Harker seventh graders recently took an eye-opening journey through several national parks. Middle school dean of students Alana Butler accompanied the students and sent periodic updates during the trip, which we have included below.
Day Three: Goulding’s Lodge, Mystery Valley and Skull Rock
Students and chaperones started our day with a breakfast at Goulding’s Lodge. After breakfast, chaperone groups were split into different Monument Valley Groups; that is, everyone was placed into different groups to experience this magnificent day with other people. Each group received colored bandanas, made group names and boarded open-air trucks to begin our adventure.
Our adventure started with a tour of Mystery Valley. When we entered this area, we entered a place both historical and mystical. While driving through Mystery Valley, guides from Goulding’s pointed out buttes that looked similar to specific objects or fictional characters. Upon arriving to Skull Rock, students and chaperones climbed it very slowly and carefully using three points of contact (both feet and one hand). Darrell spoke to the students about Navajo culture and the mysterious Anasazi people who disappeared many years ago. After coming down Skull Rock, Wally Brown (a famous Navajo historian) gave a brief presentation to students and chaperones about Navajo tribes. He also talked about the circle of continuous growth. Navajo people follow the same direction because they were told the universe rotated in this particular direction. Mr. Brown also encouraged students to learn multiple languages. In fact, his grandfather was a code talker in World War II.
Once we left Skull Rock, we drove to Honeymoon Arch to climb some more. Darrell and the Academic Expeditions guides provided some listening activities to reflect on the day and the surroundings.
We ate lunch at the BBQ cookout to re-energize for the second half of the day at Moonlight Springs Ranch owned by the Holiday family. While at Moonlight Springs Ranch, groups rotated through different stations to learn about the Navajo way. The Holiday family members traveled from three states to set up and run these stations in order to enhance our learning of their beloved culture. Students and chaperones learned to make a customary dwelling known as a hogan. They made fry bread, which is the bread for the Navajo taco and great tasting with honey. Students and chaperones also learned to clean wool and weave a blanket. We are the only visitors and school to experience these activities.
At the end of the experience, students and chaperones returned to Goulding’s Lodge for dinner.
Words truly cannot describe the magnificent day we had on the Navajo Reservation. It was simply AMAZING.
Tomorrow, we will drive to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes before going to Bryce Canyon. We are halfway through our trip, but have so much more to see and do!
Day Two: Northern Arizona University and the Grand Canyon
We started out day two of the national parks trip by returning to Northern Arizona University for a delicious breakfast. With a variety of food, we ate well and packed our lunches for a day at the Grand Canyon.
After driving 45 minutes or so, students and some chaperones participated in a blindfolded trust walk led by the Harker and Academic Expeditions chaperones. With so many people visiting the Grand Canyon, they were very curious about our activity. In fact, some stayed to watch as students held one hand on a rope and the other on the backpack in front of them while listening to directions on where to step. Once they arrived at the rim, they took off their blindfolds as a group and were amazed greatness of the Grand Canyon.
At the Grand Canyon, bus groups rotated into different activities. Some groups started the day by hiking around 2 miles. Others started the day with step-on guide Darrell (a naturalist, survivalist and professor in Utah) who demonstrated how the Navajo people lived on earth many years ago. The remaining groups started the day with a geology program. The bus groups rotated so that they could participate in all of these activities either before or after lunch.
After leaving the Grand Canyon, we drove to Cameron’s Trading Post. At Cameron’s some students were brave enough to try the traditional Navajo taco (vegetarian or non-vegetarian). The Navajo taco’s base is a fry bread with beans, cheese and veggies on top. For non-vegetarians, ground beef was added.
We will stay at Goulding’s Lodge for the next two nights. You may not know this, but Goulding’s has been the background for many films such as Stagecoach, Forrest Gump and Cars.
We had a great day! Even though weather reports stated there would be scattered thunderstorms today, the weather held out long enough for us to enjoy our day at the Grand Canyon. We were very lucky!