An Adventurous Journey Begins

by Andrea Wackerle

As we conclude our first base phase, we reflect back on all the adventures we have already experienced together as the Wyoming Warriors! I am grateful to be able to share a glimpse into the lives of our Gap participants over the past two weeks here in big wonderful Wyoming. What a lovely gathering we all had together here at Eagle View Ranch. There were some tears, powerful conversations and the formation of new friendships as we kicked off the start of our Gap Year program. Since the departure of all our Gap families, the gap team has spent time settling into the mountain lifestyle and laying the groundwork for their year ahead. As a team, they created a full value contract to set the standards that they want to live by and established how they will show respect to themselves, their teammates, and their surrounding environments. The team began to build friendships and trust in one another through a number of outdoor activities and group conversations. 

Just two days after the arrival of our participants we all set out on our first adventure to the remarkable Sinks Canyon State Park for a four-day camping trip packed with adventure! The team started their trip by touring the Central Wyoming College campus where they will be attending classes and learned about the student resources they will receive to accommodate their learning styles. The next day the group spelunked into the wonders of a natural cave under the mighty cliffs of Sinks Canyon. As we squeezed, crawled, and explored the cave, we learned about the geology of the canyon from our guide and made our way to the ‘River Room’ where we gazed upon an underground river roaring with rapids. After emerging from the darkness together we hiked upwards to the top of a 40-foot cliff band to rappel down the face of the rock wall. This pushed many of our participants out of their comfort zone, however several of them overcame their fears and then encouraged others to complete the rappel! The team ended their day at a high mountain lake to have dinner, fished for trout, and create their full value contract. The next day was a challenging day for everyone due to the cold rain that lasted throughout the day but this was a foreshadowing of the challenging moments ahead when dealing with cold weather and what to be prepared for next time. Although the rain changed our plans for the day, it also presented an opportunity for our participants to work together through difficult moments and build grit. Weather can be a valuable teacher to us all about what is outside of our control and how we are the only ones that can determine our attitudes towards challenging situations. After leaving their wet camp, the group set out to accomplish their first food buy as a team and succeeded in creating healthy meals to prepare throughout the week and stayed under budget! The team rewarded their success with a trip to Dairy Queen for a round of Blizzards. Our last day in Sinks together was spent rock climbing the cliffs at the School Wall where all the participants supported one another to push their personal boundaries and again overcome fears. This activity granted the team many new successes, fostered trust in one another and gave many opportunities to show support in each other’s efforts. 

  After returning from Sinks Canyon, the Wyoming Warriors continued their adventures together by hiking to a local extinct geyser near base where they were able to swim in the tepid waters of this beautiful blue pool. As the weekend began the Gap team set out to explore Jackson Hole after hiking in Grand Teton National Park before the snows of winter settle in. Also during our first weekend together the team learned about the expectations for cleaning personal spaces and everyone was delegated tasks to ensure cleanliness of their living space. After some time spent cleaning the group was rewarded with a movie night in the Ramshorn cabin. 

This past week was also jam-packed with activities and important task to set the team up for success after returning from their first camping trip. The Gap participants were assigned the responsibility of creating an itinerary for the first portion of expedition to Yellowstone National Park and created a schedule of areas they wanted to explore and attraction they wished to see during their time in this incredible landscape. After finishing their itinerary for Yellowstone, the team set out to experience another local gem by canoeing and fishing on Brooks Lake lying just below the jagged pinnacles of the Absaroka Mountains. There they caught three trout and brought their catch back to Eagle View Ranch to cook for dinner and had their first taste of their strong efforts fishing in our local area. This was a proud moment for the team and encouraged them all to keep trying their best at the activity in hopes to eat more fresh fish throughout the year ahead. The next day the Gap participants completed the Gallup Strengths Quest and gained insight about one another’s greatest strength. This lesson aids our participants in understanding what they can bring to the team and what their amazing abilities they already possess. After discussing their top five strengths as a group, the team toured the town of Dubois and visited each one of the volunteer placement opportunities to help them gain a better idea of where they want to spend their time in our local community. 

Our last day of big adventure for this first base phase was spent in the Shoshone National Forest just north of Dubois. There we spent time climbing the limestone cliffs of Horse Creek Slabs and afterward cast our fishing lines into the waters of Scouts Pond. While climbing, many participants undertook the challenge of climbing the 100-foot tall climbing route. Many had more comfortability in this activity after their experiences at Sinks Canyon. 

As we wrap up the adventures of this initial start to our year together, we embark on our first expedition phase with many new experiences to draw confidence from and new friendships to lean on for support. We will continue to share photos from our adventures and make the most of every opportunity to find new growth. Tomorrow dawns a new chapter in this Gap year and there will be challenges ahead but many times these are the moments that we never forget and become stories we will share for a lifetime.