Last week, grade 7 students went on their yearly trek through America’s national parks. After arriving in Phoenix on Oct. 22, the students enjoyed a short hike in scenic Sedona before settling down in Flagstaff for dinner at Northern Arizona University. “It was funny to watch the expressions of the NAU students who were trying to figure out why there were a bunch of middle school students eating in their dining hall,” said middle school dean Alana Butler, one of the chaperones on the trip.
The cold Flagstaff weather greeted the students the next morning, which “showed many of us that layers were important,” Butler reported. After reaching the Grand Canyon, the students participated in a “trust walk,” during which they were blindfolded and led step by step to the edge of the canyon, where they removed the blindfolds to experience the beauty of one of the world’s greatest natural formations.
Students separated into groups, one of which went on a hike, “where they were passed by tourists riding mules in both directions,” said Butler. They later took part in a program on Navajo culture. Other groups enjoyed a Navajo Hoop Man performance. Following their journey through the Grand Canyon, everyone headed to Cameron’s Trading Post, where some students sampled a “Navajo taco,” which consists of “a fry bread with beans, cheese and veggies on top. For non-vegetarians, ground beef is added,” Butler explained.
Tuesday started with a short drive to Monument Valley, where the students climbed up Skull Rock and learned about the Anasazi people. At Honeymoon Arch, Navajo historian Wally Brown – whose grandfather was a Navajo code talker during World War II – gave a presentation on local Navajo tribes and their customs. After lunch, the group headed to Oljatu Wash Ranch, where members of the Tsosci family taught them more about Navajo culture, including “basket weaving, sand painting, making fry bread, taking care of livestock, grinding corn, rug weaving and dancing,” Butler said. “This was the first time that we visited the Oljatu Wash Ranch, but the Tsosci Family with relatives traveling from three states made this experience unforgettable.”
The Glen Canyon Dam was the first stop on day four. The massive structure, Butler said, has a concrete wall that can fit two football fields in its height. Their next destination was the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, a resplendent sight for the students and chaperones, who “walked, ran or jogged up to the top of the sand hill,” Butler said.
On the final day of the trip, the group headed to Bryce Canyon National Park, famous for its tall, thin rock formations, commonly called Hoodoos. Students and chaperones broke off into groups and explored various areas of the park, including Inspiration Point, Mossy Cave and Bryce Point. The day ended with an Italian dinner at Ebenezer’s Dining Hall, where students performed skits and musical numbers and reminisced about their trip.