Star Sleepers: GAP Year Final Expedition

by Andrea Wackerle


Hello readers! I am a participant of the Star Sleepers, the 2017-2018 SOAR GAP program coming at you with our last expedition blog post! This time, our group went to Colorado, Utah, and finally New Mexico!  There were many fun times to be had on this expedition, which was led by our brave and fearless participants. These fun times include backpacking, paddle boarding, ropes courses and playing with dinosaurs! We started this 18-day expedition by heading to a small little campground in Colorado known as St. Vrains state park! From there, we went to the New Genesis Homeless shelter to volunteer which was a really nice experience.  The next day we went to our college tour at the University of Colorado Boulder.  There, we had a cool college tour, after that, we stopped at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse and had a really enjoyable lunch and then began our drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park. There, we stayed at a cute little campground called Piñon Flats Campground, where we all slept under the stars.  The next day we got to explore GSD and rented a sand board and a sand sled for, well, sand boarding and sand sledding, which was amazing.  From there we began our drive into New Mexico, where we stayed at Coronado Campground for two nights. The second day in NM, we went down to Albuquerque for some really fun paddle boarding. Some of us might have fallen in the 50-degree water multiple times on purpose, but it was really enjoyable. W sure liked paddling along the shoreline and even got to see a Porcupine napping in a tree and a Cooper’s Hawk taking a bath.

The next day we went down to Bandelier National Monument to begin our six-day backpacking trip. This trip, was six days long, was definitely our hardest. We walked at least a total of 30.1 miles in total, some days being as short as 3 miles and some days as long as 7.5 miles. Day 3 was the long-awaited solo day! On that day, we were all brought onto group area, before one by one, we were taken away to our solo campsites, given rationed food, and left alone for the night. Day 4, we were picked up after lunch, reunited with the group, and shared our experience before hitting the trail. This Solo day I wasn’t looking forward to, but from getting a lot of time to reflect and hear everyone else’s stories I actually enjoyed it. On day 5, we had to climb a 750-foot canyon! It was brutal, but we did it and became stronger. Day 6 was the final day of our final backpacking trip, and by the time we got to the van, we were super excited to resume the EX as normal.  From Bandelier, we drove to Rancheros De Santa Fe, the beginning of our drive back to base, it was a cute campground and luckily, it had laundry and SHOWERS.  The day after that, we headed to Colorado to stay at Morefield Campground near Mesa Verde National Park and had some sweet Pizza Hut to celebrate our success the EX,  YEAH!  The next day we got to see some cliff dwellings of the people of the past, which was a neat bit of history! After that, we returned to a group favorite location Moab, Utah, where we went swimming at the aquatic center and made up for our mishap on EX 2 when we went to Moab originally and the slide was closed. We had planned to stay at Drinks Canyon, the campground we initially stayed on EX 2, however, it was filled, so we changed to Kane Creek Campground, which was not that bad.

The next day, we went to the long-awaited ropes course! We had wonderful guides and an awesome time, certainly an experience that won’t be forgotten. Our next stop was the moment I’ve been waiting for, Dinosaur National Monument! Finally, we get to see some dinosaur fossils, and touch real dinosaur bones! We stayed at Green River Campground one night, before going to the Quarry Exhibit Hall the next day. The exhibit hall is where the bones are, and these were real bones, and they were AMAZING. After seeing some bones, we went to Lander, Wyoming, for our final night. It was cold, we all were tired, but knowing it’s our last night pushed us through. The final morning was COLD. The yogurt was frozen, and so were all our tent poles, but knowing that the faster we worked, the faster we got into the van and departed on our way to base kept us going. When we rolled up that hill for the final time, the sense of accomplishment inside of us was overwhelming, we had just completed our final EX, our longest one yet, and the first one we led on our own.

Overall, I thought the EX started out rough, specifically learning how to take the reins for the first 11 days. However, the togetherness we felt while backpacking truly made the rest of the expedition a lot better. I found the team working much better after, and the last 7 days were great, despite a few rough spots, of course. Nonetheless, now we are back at base and working hard on the finishing touches of our transition plans and presentations, super deep cleaning, and preparing for parents weekend. The Star Sleepers have realized how far they have come and are really grateful for this expedition and being back at our lovely base at Eagle View Ranch. Well, I guess this is the end, for not only the expeditions or the Star Sleeper’s blog but notoriously the GAP YEAR. We all learned so much and can’t wait to transition smoothly and kick butt at life! I hope you guys enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you from all of the Star Sleepers and Goodbye!