The Bulletin

8th Grade Field Trip Explores the Colorado Plateau

Thursday, June 2012

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The 8th grade took their annual class field trip on a river-rafting and canyon-hiking expedition in the Colorado Plateau. The plateau itself is a desert landscape punctuated by mesas, abrupt but isolated mountain ranges, vast sweeping expanses, and deep canyons (including the Grand-est Canyon of them all), some with rivers at the bottoms, others not. It is home to the Utes, Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Apache, and other native American tribes. 8th grade teacher, John Trevillion, gave this report:

After a pleasant orientation to Deer Hill Base Camp on the day of our arrival, we set about in earnest to prepare for our river journey. On our first night we gathered for the first of regular, evening “circles.” Our group leaders presented us with a nightly set of questions and invited each one of us to respond sincerely, and from the heart. On the second day by mid-afternoon we were on our way – three large oar-driven rafts, one 10-person paddle raft, and five two-person “duckies”. It took but a few minutes for the “river wars” to begin – quite refreshing, I must say, on a hot afternoon. We quickly entered into the deep (500-800 feet) canyons that would enfold us for the next five days. Their layers told a story that our very competent guides were quick to narrate. It was, in fact, the geological component of the story of the Colorado Plateau. En route we saw big horn sheep, scorpions, a bird that we christened the blue-crested butt-wagger (use your imagination!).

All the students had work to do once we arrived at our first night’s camping spot by the river – setting up tents, preparing dinner, locating and establishing the “groover” (our very effective portable toilets). Although we set up tents daily as an insurance policy against a sudden rain-storm, we did, in fact, enjoy clear nights for the entire journey. Practically everyone chose to sleep under the stars each night. Our guides impressed on us the ethic of “Leave No Trace” (LNT). It made a strong impression on all of us throughout the trip.

Practically everyone chose to sleep under the stars each night. Our guides impressed on us the ethic of “Leave No Trace” [which] made a strong impression on us all...

Each day on the river the work-to-play ratio shifted increasingly towards the “work” end. On the final day on the river, with 17 miles of river left to reach our final destination, we awoke very early in order to achieve our rendez-vous at the take-out point in the early afternoon. At one point we linked all 9 boats together to enjoy a floating breakfast on the river. We arrived a bit late, and after much work boarded vans which took us to our next appointment on a camp ground on the Ute Reservation.

On our final day we journeyed deep into the reservation and, under the guidance of a Ute park ranger, descended into a canyon. Perhaps 50-100 feet below the plateau surface, but still hundreds of feet above the canyon bottom, we encountered the remains of Pueblo Indian “apartment blocks.” Invariably they seemed situated to shield the dwellers from the full heat of the afternoon sun. Indeed, our guide dismissed the theory that these cliff dwellings were positioned so as to achieve maximum security against enemies. He thought (and I found myself agreeing) that the cliff dwellers chose their locations for reasons of comfort and enjoyment.

Our last morning at base camp was spent hosing down equipment and preparing for departure. Our farewells to our guides were deeply heartfelt. These young men and were superb role models for all of us. We had utmost confidence in them – and rightly so, for the journey was not without its moments of real danger, as well as the hazards that are part and parcel of life in the desert and on the river.--- Report submitted by John Trevillion, 8th grade teacher.
Photographs by 8th grader Sibhuan Stormont & also John Trevillion. Thanks for valuable assistance from parent Isabel Liss.