Mountain biking, camping, wildlife and so much more! We're convinced that after reading this update you'll be itching to go on an outdoor adventure.
Current student, Bennett, gives us an update on the latest from Western USA Group A...
"The one word I would use to describe this week is growth. We grew intellectually, physically, mentally, spiritually, and overall we grew as a group. This was fueled by the challenges we faced, our willingness to persevere through these challenges together, and our positive outlook on the world and ourselves.
We started the week off of early, drinking smoothies at 6 AM and leaving the Park City lodge as clean as we found it. We then headed off to Stanley Idaho, stopping at Craters of the Moon National Park for hikes and lunch. Upon arrival at Stanley, we made ourselves at home in our shared 4-room building and ordered pizza. This was our first takeout meal, and the surprising tastiness of the Idaho pizza served as a great bonding experience for our group.
On Monday we mountain biked at Redfish Lake. This was for many of us our first time mountain biking, and thanks to Nathan and Amelia’s incredible leadership that day, we all made it out alive. Nathan, with the experience, led from the front and taught us how to use the gears and brakes and navigate the trails. Amelia led from behind, sticking with everyone who was having a hard time. And I mean everyone. We all fell. Some were banged up, some lost chains and tires, but everyone stuck with it and supported each other the whole time. At the end we rewarded ourselves with food from the base, and that night we celebrated Kayla’s birthday! We made chicken parm as she requested and sang happy birthday.
The next day there was a warm sun and clear skies as we went boating on the Redfish lake. We flipped and dove off the side of the boat into relatively warm water, and a few of us did our first backflips. When we crossed the lake, we stopped at a huge rock and jumped off it. We even got some successful frisbee catches off the rock. After lunch, we drove to the hot springs where boiling geothermal water mixed with a glacier stream. We chilled there for a while letting the sulfur heal our skin. That night was our last in Idaho and we got ready for our biggest challenge yet: camping.
On Wednesday we made bacon egg and cheeses for breakfast and said goodbye to refrigerated food as we rode to Jackson, WY. On the way, we had the “world famous” square ice cream and grocery shopped for five days of camping. Quinoa, pasta, vegetables, rice, beans, and granola bars were most abundant in our supply. We eventually reached our campsite and set up tents, another new activity for many of us. That night we lit a fire and did an eye-opening, vulnerable self discovery exercise called “the cube”. The details of the exercise are for those who participate, but it was emotional for many of us. When the fire died down we crawled into our sleeping bags for the first time of the trip and slept in 30 degree weather under the stars.
Getting up in the morning was more difficult than we all thought. It was coldest at the time we woke up, but after a few hours the temperature would bounce up 45 degrees. During the days of our camping trip we did informational activities led by Colby of the Teton Science School. We broke the ice by doing some funny improv and hiked up to Fox Creek for a beautiful overlook of Grand Teton. We would frequently stop and Colby would not only teach us about the specific nature around us, but also how to be mindful of nature anywhere we go. He explained how the ecology, economy, and culture of an ecosystem are interconnected. He taught us to look for patterns, how sun and water availability change the environment from one side of a hill to another. He also taught us how different life forms work together to survive and reproduce and how climate change can affect these balances. For dinner we cooked stir fry on our little gas stoves. After a few hours, despite spilling the rice twice, we enjoyed a fantastic meal from the heart.
We met up with Colby the next day for a magnificent hike around String Lake and Leigh Lake. There we learned on a map how the glaciers on those mountains flow all the way down to the biggest rivers and to the ocean. “It’s all downstream” he would say. The ecological, economical, and cultural effects of these lakes and glaciers were the main topics of discussion. Again, we learned how climate change effects these features. That afternoon at the camp we mixed mindfulness with play, doing a core exercise finding our three most important virtues, and also playing Sardines in the woods.
Saturday was our wildlife tour with our tour guides Kevin and Tyler. They took us in vans with screened COVID protection and roof hatches to look at the animals through binoculars. We saw moose, bears, bison, coyotes, and pronghorns in the wild. We learned about the life of these animals: how they stay warm in the winter, how the mate, how they eat, and other anatomical features. Some of us got great photos and all of us made great memories seeing these brilliant animals in real life.
We began our last day in Jackson cooking quinoa, beans, and avocado burritos for breakfast. We then drove to a Teton Science School trail and got to work. Our job, given by Colby, was to clear a trail for hikers and skiers. We used rakes, pickaxes, trimmers, and other tools to get roots and weeds out of the grassy trail and make it presentable. We worked for only three hours but our backs said otherwise. We were systematic and thorough with our service and were proud to walk through the trail we made at the end. After that we followed Colby to the National Museum of Wildlife Art and got to look at stunning life-sized sculptures of the same animals we saw on the tour. We also saw sculptures of wolves, foxes, and extinct birds. It was a fascinating mix between art and science. Being able to go right up to the sculptures made us connect with the animals in a different way. We could focus more on their details and could see ourselves in the animals. Lastly, we read an article about unaffordable housing in Jackson Hole and other ski resorts. This served as an example of the tension between ecological preservation, economic sustainability, and cultural justice in such areas.
Every day this week we learned something new while growing and having fun in the process. There’s not much more you can ask for." - Bennett, Western Group 1