Backpacking Cedar Mesa's Grand Gulch 

This fall, the Telluride Mountain School 8th graders spent four nights and five days getting to know rugged desert landscapes, each other, and themselves. For four of those days, students split into two groups and immersed themselves in the towering canyons of Grand Gulch, the longest connected canyon system in Cedar Mesa, Utah.

On their journey through the canyon, students gained an understanding of the human history of the area as they read about the Basketmaker and ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the area. Students respectfully explored ancient ruins, making inferences about how people lived, what their pictographs represent, what their pottery was used for, and how they built structures so high up in the canyon walls that remain today. They expressed gratitude for the people who came before us, for taking care of the land we are now so fortunate to recreate. They acknowledged their position of privilege in their opportunity to explore this outdoor ‘paradise’ and reflected on ways they can help protect it.

After four long days of hiking with heavy packs, both groups of 8th graders learned how to read and follow topographical maps, the benefits of weight distribution and thoughtful packing, the importance of “leave no trace”, when and how to communicate about their needs, and how to support each other on the tough days and celebrate each others’ successes. Students found the trip physically and mentally challenging, socially and academically rewarding, and overall a worthwhile and fun way to push themselves and bond as a class.

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