9/7: Return from Backpacking

Before setting out on the backpacking portion of their Outward Bound adventure the students were asked to define an “expedition”.

The past seven days have been awe-inspiring.

Challenging, scenic, rainy, sunny, wet, cozy, exhausting, energizing, ironically stylish, forming, norming, building, packing, transitional, thought-provoking, steep, heavy, rewarding, muddy, slippery, hilarious, and… EXPEDITIONARY

The group returned yesterday to Home Place from the Superior Hiking Trail after a growth-filled week.

Altogether we have logged 40+ miles carrying 60+ pounds on our backs from the North Cascade River to North Cross river on the SHT. We can set up and tear down our brigade tarps (the fancy name for our portable shelters), cook backcountry meals, treat our water to make it potable and communicate effectively using the skills we learned from our Outward Bound guides. Our lessons focused on character development, goal setting, comfort-stretch-panic zones, and recognizing and emphasizing our top strengths as determined by the Strengths Quest online talent assessment that we all took prior to the expedition.
(Click here to learn more about Cliffton Strengths Quest)

The group has also designed its own Community Living Agreement (or CLA) that states the rules and ethics we want to live by for the remainder of the expedition and the greater Gap Semester. We’ve designed a flag depicting those intentions and came up with a mission statement that will frame our actions in pursuit of the adventure’s common goal –  “Love. Laugh. Serve.”

We are united – now well into the expedition and have learned how to function as a well-oiled machine. It wasn’t easy, but we all feel ready to dive (quite literally) into the next part of our expedition – canoeing and portaging in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for the next 11 days. Today was spent switching gear, changing clothes, fitting life jackets and trading in our backpacks for large canvas bags called mondos that we’ll share with a partner. We had a chance to practice carrying canoes, and even practice immersion which means we all know how to safely manage the rare possibility of falling out of or tipping our boats.

Due to group size restrictions the group will be splitting up for canoeing and reuniting on the final day. Canoeing will be a new challenge with new skills to learn, new goals to set and yet more opportunity to connect with compassion. We all can’t wait to reconvene and share our experiences with one another back at Home Place.

Each night before dinner the group stands arm-in-arm in a circle and the captain of the day states “take care of yourselves” to which the group responds “take care of each-other”. We are all learning and growing together, feel responsible for one another, and will certainly be taking care of one another into the Boundary Waters, for the rest of the semester, and once we’ve finished the Gap – over the course of our college careers.

Please enjoy the photos from backpacking and you can anticipate another update upon our return from the beautiful northern wilderness!

August 31st: Hitting the Trail!

September 1st: Settling into Camp Life

September 2nd: Mystery Mountain

September 3rd: Rambling Rivers

September 4th: SMART Goals and our Outdoor Classroom

September 5th: Our Longest Hike Yet!

September 6th: Out of the Woods!

September 7th: Canoeing We Will Go!