Wilderness Weekly 9.2.22

Photo Credit: Trevor Allen, CMHC - Primary Therapist


The Goannas started off their week sending their best wishes and bidding farewell to a well-respected peer. They kicked off the week with a set of challenges; makers challenge and fire challenge the makers challenge included many creative submissions, such as stylish fanny packs, satchels, and crafty chopsticks. The fire challenge consisted of showing off their best fire-starting skills and a little friendly competition kept spirits up and allowed students to display their skills.

One of the many therapeutic benefits to hiking during our backcountry expeditions is that it can serve as a way to bring unresolved matters to the surface. Hikes this week presented challenges with some student packs and as we progressed, the Goannas experienced a storming phase of team development cycle. The students who made up the Goannas group, however, rallied together and were able to incorporate their problem-solving skills to come together and make it to their next destinations. The Goannas experienced many vulnerable moments individually and that brought conversations of growth and resiliency. They even reevaluated pieces of Goanna culture and adjusted in areas to improve group dynamics.

Two Goannas received their trail names, Genuine Juniper and Clever Fox. Two others received challenge tokens, openness and letting go. These newer peers were challenged by the group to be open to the therapeutic process and begin to let go of what does not serve them anymore. The joint token ceremony was held on the side of a nearby knoll, where orange and pink painted skies lit up the mountains. We all took a moment to appreciate the beauty and how much healing the desert brings.

Although the week had many challenges, the Goannas once again persevered and became closer through the highs and lows. They are ready to take on another week and are eager to discover what the next part of their journey at outBACK has in store for them.


This week in the kangaroos…

We started the week strong welcoming back students from Peak Adventure expedition with enthusiastic games of salad bowl (like charades— first round describes without using the word, second round act out, third round one word) and said goodbye to Cunning Largemouth Bass, Adventurous Northern Florida Git Lizard, Playful Panda. These group members left a lasting mark on the Kangaroo group culture, emphasizing working hard, finding room for growth in our time in the desert, and leading by example.

After saying goodbye to these Kangaroos, we began to settle into and redefine the newly established group. Highlights include a morning meditation in which students were blindfolded and brought into a maze, but the maze had no exit. Students were allowed to ask if they were at the end, right or left, and for help. The secret was once you ask for help, a staff pulls you from the “maze”. We debriefed about what holds us back from asking for help. We continued meaningful conversations in our gatherings about attitude, clout, and the significance of concepts such as “We must transform ourselves to transform the world,” (led by Radical Swordfish). We dove into how your attitude can impact your stay in the spaces and communities we enter, others’ well-being or motivation, and your general mindset. During our next gathering, we envisioned the ideal world we want to live in as we grow up and create our lives. We suggested that how we show up when we are upset with someone is our door to create the type of change, we hope to see in the world, and challenged students to consider how they treat each other, family, those they disagree with and whether their treatment of others aligns with their greater vision for their lives and the worlds they want to live in. Finally, Radical Swordfish led a gathering on power (notoriety, through social media or networks) in which he asked us to consider the following: why we seek power, a time we have felt a genuine benefit from it, and a time we have sought it and had hard consequences/regret. We kicked butt during our backcountry expedition part of our week, seeing incredible sunsets and finding a tarantula friend!

We had new members join the group. The Kangaroos welcomed them with open arms, showing them the ropes, offering advice, and holding intentional space in gatherings. Our days were filled with games and jokes and balanced with the thoughtful gatherings and connections new members are making. We honored a student with the Winged Heart token for their shift in perspective this week, finding openness and hope, and willingness to move forward. This is an exciting time for the Kangaroos to create the community they believe in and want to support each other out here in the desert.


This week in the Ulurus was filled with creativity, inspiring each other to achieve their goals, honoring each other and the progress they have made so far, and group building games. Their ability to work together and the care they had for each other were made apparent this week. They celebrated their making skills this week; they made beautiful hand carved spoons, necklaces and strong cord, bags, and even a quiver! Not only were they a bunch of makers, but they also played plenty of games. The whole group were engaged in a hacky sack game called dogs, inspiring some friendly competition and collaboration. Along with their making abilities, the group set up three different ceremonies to honor their peers.

The first ceremony was held to honor a staff member with her trail name; Wise River. While in the same ceremony Glimmering Hummingbird was honored with the maker’s token. Then Caring Bear received his 100-trail day patch. Lastly, during this ceremony, Nomadic Roadrunner received the strong cord token as he has helped keep the group together through challenges experienced throughout the week.

During a skills run to find fire sets, the Ulurus found a lot of joy and pride in their ability to find straight sage spindles, showing each other what they found. The Ulurus then made a magical discovery– seashells in the desert! Everyone was enthralled at this discovery and one student even collected 109 of them to make a necklace out of it. On the way back to camp, we had our second ceremony where Wise River was honored with the peace walker token and the students talked about their impact on them. Caring Bear was honored with the strong cord token due to his emotional resilience.

The final ceremony was in a beautiful meadow nestled by two tall pine trees and oak trees. The students had a lot of intention in making the ceremony circle beautiful and special, hanging flowers between the trees. Vigorous Honey Badger honored Wise River with a hand carved token to represent new beginnings. After a heartfelt goodbye ceremony was held, a couple of others were then honored as well. Blooming Sunflower was honored with the journey keeper token by Glimmering Hummingbird. Grounded Aspen was recognized for his newfound passion and excitement for creating with the makers token. A staff was given a brightness token by Willful Willow for keeping a positive spirit during arduous hikes.

Overall, a lot of love was felt in the Ulurus this week. They moved through conflicts as a team, completed challenging hikes, and acknowledged, reflected, and honored big emotions by coming together and recognizing the good in themselves and each other.

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