Base Phase 6

by Andrea Wackerle


Your Stargazers are back in Wyoming and are beyond delighted to be back in their own beds, taking hot showers, and transitioning back into routine on base. It is so nice to be back to our home, though we are all experiencing a little bit of difficulty re-adjusting to the snowy cold weather that Wyoming has bitterly greeted us with.

Our first full day back to base started with a Life Skill lesson on organization then had us jumping right back into volunteering! A few of your Stargazers have some new volunteer placements, this semester, and this day was their first real taste of those new placements! The team was so excited to jump back into volunteering and to gain new knowledge and experiences. We finished off the day with a trip to the gym where some Stargazers danced, a few did self-guided yoga, and others got in cardio exercises and lifted weights.

Friday began with the beginning of our final expedition planning! The team all voted and chose our route, which will take us through California, again, into Nevada, and up through Utah. The Stargazers are incredibly excited about planning this final expedition and have found new ways of divvying up the research for planning that already has proven to be quite effective. After a handful of hours spent exploring final expedition options, the Stargazers finished up with organizing their personal spaces and cleaning bedrooms. This was a fantastic thing to get done before we headed into town to get some laundry done! Whew – how refreshing it was to get all that expedition laundry washed, folded, and put away into newly organized spaces!

The weekend allowed for quite a bit of productivity on transition plans and further discussing possibilities for the final expedition. The Stargazers spent a handful of hours, on Saturday morning, researching potential future jobs and colleges and began applying to a variety of different interests. After lunch, in order to take a much-needed break from all of the hard work, the team got in an hour of movement with an exciting snowball fight and racing one another down the hill on sleds. Once everyone had the opportunity to rid themselves of all the built-up energy, the remainder of the afternoon was dedicated to finishing up some applications, adding to transition plans, and working more on organizing personal spaces.

Sunday was a little bit more relaxed. We were able to sleep in (quite possibly the Stargazers favorite part about the weekends) and, after breakfast, headed toward upper base for a hike! The weather was bitterly cold and the snow was being tossed around in the seemingly angry wind. We plunged through untouched snow as we climbed the hill to the outlook. Upon our arrival to the top of the outlook, we were amazed to find snow so deep we playfully ‘swam’ through it. We got to experience the weather change in the blink of an eye; the sky started out bright blue and partially cloudy. Within minutes of arriving at the top of the viewpoint, a snowstorm had rolled in, painting the sky an intimidating and mysterious grey. What a sight! It didn’t take us long to decide we’d better head back down. We warmed ourselves near the fire while lunch was being prepared and, after filling our bellies, took some time in reflection to work on journals, meditate, and enjoy some personal free time. That night was the perfect chance for the team to celebrate two participants birthdays! In doing so, we enjoyed a movie night, ate funfetti cake, and snacked on popcorn!

Our work week started back up on Monday morning with a Life Skill dedicated to Transition planning. This allowed time for the team to continue working on applications and researching the different jobs and colleges that strike their interest in the completion of GAP Year. After a morning spent working on future goals and planning, the team made a trip into town for some exercise at the gym. The evening took a turn in a direction that wasn’t quite planned: respect has been a constant challenge and it was time to take things more seriously. The Director of the GAP Year joined us for dinner, where the team laughed, joked, and filled conversation through sharing stories. Before we began to clean up dinner, there was a conversation with the entire team about respect, what it means, and the importance of respectful relationships. Conversation and fun had over dinner was the perfect example of how we should speak with one another at all times! Because kind words have been such a challenge throughout the semester, the remainder of the evening was spent in silence. This time of silence allowed each individual the opportunity for reflection and mindfulness.

Tuesday morning also began in our state of silence. After the team shared breakfast, we had a really wonderful Life Skill on respect, the languages of respect, and the expectations concerning behavior and respect, from here on out. The team shared examples and carried a productive conversation which really turned around the energy in the room. It wasn’t long before we were heading out for a day filled with volunteering. We had an early night in order to prepare for the early morning ahead of us! Wednesday started with breakfast well before the sun was nowhere to be seen in the sky. We were on the road by 6:30 am and heading off to Lander for a day of classes at CWC. After wrapping up with class for the day, we made a quick trip to the Safeway in town to grab some groceries, before heading back to Dubois.

After a morning Life Skill on self-care, Thursday was another day spent volunteering in the community. While most Stargazers volunteered, a few spent their time in the library where they were able to work on CWC homework, journals, future meal plans, and transition plans. Whew – quite the amount of productivity! We all met, afterward, at the gym for an hour of exercise before heading back to base for dinner. While dinner was being prepared, a few of the Stargazers had the opportunity to have their Tier Check-in’s a day early!

The weekend was a time for relaxing, which was well-deserved for the busy Stargazer’s! However, despite the extra time for recharging, they still managed to be productive and healthy. The first morning started off with sleeping in an hour, followed by breakfast and personal time–which the Stargazer’s utilized by meditating/reflecting, doing CWC homework, or taking care of any other personal obligations. Next, the team headed to Riverton to buy food for the coming week with the hope of bowling in Lander after. But, whoops, forgot to call ahead and check availability helped the group learn the importance of calling and checking ahead of time. Upon return to base, the Stargazer’s completed chores to get confiscated items back, and were rewarded for their collaborative effort with mug cakes!

Sticking with the relaxed vibes of the weekend, Sunday provided another mix of recharging and productivity. After sleeping in and eating a delicious breakfast of pancakes and fruit, the Stargazer’s had more time to attend to personal needs and to have a chance to slow down, recharge, and reflect on the prior week or look ahead to the upcoming one. Following time for personal reflection, the team worked diligently to bolster their transition plans, helping to lay out their plans for this summer, fall, and beyond! After a filling lunch, they chose to spend their movement hour (or two) battling it out in the snow with a rambunctious game of Capture the Flag, which utilized problem-solving skills, creativity, and athletic feats of daring to try to outsmart the other team. For those that didn’t want to join, a pleasant stroll around the grounds, while taking in the playful battle, sufficed for their hour of movement. After the second game ended in a tie, the Stargazer’s piled into the kitchen, where they warmed themselves by the fire before dinner.

Monday was a day of learning and planning! After breakfast, the Stargazer’s got to choose which Life Skill they wanted to attend. Several chose to learn about auto care and maintenance, while the others learned about everything that goes into properly caring for pets. During the morning, both Life Skill groups were also surprised by our furry friend Jux, who is our director’s dog, which brought laughter and excitement throughout the team. After lunch, the team continued the important task of planning for their final expedition, with the goal of gathering more information about where they would want to volunteer, spend time in the backcountry, and attend a college visit. After working hard for a couple of hours, the team was rewarded with some personal time before dinner to relax and recharge.

The team spent Tuesday morning by continuing to learn about executive functioning, with a focus on their individual strengths and challenges. As part of this Life Skill, the Stargazer’s utilized their self-awareness and strategizing skills to create documents that will help them to understand their strengths, challenges, and strategies for their executive functioning focus areas. After lunch, the team loaded the van and headed out for volunteering before they finished off the day getting a solid workout in at the gym.

Wednesday was another early college morning, which started with the night stars greeting us ‘good morning’. We were on our way out the door, heading to Lander for class before the sun was awake. We got to experience a beautiful sunrise over the snow covered mountain tops as we traveled that morning. In class, the Stargazers had fun practicing professional phone calls and role-playing several different examples of customer service interactions. After wrapping up with class for the day, the team headed over to Riverton in order to do a weeks worth of grocery shopping at the Walmart in town. This made for a later evening than our past several nights and, as we made it back into Dubois, we were greeted with bitterly cold, yet mesmerizing snow slashing through the sky.

Thursday was Valentine’s Day! Our chef for the day made us breakfast and surprised us all with chocolate covered strawberries, pineapple, and bananas! What a sweet way to start the day. Our morning was filled with a Life Skill on Dating and Healthy Relationships before we were off to town for another day of volunteering. Staying true to their exercise goals, the Stargazer’s got another solid workout in, consisting of cardio, weightlifting, dancing, or yoga.  

Thursdays Life Skill on Dating and Healthy Relationships was the perfect lesson to go over in order to prepare the team for Friday mornings Life Skill, taught by a special guest from Lander. The morning was spent talking more in-depth about healthy, sketchy, and abusive relationships. The team talked over several different scenarios, defined consent, and chatted about the different resources that can be utilized in the face of an unsafe relationship. The Stargazers were incredibly involved in this Life Skill and gained beneficial information that can be used now and for the rest of their lives! After lunch the team spent an hour of movement outdoors shoveling paths through the snow, digging out wood, and chopping kindling. The remainder of the afternoon was used to work on CWC homework and enjoy a little bit of personal time.

Saturday was spent doing the necessary, yet not-so-glamorous chores, such as laundry and deep cleaning. After sleeping in an extra hour and consuming a delicious breakfast, we were up and ready to clean any and every group space, which the team accomplished over the course of the morning. Once our group spaces were clean, the team organized their personal spaces with a vengeance in the hopes of finishing before lunch. After lunch, we filled our laundry bags, packed into the van, and trundled into town to do laundry, washing all sorts of sheets, clothes, and even one pair of attempted shoes. When we made it back to base, the team relaxed ate dinner and enjoyed each other’s thoughts at the evening meeting.

Monday consisted of important learning and planning. In the morning, the group learned about proper manners, which included being polite in guest/host roles, polite conversations, and table manners, among others. It also served as a way for the team to hold each other accountable and to notice where they could improve their manners. During lunch, Nicole got to spend some quality time with the girls talking about respect and the idea of not falling into the stereotype of women that gossip or don’t support each other. After lunch, the team dove into more expedition planning, which helped them to finalize their college visit and volunteering locations.

On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to have our friend and neighbor teach a Life Skill on support systems. Throughout the lesson, the team was engaged and energized, and her message that each individual member could achieve anything they set their mind to (just that certain things might require more work) really resonated with each of us. Following the Life Skill, the team went into town for another round of volunteering and had the choice of going to a church service or the gym, which provided a chance to de-stress after a long day.

Wednesday was jam-packed with activities, ranging from college classes at CWC in Lander to utilizing the rec center at the Riverton CWC, during which the Stargazer’s could work out, play basketball, or study.

New cabinets! Getting new cabinets in the kitchen was one of the various highlights Thursday had to offer. After a delicious pancake breakfast, the Stargazer’s made room for the new cabinets by cleaning out their food shelves (before leaving for Belize) and re-organizing the old ones. Once they had accomplished this, they utilized the rest of their time to work on personal obligations such as CWC homework, transition plans, and researching expedition plans. Soon enough, they had to head out to volunteer, which helped them stay active yet warm during these frigid days!

We’ve, now, come to the very end of this long and busy base phase! Friday began by meeting and talking all about Belize and the remainder of tasks that needed to be completed before we set out on our way. We spent the morning deep cleaning all of our spaces on base and getting our items together for Belize. After lunch, we were able to make it into town in order to get some laundry done one last time! We utilized our free time, while at the laundromat, to do our one-on-one tier check-ins, work on journals, and do some restful reading and writing. Once each Stargazer had all of their clean laundry, we headed back to base and got to packing! We even had the trailer packed up and ready to go by dinner time. We enjoyed some ‘cowboy mac’, had an evening meeting, and were surprised with fresh, warm, homemade pie topped with ice cream. YUM! With satisfied bellies, we called it an early night and headed to bed. Before we know it we will be off for our next incredible adventure.

Tomorrow morning will find us traveling to Denver, where we will catch an early flight towards Belize on Sunday morning! We are so excited about this upcoming expedition and can not wait to fill you in on all of the beauty and wonder that is experienced in the next couple of weeks! Keep your eye out for fun photos and sun-kissed cheeks!

Happy Trails!