Rocky Mountains 2006

Mon Jul 03, 2006

Day One

It was 12:45 in the dark, dark night as a large bus pulled into the high school parking lot to meet a crowd of rowdy soon-to-be-juniors. What in the world could be going on? WHy the 2006 Cross America Expedition to the beautiful Colorado, of course. All sixteen of us were giddy and excited as we loaded the bus for our biggest trekkers trip EVER. As the bus wheels started to roll, the lack of sleep became evident, and the bus (for the most part aka Wilson) was silent. Pathfinder arrived at the Boston airport at around 5, and were perfectly timed to catch the earlier flight then planned, so we caught the 6:30 flight to Philly. And this is where we sit now; waiting for our 10:00 flight to Denver. We are all aware of our long journey ahead today; we arrive in Denver and then have to pick up our two vans; then venture a three and a half our drive to Bueno Vista. We are all very tired, heads are constantly bobbing low. But our hopes and sense of adventure are undoubtly high for our trip ahead. Watch out Colorado; Pathfinder is coming! This is Bryson, signing out. I will keep you updated on our progress as soon as I am able.

Don here, I just wanted to thank all the parents for bringing your children to meet the bus so early in the morning (or so late in the evening). Everything went really smoothly in getting to Logan and in fact, since we were early they put us on the earlier flight to Philly. So, it seems that everyone is sleepy (including me) except of course Wilson who is drinking some sort of Red Bull drink, as if he needs it…right?! Well, they all did a great job at working as a team in getting us this far…as I told them the journey has just begun…and to stay flexible for anything could change, but if everything goes smoothly we should be in Buena Vista by sun down…ok buckaroos, we’ll talk to you later…I have no idea when we have internet acess again, but if we do we’ll get you another update. dc

Fri Aug 04, 2006

Day Two

Today has been quite an exciting and fun filled day. After traveling for over 17 hours straight yesterday, following our first food shop, everybody was able to sleep very very very well. This morning after sleeping in, we all awoke to the gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains that surrounds us. It feels as though we are camping in the middle of a post card! We then ventured to the famous Ghost Town: St. Elmo. We walked through town, and then had the pleasure of feeding chipmunks. The creatures were extremely friendly, and had no problem eating food out of your hand. After the chipmunks warmed our hearts, we warmed the rest of our bodies at the hot springs. The Hot Springs was a swimming pool in which a hot spring flowed directly into. The temperature of the pool was around 100 degrees! There was a creek right next to the pool, where the hot spring flowed into as well. After a quick dip in the hot water, we had a blast playing and dancing on the Arkansas River. The river was quite chilly, so we warmed up at the Hot Springs again. Since the day was so long, and we couldn’t possibly jam any more fun into one day, we ventured on home to our campground. We ate some dinner, and went to bed fairly early,for we are eager for what the next day would bring.

Sat Aug 05, 2006

Day Three

This morning we awoke to a beautiful view, and the weather was ideal. We packed up our vans, and were on the road early. We stopped in the nearest town at a Super Walmart for a few minutes, where most people bought pillows (almost everyone forgot to pack one). We then drove a few hours, and stopped for lunch. Today was special though; we didn’t eat homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (which are very delicious as well). But today we stopped at Pizza Hut, due to the fact that it was Jesse’s 16th Birthday! We sang happy birthday, ate our fill of pizza, and then loaded the vans for the San Luis Valley. On the way we stopped at the only UFO Watchtower in the World. We had heard about a woman who had dedicated her life to looking for Aliens, and so we had been watching out for her as we drove. There was a garden filled with people’s belongings, so “their energy could be near the vortexes”. People put an item in the garden, and then the woman told us about the 39 sightings there have been in that field alone. It was definitely a fun and different experience.

We then loaded the bud again and headed for the dunes.As we neared the world famous valley, and spotted the sand dunes, I think all of us were thinking, “Those are the tallest dunes in North America? They don’t look that big.” But of course, anything looks small when compared to the Rocky Mountains, which were neighbors to the dunes. As our van grew nearer and nearer to the great dunes, they appeared larger and larger. As we pulled into the Visitors Center, everybody was shocked at the size of the dunes. It was unbelievable! You could barely see people climbing on the top, and they looked like baby ants. We got prepared for the trek to the top, and then hit the sand. The hike was very exhausting, and took about an hour to climb to the ½ mile peak, but once we made it to the top, there was no doubt that it was worth it. The view was amazing; The Mountains were breathtaking, and the San Luis Valley was incredible. We decided to write TREKKERS on the side of a dune, and it looked so good! It was so cool to leave our mark on a national treasure. We then started to head back down the dunes. But we didn’t walk down. Oh no; we jumped, skipped, ran, rolled, and fell down. Everyone had a blast! When we had finally reached the end of the sand, we emptied the pounds of sands out of our shoes, and had to be impacted by the sand police aka Don, before we could step foot in the van. We then went to the Visitors Center to watch a video about the dunes. The video didn’t quite answer our questions, which left us all wondering, “How did All that sand get there?!” We then made our way down the road to the Sand Dunes National Park Campground. We set up camp, and then made some dinner. After dinner, we decided to sit around for some nice, peaceful free writes. One topic into our free write, the light misting rain turned into a powerful, down pouring thunderstorm. We took shelter under our covered picnic tables. The rain didn’t let up, so we made a run for the vans. We stayed in the vans until the storm passed, and then went straight to bed. This day was an unforgettable one; filled with so many laughs and memories.

Sun Aug 06, 2006

Day Four

This morning we all stumbled out of our tents into the patchy desert-like terrain of the Luis Valley Campground, packed up our tents and our bags, enjoyed some fruit rings, took one last look at the beautiful surrounding scenery, and then packed into the van for the long drive ahead of us. We drove for a few hours, and then stopped for a quick shop to get some goodies.

We then set forth for Mesa Verde. We all had heard of the flat-topped mountains, but to see them as we came around a corner was unbelievable. Why are they flat? We were even more amazed when we learned that our campground was in a valley of one of the mountains. So we drove up and around and up and around, until we found our campsite. We were greeted by a few deer who came by to welcome us to our site, which was pretty nice of them. After we set up camp, we went to start our tour of the Pueblo Cliff Dwelling: The Cliff Palace. I’m not sure what everyone was expecting, but I expected a small, simple village with a few houses loosely carved into the side of a mountain. The village was breathtaking. There were over 100 rooms, and every wall was made beautifully and in mint condition. It is very hard to describe it, because it really does leave you speechless. We started to climb down the pathway to get to the village for our tour.

The path that we took was created many many years after people inhabited the village. It was quite hard to go on; there were wooden ladder and narrow walkways. It really made you wonder how the Pueblos go to the home. Our tour guide was very good, and explained pretty much everything about the village; from the kivas in the ground that served as ceremonial huts; to the room along the top of the cave which served as food storage area. The Pueblos were very advanced, and thought everything out so that they could live the best live possible. The tour was so incredibly interesting and very educational. On the way back to our camp site, we stopped at a few viewing stations to look at more cliff dwellings.

When we got back to our site, we continued journaling from the day prior. After our first topic, we felt rain graze our heads. People started saying that our journaling was cursed. Even though the threat of a curse was there, we all huddled under the canopy, and continued journaling. We wrote about UFO’s, Cliff Dwellings, and Sand dunes. The rain had let up by the time we were done, so we all gathered our icky wet clothes, and went down to use the laundry mat, showers, and telephone. After the laundry was started, and everyone had gotten a chance to finally wash the sand off of them, we stayed in the laundry mat and played a very intense game of “Deuces Cross” We were in the laundry mat for over an hour, but it flew by because everyone was having a super-duper time. We headed back down to the camp site, and even though we were nervous about a visit from the campground’s Cinnabear, we headed right to bed.

Spud News: After over a year, Mr. Potato head has resurfaced. This morning Don found a Polaroid of his buddy in the Boston Airport in his coat pocket. Coincidence? Or is Mr. Pimpin’ PotatoHead following us? Or are his kidnappers in our midst? Stay tuned to see how the story unfolds.

Mon Aug 07, 2006

Day Five

This morning we woke up amidst the beautiful Mountains of Mesa Verde. The first sound of the day that we heard was Don’s wonderful voice singing the oh so famous wake-up song. We ate some breakfast, and then headed down to Cortez for our cultural exchange with the Ute Indians. Our guide, Gerald, gave us a tour of an entire valley which was once inhabited by the Ute Indians. We were able to see pottery shards, old villages, cliff dwellings, kivas, wild horses, tribal rock paintings; all the while trying to avoid rattlesnakes. The tour lasted all morning, and all of us came out of it with a huge amount of knowledge about Past, Present, and Future life of not only the Ute tribes, but the entire population and the world as a whole.

We then had lunch, and decided to go to the four corners! The four corners was quite exciting; everyone enjoyed taking turns being in not two, not three, but four states at the same time. After everyone had their share of state jumping, we took some time to shop at the Indian Booths. There were dozens of booths set up by Indian Tribes; selling many goodies. People purchased snow cones, and then piled back into our sweet van. We headed back to our campsite, and played a mean game of whiffleball. It was pretty intense, but lucky everyone came out of the diamond uninjured. Most peoples’ energy levels were high, except for four campers: Alyssa M, Hannah, Bryson, and JD, who had all come down with a bad cold. But in true trekkers style, they all got through it, and everyone is feeling a lot better. Don informed us hat we were going on a hike, and so we went to the top of a mountain, and unloaded the van. The only problem was that there wasn’t a hiking trail in the area. Instead, we stopped at numerous viewing stations to look at more cliff dwellings, which were incredible.

We headed back to the camp site, and made some dinner. After we finished our cheese quesadillas, we got ready to take a sunset hike. It was just beginning to get dark as we set foot on a small trail. After about a twenty minute walk, just after sunset, we arrived at a gorgeous spot on the side of a mountain overlooking the Mesa Verde, and a Valley as well. The lights of the nearby town we bright against the night sky and we sat for a few minutes; taking in the natural beauty and wonder. Joe then led us in free write journaling. (I don’t think I’ve mentioned our leaders on this trip yet, but along with Don we have Casey, a long time trekker, and Joe (Huff), who is a really good friends of Don’s who is having his first trekkers experience with us. All three of our leaders are awesome and are making this trip amazing!) During our journal time we wrote about whatever we wanted to write about, and then about the future. We sat in silence for almost a half hour, and wrote whatever came to mind. After words we shared what we wrote, and had a long honest and eye-opening conversation. We walked back to our campsite in silence and arrived spiritually refreshed.

When we arrived at the site, we all got ready for our favorite activity; going to the laundry mat! We packed our dirty clothes up and hopped in the van. At the laundry mat we slowly took over with the “deuces cross” dime game. It is a very competitive game with includes yelling and hitting the table. Everybody had a blast, and then we tiredly stumbled into our tents to go to bed. It was an amazing day, and I’m sure that as we slept we all had smiles on our faces.

Tue Aug 08, 2006

Day Six

Today had a very unique and special start; we were able to sleep in until 8:30! Most people awoke before Don’s wake up; eager to start another fun-packed day. We ate breakfast, packed up our bags and tents, and then played a short game of wiffleball. We loaded the van, and set off for the Black Canyon. We all yelled goodbye to our dear friend Cinnabear, and started to look for a gas station. We found one; filled up, got some food, and then we were off again. Stopping at overlooks to look at the mind-boggling Rockies, we made our way to the small town of Ouray, Colorado. The town was very quant and scenic; surrounded by the mountains. We had lunch, shopped around for a little bit, and then hit the road again.

After a long while of driving, we arrived at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a National Park. The Canyon was a mile deep, and was so naturally beautiful. We stayed at the visitors center; taking in the view for a bit, and then went to our campsite. We all hung around our camp site, ate dinner, played a short game of wiffleball, and were always on the watch for mountain lions. We then set off for a night-hike overlooking the Canyon. We arrived at the perfect spot at the perfect time; the moon was just starting to rise and the canyon was lit dimly by the blue moon. Our topic of journaling was appropriate to our location: If you were an empty canyon, what would you want to fill it with? We wrote in silence, and the followed it with a deep conversation. We headed back down to our campsite. Everyone was quite tired after a long day, and so we hit the hay right away.

Wed Aug 09, 2006

Day Seven

This morning we awoke early, got packed up, and the enjoyed a nice big breakfast of pancakes and sausages (yum!). The morning was very peaceful and the breakfast was delicious. That was, until Don challenged Wilson. Don prepared an enormous pancake, and Wilson felt pressure from everyone to eat it, even though “He wasn’t even hungry!” Wilson finished it, and because of the impressive victory, earned the new nickname: “Pancake”. After the morning fun, we loaded the vans for our longest drive yet: Aspen, Colorado. But before we set off for Aspen we had one thing that we had to do. We drove our vans down the steep road to the bottom of the canyon. The river was so beautiful! We then all decided that as a sort of initiation type thing that we would dip our heads in the water. Everyone felt refreshed, cleansed, and bonded as we shook the water from our hair. We loaded the bus, and hit the highway for the big city. We all had very high energy, and we sang a plethora of songs the entire car ride.

A little bit into our drive we stopped at the town of Gunnison to grab some lunch, and to get some more wiffleball balls. We then hit the road again, and didn’t stop again until we reached Aspen. We first stopped at the Independence Pass to get a picture with the famous sign, and then ventured out to find a campsite. After “shopping” around, we found a wonderful campground with two sites right next to each other. We set up camp and ate dinner. Joe made us some “special” sloppy joes, and some people opted for pb&j’s. The boys played yet another very competitive game of wiffleball, and then we headed into Aspen for a very super-duper surprise. As we pulled into the Aspen Recreational Center, everyone was giddy for showers and swimming! As soon as we were handed our little green bracelets, we were off to the pool. We swam, slid, saunaed and showered our little hearts out. After our night of fun, we headed to a supermarket to do a quick shop, and then we ventured on home, to our campsite. It was pretty late when we got back, so some people went to bed. But the majority of Pathfinder stayed up to play “The dime game”. This nightly ritual is starting to get very intense, with the infamous “Deuces Cross” team composed of Don, Dylan, Joe, and Wilson, challenging anybody that dares. So far, they are undefeated. After an impassioned game, everybody was pretty pooped, so we got rested up for the next busy day that awaited us.

Thu Aug 10, 2006

Day Eight

This morning the members of Pathfinders woke up to the smell of pancakes. Everybody curiously crawled out of their tents with one question on their minds, “Can Wilson eat an even bigger one?” This morning’s challenge was more severe than the last; this morning Wilson and JD made a bet with Don. If they could not eat a pancake the size of Don’s choosing, than they would have to be vegetarians for the next two weeks. The boys accepted the challenge, and sadly, they could not finish the massive pancakes. Neither of them were quite happy about the loss, and spent the rest of the day trying to find a loophole. After the drama of the morning, we set off for our hike in the Rockies. We were going to head on a walk to the highest point in Colorado. We packed our bags, and were off. It seemed like an ideal day for the hike; with the exception of a small group of suspicious looking clouds. We were prepared for a little rain as we started the challenging hike. The hike itself was not that hard; the really hard aspect was that we were over 12,500 feet above sea level. That is a lot higher than what any of us are used to. The amount of oxygen in the air is noticeably scarce, and at times it seems you can’t take five steps without feeling out of breath. So we paced ourselves, and we reached a very high point within 4 miles. This is when we realized that we would not be able to make it to the peak we had intended, because where we though there was a path, there was a large drop off. None of us were very disappointed. We were all very grateful to be so high in the world, and to be surrounded by the most amazing mountains in our country. We took a few minutes to take in the scenery, look at the mountain sheep, and eat our lunches.

After we ate our lunch, we all added a stone to a wall that had been created as we said one thing that we were grateful for. It is just really cool to think that there is always going to be a piece of us up on top of the world. After we added to the wall, we all noticed that the small group of suspicious clouds had grown, and now covered the entire sky. We were all a little worried, and then before we knew it, we were trapped at the top of one of the highest mountains; in a hail/ thunder and lightning storm. It was one of the most terrifying experiences. I, and I imagine everyone else, was so petrified. My legs were stinging from the icy bullets, and then became numb from the cold air and chilled wind. The clouds were rumbling directly over our heads, and it seemed that lightning was striking terrifyingly close to us. People were yelling “Spread out and run!” and everybody else was obliging. Our wind pants were stuck to our legs from the wetness, and it was painful to run into the hail. After four miles of running in sheer fear, we made it to the vans. Everybody was relieved and grateful, and we rode to our campsite with the heat turned on high. While the experience was very scary, it was also bonding and eye opening. Don said, “You probably will never feel more alive.” I think we can all agree with that.

When we arrived at the campsite, everyone quickly striped of their wet and cold clothes, set them out to dry, and relaxed for a little bit. The boys headed to the “field” aka a parking lot for the billionth wiffleball game of the trip, while the girls opted for a quieter and more relaxing activity of bracelet making. We ate some spaghettios, and then went into Aspen. The town was very…elegant and the merchandise was quite pricey. We stopped at Ben & Jerry’s, Josh rolled through a fountain, and then we loaded the vans for the Aspen Recreational Center. We swam and showered, and then had a rowdy ride home. When we got back to the campsite, there was some major drama. Wilson and JD had devised a plan to win back their unvegetarianism. Wilson left Deuces Crossed to form his own team comprised of himself, JD, Shane, Vinnie, and Josh. Deuces Crossed picked up Bryson and Jesse, and there was a very passionate game lasting far into the night. In the end, Deuces Crossed crushed the competition. Because of this, Wilson and JD didn’t have to be vegetarians for two weeks anymore. Instead, they had to be vegetarians for four! It was an extremely fun day, so people headed to bed.

Fri Aug 11, 2006

Day Nine

The sun was shining brightly this morning as we woke up among the raw natural beauty. We ate some breakfast, packed up our tents, and then loaded the vans. We weren’t traveling a long distance this morning; instead we drove to a trail that led to a river. We grabbed a pen and our journals, and just wrote whatever came to mind. After reflecting for a bit, we had our final circle. We had a long, meaningful conversation, and discussed a lot of things that were on our minds. We then each wrote something positive about everyone that we could look back on when we forgot how great each of us was. It is really special to have a piece of paper in your journal where 16 people wrote something they liked about you. I’m sure that we will all remember this morning, and the things that were written.

We then loaded the vans headed for Denver. That is where we are now, on the highway, surrounded by mountains and fresh western air. We have a busy day ahead of us. We need to stop and grab some lunch, and then head to Denver. We are staying at a church, where we have to unpack and repack, clean and clean some more. After we are all ready to go for the morning, we venture on down to the Rockies game! We are going to go early to hopefully catch some batting practice and a few practice balls. The game will definitely be sweet because of the trekkers energy. We won’t get in until very late from the game, so we will get a little shut eye and then wake up at 4:30 to get on the plane and go on home. It is really hard to believe that this trip is coming to an end; we’re on the home stretch. This has definitely been an eye-opening, perspective-widening experience that will stay in our minds and hearts forever. We have all learned so much about ourselves, our peers, and the world that we live in. So many memories and friendships have been made. I want to thank, on the behalf of all of Pathfinder, Don, Joe, and Casey for leading and guiding us for these 10 days. The things they have given us we will carry throughout the years ahead of us, and pass onto others. They have made this trip more amazing than we thought possible. This was Joe’s first trip with us, and he fit in with the Trekker’s lifestyle and attitude unbelievably. He is so inspirational, and we would all love for him to be a part of any of our trips and our lives.

Thank you to all our leaders! We would also like to thank our parents for this opportunity to explore and grow. Without you guys, none of this would be possible. Lastly, I want to thank all of my fellow Pathfinders: Wilson, JD, Josh, Hannah, Alyssa, Alyssa, Jake, Shane, Vinnie, Brandon, Jesse, Dylan, and Elliot. The bond that the 14 of us now share is so strong. Seeing the sights we’ve seen together, and how well we’ve gotten along, has been so…awesome. I love each and every one of you. PATHFINDER FOR LIFE.

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