Proctor Academy's Mountain Classroom group is back on the road as they head north and east toward South Dakota following a week long excursion on the San Juan River and backpacking adventure in Colorado. While spotty internet access and cell phone service in the mountains limited the number of photos and video sent this week, the blogs below from Ryan '19 paints a beautiful picture of the life-changing experience taking place in the American southwest this term.
If you look at Southeastern Utah on flat ground you might think that it is bone dry, without a ounce of water in its soil and getting wet would be next to impossible, but seven days on the San Juan will prove you wrong. Before we set off on the river we met our guides, Kay and Bill who we discovered to be legends on the river and gods in the kitchen. Kay taught us lessons about the river and about the human history through Anasazi pictographs which dated back to around 3000 B.C. This was the first of many eye opening experiences on the San Juan river. When we set off everybody started to realize that getting wet from the cold water was mandatory, but that did not stop our group from having a absolutely fantastic time. As we slowly made our way down the river, we were met with cows, Canadian geese, and views that would take your breath away. Right after our first lunch break we floated past a weird looking rock, or so we thought was a rock! Then we could smell the rock and realized that is was a deceased cow. This wasn’t necessarily a bad experience, but we could have done without the smell right after eating beef jerky.
At our first campsite Kay and Bill got to prove their cooking skills by making dinner. We had burgers with fruit salad - I downed at least four burgers myself. I was going for my fifth, when I remembered the cow, and then I decided that four was enough. The camp that we were staying at apparently got a lot of visitors at night; the regular visitors were beavers, coyotes, and a very aggressive horse. No one thought we were going to be visited by any animals, but later that night our instructor, Kate, awoke to find a beaver about ten feet away trying to drag some wood into the river. While half the group was trying to find the beaver, the other half was curling up in their sleeping bags trying to stay safe. The next day after our delicious pancake breakfast, we set out for an old Anasazi house that was built within the rock itself. As we were walking through the building, we saw pottery and arrowheads. As tempting as it was to take a piece, we respected the area and left it as it was. We then all gathered in a large circular room called a ‘Kiva’ in the Anasazi structure for a ceremony. We sat in a circle of silence looking at the beautiful pictographs twenty-five feet above us. During the ceremony, we passed around burning sage and we breathed in the sage and the nature around us. The group was calm and at peace. We could only hear the songbirds and the river in the background. For me, it was the most peaceful and mind opening experience we have had Mountain Classroom.
Our third day on the river, we met our fist rapid called Eight Foot. This rapid wasn't very long, but it was very narrow with lots of boulders. We had to scout out the rapid before going through because in the past people have gotten trapped by the rocks and were unable to get out. However, Eight Foot was no match for this group. One after another, in pairs of two we shot out of the rapid soaking wet and with huge smiles on their faces. We were lucky enough to have the sun for a few hours to warm us up, but then Earl (god of weather) came for us. He hit us hard with forty mile an hour gusts of wind that brought sand and water against our boats and bodies. Even with the strong current of the San Juan, it was next to impossible to go downstream without vigorously paddling. When one our campsite was visible, we all pushed through the wind and water. Once we reached the shore, we struggled to tie the boats up because every gust of wind wanted to flip our boats over. Still with freezing cold weather and sore arms, we wanted to go for a SWIM! So we ran upstream, jumped in, and floated down the San Juan’s freezing waters. After we got out, everyone rushed to put on warm layers.
Even with all these challenges, every one of us was happy and energetic. But Earl was not done with us yet. He pretended to go away for a while and made us think is was okay to sleep outside. At about 1 in the morning he came back with sand filled vengeance, every time anyone opened their eyes they would be blinded by sand. Eventually, Earl got bored with us and decided to move on. We gave Earl a run for his money and had a feeling he wasn't done with us yet.
For our last few days, we were in the deepest part of the canyon. On our left and right there were many thousand foot high walls going straight up. It felt like we were floating on a different planet. After every bend in the river, there were new landscape of decaying mountains. Everywhere we looked our eyes widened from the beauty. It felt like a rollercoaster going all the way up and right before one plummets down one’s heart drops. We were lucky enough to have a few visits from big horned sheep and mini horses. Apparently there was a donkey in the group and he was not happy to see us as he gave a warning by screaming at us. That wasn't even the best wildlife encounter we had. We were waiting on a river bank for Kay and Bill to go through a rapid and while we were watching them go down Pete screamed out “what the F is that!” We all looked over to see a cute beaver tumble down the bank into the water. Everyone was laughing and shaking their heads that something so small could scare us so much.
Out next big obstacle was Government Rapid. It got the name Government because it flipped a government survey crew. We decided to scout it out because three other parties were also seeing what was the best way to get through rapid. As we made our way through the rapid, we received cheers and applause for our skills from other groups watching on the banks.
On our last day, Earl tried to get some payback for what happened earlier in the trip. He tried to dampen our spirit with wind, flurries of snow and no sun. The last fourteen miles before our takeout at Clay Hills we encountered sandbars that were always changing.We had to constantly switch from bank to bank trying to avoid getting stuck in the shallow water. It was the longest fourteen miles I have ever traveled. When we finally got to the takeout, we were all exhausted, but we still all had smiles on our faces. Once I saw that, I knew that nothing could stop this group from having a good time. We helped unload the boats and said goodby to our great guides. Even though it was only seven days, we were connected to Kay and Bill and they will remain family. Our group is so special because we don't give up and we make relationships that last forever.
Kiara '18: Cabot Ranch
40,000 acres of wild and seemingly untouched land in Weston, Colorado were basically all to ourselves for five days. We were invited to stay at the Bar NI Ranch, owned by the Cabot family whose son Brad is a Proctor Mountain alum! As we entered the ranch we were enclosed by a rock wall so high we had to crane our necks outside the small bus windows to the fullest extent to capture the beauty that was unfolding before our eyes, it felt as if we were leaving society. We rode the dirt road further, leaving behind the rock walls, into a landscape far from anything we had witnessed thus far. We were finally trading in the red rocks and sandy deserts for snowy peaks, tall pines, and green grazing fields. A family sized cabin for our Mountain Classroom family awaited us at the end of the road. Walking out of the bus, a foreign cold brisk blew through our sandy river hair, and we knew we were in for a serious ‘glamping' (glamorous camping) adventure. Upon further information, and a series of intense courses of Wilderness First Aid (WFA), to prepare us for our student lead expedition that is coming up in the final two weeks of the trip.
The following morning, we got a very serious call informing us that our WFA expertise (which was little to none) was needed at Cougar Cabin ASAP. Although most of us knew that it wasn’t an actual situation, except for Kevin, who we found out was actually stressing out about it all day (sorry Kevy), we all tried really hard to treat it as a real situation. We frantically packed up our backpacks and headed into the woods. Cougar Cabin was supposed to be a relatively easy three mile hike. But, may I say, as the navigator these trails were not really trails but narrow, hard to see paths that Katie and I tried very hard to follow. After spending three hours on this so called misleading trail with no cabin in sight, I realized that we were lost. But don’t worry, on hour five, we finally arrived (my bad). We were seriously about to be glamping again - because this cabin was like a five star hotel, at least to us it was. After recovering from a stressful afternoon, we were able rescue Kate from a ‘bear attack’ and later learned the essentials on how to properly approach a backcountry emergency.
After saving Kate, to prepare for our feast in this luxurious cabin in the middle of nowhere, Naz, Liv, and I went to a small pond to retrieve water. I got seriously attacked by the biggest leech I had ever seen. Okay, not really attacked, but it was a close call. We all decided to sleep inside that night, due to a plethora of stories that included cougars and bears on the way up. Being one of the first nights we had the heat of a wood stove, many of us had a very long night of sweating and shedding the layers we were all used to wearing. But nonetheless, we appreciated the warmth.
We all awoke to a foggy morning. Rydawg and I headed outside to check out the scene and nearly got lost in the hazy thick cloud, and heard a large splash into the pond, so we ran back in the direction we thought was the cabin. Another close call, but I am convinced Rydawg was just trying to mess with me, as he has been trying to get a good scare out of everyone on the trip (he has been unsuccessful so far, if you were wondering).
We returned to our family cabin that afternoon, and didn’t get lost on the way down (well, not as lost as before). The next couple of days we spent time performing jobs around the ranch, which included spending time with all the horses. Most of us being big animal people, we were in heaven - the horses were absolute beauties. Some of the young ones were a bit feisty though, we did get head butted a couple of times. But nonetheless, we were able to pluck out some really fat ticks and burs that were tangled into their manes and tails. With a couple of more WFA classes under our belt, our group felt pretty confident and prepared. That is until we were faced with a scenario, similar to the ‘bear attack,’ but were dealing with a person who was unresponsive. The victim I stumbled upon was Naz, and her airway was blocked so I opened her mouth and found a massive ball of peanut butter that she was ‘choking on.’ So I made the executive decision to scoop out the peanut butter with my bare hand. It was really gross to say the least, but she did manage to survive, so don’t worry.
Our last night on the ranch, upon reflection, we all felt pretty spoiled and privileged to continually be stumbling upon these places and experiences that are out of the ordinary. Time and time again our group has been given amazing places to adventure and learn in. It’s not often that you find yourself feeling perfectly content. But when you do, it’s important to acknowledge these moments and figure out how to remember this contentment. That night, sitting around the dinner table that was perfectly made for all twelve of us, I felt nothing but content. I didn’t exactly know how to remember this feeling, other than to deeply appreciate it. Appreciate how I got to be exactly where I was. How I was sitting around twelve pretty amazing people, in this cabin owned by Brad Cabot, in southern Colorado. I thought about my family, and all the events that have lead up to me coming to Proctor Academy and being apart of Mountain Classroom. I have never imagined that within these past two months, nature, as simple as it is, could have taught me so much about life, in that things as they are, right at this very moment, are in itself beautiful, and most importantly, enough. That letting things be as they are, is everything.
Thank you Cabot Family for letting us lavishly live with you!
Also, please enjoy this rap inspired from our trip made by yours truly Rydwag.
Yo yo we in Colorado
We thought we saw a female doe
But she had to go
Yo yo you already know, we in Colorado
We get hi’s from crows
And we say hey yo crow, you already know
We eatin’ avocado in Colorado
And when we leave Colorado
We be puttin’ on a show.