Mother Nature more than cooperated during this year’s grade 7 national parks trip, bestowing warmer than average temperatures on Harker students and chaperones as they traveled to some of the country’s most scenic and historic sites.
The class journey began in late October, with students arriving in Arizona for the start of their much anticipated trip. The first stop on the agenda was Sedona, famous for its red rock formations. Students were treated to a Jeep tour, during which they learned about the area’s geology and wildlife.
“The end of day one had us all resting comfortably in the brisk high country of Flagstaff, following our plane ride into Phoenix and an afternoon spent in perfect weather in Sedona,” recalled Lana Morrison, middle school dean of students, in the first of a series of email reports written during the trip.
The next day’s adventure began with the group leaving for the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Students participated in an organized trust walk (listening to directions while walking with eyes closed) as they headed toward the rim of the canyon.
“The general public was curious about what we were doing,” noted Morrison. “Students took off their blindfolds and shouts of ‘wow’ and ‘awesome’ were heard from beginning to end! Onlookers smiled, cheered and wished them the best of luck,” she added, elaborating that students and chaperones later hiked Bright Angel trail, participated in a program with wilderness leaders from Academic Expeditions and learned about the Navajos.
On day three a trip highlight was the Monument Valley tour, known to many as “the eighth wonder of the world.” Monument Valley has been a significant place for centuries, and houses ruins that some believe to belong to the mysterious Anasazi people who disappeared from the area hundreds of years ago. The area is also notable for the fact that it is not a national park, but rather a Navajo park.
Morrison reported that another special activity that day was in Page, Ariz., at the famous Horseshoe Bend. After a pleasant walk through the sandstone, students took part in a geological lesson with Ranger Katie from the Glen Canyon Dam. They also learned how to make art pieces by using only what nature provided.
Afterward, the group drove to Bryce Canyon, where the temperature dropped to 48 degrees. Students were told to “layer-up” because they had plans to walk to dinner (across the empty parking lot) at Ebenezer’s Ruby Inn Cowboy Dinner Show. After dinner, they boarded buses for the Bryce Canyon Lodge, where they met Ranger Kevin for an evening astronomy presentation, complete with viewing the stars of Bryce Canyon.
Day five began with students and chaperones eating breakfast and packing lunches before heading off to Bryce Canyon National Park. There the group was in awe of the world famous Hoodoos (pillars of rock formed by erosion). They hiked to the Queens Gardens, to Bryce Point and up or down Wall Street (27 sloping switchbacks). Some groups walked the Yovimpa Trail to view the Grand Staircase.
After a fabulous day of hiking, the class stopped at Ruby’s for a short shopping trip before going back to the hotel. They later walked back to Ebenezer’s for dinner and a talent show, where students performed short skits about their week of adventures at the Southwest national parks.
The trip ended with the by now close-knit contingent traveling to Zion National Park to hike the Emerald Pools, Whistling Rock and several others trails. After their hikes, the students headed to Las Vegas to catch their flight home, filled with memories of their amazing adventures.
The grade 7 visit to the national parks around the Southwest was one of several weeklong middle school class trips held during the fall. Grade 6 went to the Santa Cruz Mountains, and grade 8 traveled to Washington, D.C.