their peak week.

The level of challenge ramped up the next morning as helmets, climbing shoes and  gear were distributed to the students and they were briefed on how to safely rock climb. Afterward they set off for the crag where each student excitedly ascended the first route and eagerly awaited the setting up of more challenging climbs. Every student pushed themselves, completing every increasingly difficult climb until it was time to return to site.

The next day the group packed up and hiked up Ashdown Gorge Canyon. The group was excited to cross through streams and be surrounded by high canyon walls. They took several breaks to skip rocks and dip their feet in the cool water. By midday the group decided to turn back and head to a local park to rest and reflect on their peak experience so far. The following day the group drove to a state park and played games next to a lake. They were faced with the challenge of being back in an environment where they were surrounded by people and all the parts of society that they had been living without during their stay at outBACK. The students were able to use showers at the park then drove back in the direction of the field to camp close to another climbing location.

The students approached the next day’s climbing with much of the same enthusiasm they had before. They remained determined to finish routes that were even more difficult than the previous days and in hotter weather. Though some of the climbing proved too difficult for some students they still demonstrated their resilience by making several attempts before deciding to return to the ground. That evening the group was honored with a closing ceremony and challenged to finish their outBACK stay by being leaders in their groups. They walked silently back to the tent for a final night as a group before being dropped back to their groups in the morning.


We started out the week with some introductions, drum playing, and busting. The students had a knack for busting and really got into it. At night we enjoyed the company of some bats and owls flying overhead highlighting the contrast of the beautiful stars. We jumped into the next day looking for an A-Frame and got that started to prepare for our hike to Coyote Springs, a wonderful area with lots of trees and just as much wildlife exposure. This site gave The students the opportunity to refine their  busting set and get closer to getting a coal. While on site they blew a coal into flames and helped to gather firewood. We had the opportunity to take a day hike and look for bones and bullet shells for them to take and use as memoirs and tools for their busting kit.

On the Fourth of July we had a special treat of beef hotdogs, watermelon, chips, and powder that changed the color of the fire. That same day they were joined by two other students who were coming back from their Peak experience. Together they worked on busting and creating drums from leather. The next day they met the incoming staff and played some games, moved their shelter, and continued working on their drums.


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