The seventh grade class spent the week of Oct. 24 trekking through some of America’s finest national parks to see and learn about some of the country’s greatest natural wonders. Students and chaperones arrived safely on two separate airplanes in Phoenix, and from there embarked on hikes and tours via jeep through lovely Sedona, Ariz., famous for its red rock formations and stunning vistas.
Monday began with breakfast at Northern Arizona University, where the students enjoyed a hearty meal and prepared for a full day of hiking by filling up on snacks. The first stop was the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which was still something to behold despite the harsh weather. “Mother Nature certainly gave us a run for our money,” said Lana Morrison, middle school dean of students. “We experienced cool temperatures, rain, wind and fog.”
After enjoying lunch on the bus, the group enjoyed an IMAX presentation about the Grand Canyon, during which the weather became much more favorable. Upon returning to the Grand Canyon, students enjoyed a quick course in wildlife and geology, hosted by a professor at the University of Utah and the Academic Expeditions guides. Everyone enjoyed dinner at Cameron’s Trading Post before retiring for the evening at the Hampton Inn.
Day three of the trip began at Goulding’s Lodge, where everyone enjoyed breakfast before heading to Utah’s Monument Valley. There, they climbed Skull Rock with the folks from Academic Expeditions and heard stories about the Navajo people, who have lived in the area for thousands of years.
The group enjoyed a barbecue lunch at Moonlight Springs Ranch, where they visited several stations and were taught various aspects of the Navajo culture by the Holaday family, who were enlisted by Academic Expeditions for this stage of the tour. “This process is a once in a lifetime experience that was specifically designed for The Harker School, and Holaday family members traveled from different states to help out with the rotations just to enhance our learning of their beloved culture,” Morrison said. Harker students and chaperones learned how to make fry bread, how to clean wool and how to construct a traditional Navajo shelter, known as a hogan.
Following the activities, Lorenz Holaday blessed the Harker students and chaperones with a Navajo prayer, after which Greg Lawson, assistant head of school for student affairs, offered his heartfelt thanks to the Holaday family on behalf of the Harker visitors.
On Wednesday, the group drove toward Page, Ariz., to see Horseshoe Bend. On the way, they swung by the visitor center at Glen Canyon Dam for a brief history lesson. At Horseshoe Bend, a local ranger offered a detailed primer on water management and conservation. The expedition continued at the Colorado River, where students and chaperones rode pontoon boats while enjoying “a mixture of sun and shade,” Morrison said.
The tour guide on the boat trip told stories about John Wesley Powell, a geologist and soldier who explored the Colorado River on three wooden boats. The reservoir Lake Powell was named for him. The boat stopped at small island in the river, where the students finished their lunches and had fun in the sand. Upon boarding the boats, the group continued their ride to Lee’s Ferry.
The day concluded at Kanab, Utah, where some students and chaperones had dinner at the hotel, and others headed to Frontier Town to make a western-themed movie and enjoy a chuck wagon dinner.
Thursday, the final day of the trip, was spent at Utah’s Bryce Canyon, where everyone was treated to views of its famous hoodoos, visually striking protrusions of rock that arise from arid basins. Following dinner, the annual talent show was held at the Crescent Moon Theater. Each bus group performed an entertaining skit, and performances by students and chaperones were enjoyed by all in attendance.