Students backpack in Joshua tree

By Laura Kors ’21

Eighth grade students went to Joshua Tree National Park for retreat. 41 students were divided into five groups of eight or nine students, a faculty advisor and a naturalist. They spent two nights at the base camp and one night in tents by their trail.

The groups backpacked on the Boy Scout Trail for around 7.7 miles and camped near the trail for one night. They carried their food, tents and clothing on their backs.

“I like the backpacking. I like going out in the middle of nowhere and sort of looking out and feeling as though you are sort of the only people that are there and checking out the desert. You feel like you are on Mars but with cactus,” Joshua Tree retreat coordinator and science department head David Cleland said.

While groups were at base camp, they rock climbed and learned how to belay, removing slack from the rope connected to the climber’s harness and holding on to the rope so the climber does not fall. Students participated in scrambling, which is climbing up large rock formations on both hands and feet without being connected to a harness.

“I really enjoyed going scrambling in Gunsight Canyon. It was cool to see all the pathways the water made and learn about how the canyon was formed,” Maddie Boudov ‘21 said.

Most students slept in tents and sleeping bags every night, but some choose to sleep under the stars.

Students worked together to keep each other safe while rock climbing and spent a great deal of time together. They said this helped them develop and strengthen their friendships.

“My favorite part about Joshua Tree was probably that I made a lot of new friends …. It ended up strengthening a lot of our connections because it was kind of difficult and it was so fun,” Echo Seireeni 21’ said.

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