GAP Final Expedition

by Andrea Wackerle

By Carson Foster

Leaving for Ex: On Friday the 29th, the Stargazer’s embarked on their final expedition! After waking up to fresh snow and an unwelcoming weather report, the team altered their travel plans and went North through Jackson and the Rockies before heading down to their first stop at Deer Creek State Park in Utah. After an efficient food buy in Jackson and a beautiful drive, the team settled in for their first night, which would be the coldest of the whole trip. The next day, they woke up, ate a delicious breakfast, and hit the road early, which allowed them to have time to explore and settle into their campsite in Red Rocks Nevada.

Red Rocks: At Red Rocks Conservation area in Nevada, the Stargazer’s had a wonderful day full of climbing and exploring among the gorgeous rocks. For those interested in climbing, the team had the choice of a few different routes on what many classify as world class rock for climbing. After heading back to their campsite and spending one last night under the stars in the desert outside Las Vegas, the team packed up their gear and hit the road again to journey to Death Valley and even warmer weather.

Death Valley: Our team arrived in Death Valley to sunny skies and 75+ degree weather. After checking out the visitor center, filling up water bottles to stay hydrated, and eating a filling lunch, the Stargazers drove to check out a “ghost town” site of an old Borax mining operation within the park. Afterward, they explored Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America, 282 feet below sea level! Somehow, they fit in all this exploration before embarking on their first backcountry adventure of the expedition, which consisted of otherworldly desert, mountain, and canyon views and a pleasant walk up a dry wash. In the morning, the Stargazers hiked back out, had lunch, and began the drive to their campsite outside Zion National Park.

Zion: After a few hours driving, the team arrived at a beautiful BLM campsite just outside of Zion, at which they set up camp, made a delicious dinner, and got a good night’s sleep before a big day in Zion. The next day, the team did an epic hike in Zion, called Angel’s Landing, which featured breathtaking views of the canyon, steep drop-offs at points, and required teamwork and overcoming fears. It was a true testament to the strength of the individuals and to the team that every single member made it to the top of Angel’s Landing. Afterward, the team celebrated by getting ice cream for pushing themselves out of their comfort zones and a job well done. The next day, a couple of the Stargazers went on a lovely hike down into the canyon near their campsite while the rest relaxed and reflected back at the campsite. Later that day, they piled into the van to head to a tour of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which included a room full of 20+ cats!

Moab: After a short drive from Zion to Moab, the team completed a food buy in town and then set up camp a little outside Moab before preparing for their canoe trip. The next day, the Stargazers embarked on their second backcountry trip, this time a 4-day canoe jaunt down the Green River outside of Moab full of steep canyon walls, fun side hikes, and good times bonding with canoe partners. Upon completion of the trip, the team went to a campsite closer to town and got everything set up before the rain closed in. The next day, they visited Arches National Park and saw a variety of arches and cool spots within the park, as they had to deviate from their original plan of climbing due to the recent rain.

Capitol Reef: Following Moab, the Stargazers arrived in Capitol Reef for the final backcountry days of their entire GAP Year at SOAR! After lunch and packing up all the necessary gear, the team began at Chimney Rock trailhead and hiked several miles into Spring Canyon, somehow avoiding the rain that seemed to be everywhere else besides where we were. After one night spent as a team, the group was then ready to embark on their solo adventures, which consisted of them being spread out through the canyon with mentors nearby but provided time for them to thrive on their own for a day and night in the backcountry. The next morning, when the team gathered back together, everyone had stories to share and experiences that they will hopefully hold with them for years to come.

Salt Lake City: Salt Lake City contained the last few days of expedition, including a food buy and a college visit to the University of Utah. Finally, the expedition came to an end with one last drive and arrived safely to base.

Thanks to the team’s wonderful preparation and our leaders Nick and Caleb, the expedition was smooth and overall very successful.  We couldn’t be more proud of our team heading into parent weekend.