This was a week of change for the Goannas. Peacekeeping Panda graduated on his journey with outBACK. Fellow students expressed their shared memories of their time together saying goodbye to a beloved member of the Goannas.
The same day, a new member was received, bursting with energy and high expectations, infusing the group with newfound vigor. Solid Rock welcomed the new teammate, paving a smooth fellowship between them and the rest of the group.
The following day, we headed towards the base of Red Pine Mountain. The Goannas were eager to set up shop for the night in preparation for one last push to get to the base of Red Pine. In the morning, personal time was taken to recharge and primitive skills worked upon. The evening’s hike was the final push to the base of the mountain. Torrential downpours clouded our departure. The students persevered through abating rain, invigorated upon arrival of the new site–it was full of trees and butterflies, abounding in shade.
The week ended on high with yet another new member to join the group. The student was quick to integrate with the group.
The Kangaroos began this week as two separate groups– the Pindari and the Brumbies. Each group had a member that left Thursday morning. The Pindari said goodbye to Platinum Lover while the Brumbies said goodbye to Resilient Macaroni Penguin, and the two separate groups hiked to a new site that rainy evening, where they met each other to create a group of four Kangaroos, AKA the Roos. We had a gathering about teamwork while drying off, then hunkered down in our warm, dry shelter for the night. The next morning brought sunshine and warmth, and as the water dried from the dirt the group played games of coup, riddle-solving, and sudoku. They also found a tarantula that they took pictures of, then a staff took it far away from camp and set it free. A field director came into the group and introduced the new name and helped facilitate team bonding and an insightful gathering setting new pillars for the group. The pillars were DULCH: Determination, Understanding, Loyalty, Creativity, and Harmony.
That night, the Roos had their first hike as a group and it was beautiful to watch them come together as a team for the first time. The next site was near a ranch, so we saw lots of cows! Adventurous Northern Florida Jit Lizard specifically pointed out that he liked the tan cows the most. That night a thunderstorm hit, and the group worked together with staff to make a plan to hike early the next morning. On that hike, we were taking a break and we saw three people come over a hill with a dog…as they emerged, former Pindari students recognized it as Sturdy Stallion returning from Boom! The reunion was glorious and we plowed through the rest of the hike, getting to our beautiful site at the base of Black Crook Mountain. We went on a day hike to a river with a forest of oak trees and willow surrounding, where we did a gathering and a token ceremony, where one student received Winged Heart, Radical Swordfish received Brightness, and Adventurous Northern Florida Jit Lizard gave a staff the PeaceWalker token. The next day a student found an owl in a nearby tree that we all got to admire up-close. Two staff and one student put together a special ceremony to honor Radical Swordfish with Vital Fire before the staff said their goodbyes to the group.
This week gave the Uluru many opportunities to build resilience as we faced several challenges together. It was a week of coming together as a team to problem solve and get through the things that Mother Nature threw at us.
Starting off the week, the Uluru were in good spirits and enjoying the group culture they worked so hard to build the previous week. The group came together to honor Authentic Moonlight with a lovely goodbye ceremony as they finished their time with us at outBACK. After this wonderful start to the week, though, that’s when the weather took a turn and gave us several opportunities to work together and overcome.
We experienced several days of heavy rain, which gave us problem solving opportunities with our shelters and keeping our gear dry. At times, the downpours soaked us and presented an opportunity for the students to seek help from staff on how to properly protect the gear from the elements. They were also able to recognize the importance of prioritizing their needs over their wants and adjust their priorities throughout the week to keep themselves protected in future storms.
The students also had some moments of heavy tension in the group this week. In those moments, we were able to work with them on managing their frustrations and being respectful to other students, even when they were experiencing difficult emotions toward each other. This was a significant learning opportunity for the Uluru, and it was awesome to see them recognize these moments.
After overcoming such large challenges together, the Uluru made space to honor two of its members with their trail names in a well-thought-out naming ceremony. The name Glimmering Hummingbird was given to honor the student’s unique light that they bring to the group, their energy, and their tender beauty. It also encapsulates the sparkle they constantly have. The Uluru also bestowed the name Willful Willow to a student who demonstrates great fortitude through adversity, who is strong both physically and determined, but who has the capacity to bend, like a willow tree does.
We had three hikes this week, two of which were rife with fowl weather, frustration, and navigational challenges. Our final hike came after the rain storms had cleared and after we’d worked through the difficult group dynamics, which made for an excellent and easy hike. Once we arrived at our final campsite for the week, we had a night of singing songs as a group over our nice, hot dinners and enjoying the finally clear night skies together.
The rest of the week the Uluru were able to take a good amount of time to work on their outdoor skills and just relax together finally. They displayed great resilience this week and are committed to rebuilding their group culture this coming week.
This week’s Peak crew was a conglomeration of students from every group! Once the group was formed, everyone was very eager to start our adventure. After a quick night of sleep, we piled into our vehicle and took off for the vibrant red sandstone of Southern Utah! After our long drive, we explored a park that overlooked the beautiful city of St George. Staff and students were both very excited for our first dinner together consisting of bratwurst and hotdogs. While digesting our food we explored a garden and fish sanctuary that contained many organisms found in the bazaar desert environments around the world. We also learned quickly that the week will be a competitive one when it came to our favorite hacky sack, called DOGS. The group shared a gathering together talking about our role models in our life and the traits we admire in those people.
Our second day was a hot, but fun one. We found ourselves climbing on the black basalt rocks! The students all learned how to not only climb and belay for each other, but also how to trust one another while excelling through some fears and challenges that some of us encountered while up on the walls. We climbed for hours and by the time we were exhausted, a desert rainstorm came blowing through the area as we hunkered down in the van shortly. By the time the rain passed, we were ready to get back outside. To wrap up our eventful day we stopped at a local park to cook quesadillas together, embrace our childhood by playing on some swings, and then come together for a gathering to express our feelings we felt while climbing.
The fun didn’t stop after our day of climbing! To keep cool the next day, we spent the entire day at Quail Creek Reservoir. Everyone loved taking the paddleboards out and then relaxing with a fun toss of the frisbee in the refreshing water. Our campsite was only a quick drive away from the reservoir, and we made it in time to go find an amazing spot to open up about our emotional state before and during their time here at outBACK.
The next day at Red Cliffs was spent on an arduous hike through a slot canyon. Everyone powered through the hike with ease and was able to take a little nap on the ride to Snow Canyon State Park, where the group enjoyed a nice shower and evening walk to another beautiful spot for a gathering. This conversation broke down what each of us hold dear in our lives and how we can stay focused on our life goals.
Our last full day together was spent making our way back to the west desert with an eventful stop at Fremont Indian State Park. The students learned about the rich history of Utah and the Fremont Indians. They were able to walk through the petroglyph and pictograph covered walls from hundreds of years ago and even practice the ancient way of hunting with an atlatl. Before entering the part of the west desert the students know so well from their stay, we stopped to honor the group with the iconic Peak Patch. The students all expressed their gratitude for the experiences they gained with the people they learned to grow with, and their plan for how they want to finish their stay at outBACK.
Although it was our last morning together, the spirits were high. That may have been because of the pancakes we made together, or the multiple games of DOGS we played before our trip back to their individual groups. On the drive through the desert, the group noticed a herd of animals off in the distance. We all were hoping it was the elusive herd of wild horses that roams our desert, and upon a closer look….. it was!!! A perfect way to end our week.