DAY EIGHT COMPLETE

Pack and Play

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There are so many teaching moments on this trip, but one of our favorites is that everywhere you go you can pretty much find something beautiful and adventurous about that place. All it takes is a spirit of curiosity and vision. Today was the perfect example. 

We took our time packing and leaving Zion. Flying the red-eye gave us plenty of time. Enough time in fact, that we took a little detour this year and stopped at a beautiful lake with the most amazing views and jumping cliff. The kids had a ball taking turns jumping, and those who weren’t necessarily feeling the jump were perfectly happy taking a palm load of Dr. Bonners and enjoying a little lake bath. Multi-tasking is a southwest imperative and so is washing off a bit before a long midnight flight home to our families! 

Taking it all in–that’s exactly what we did. We’ve loved our time with these young people. They are kind, lovely, game individuals. We are all excited to see our families but without question, we will remember this experience always. 

DAY SEVEN COMPLETE

Clear Skies Full Hearts!

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Where day six showed us how flexible, resilient, and curious we are, day seven put us back on track in Zion with sunshine and last full day resolve. It is a really BIG day!

We split into groups again, some of us biking to the narrows, some off-road, and some of us to the rock canyon for climbing. The pictures tell the story much better than words will. We had some courageous climbers in this group! 

Sufficiently exercised and ready for grub, a favorite tradition of Zion Pizzle & Noodle in downtown Springdale. Cleaned up (as much as possible for Zion) and ready for town, the whole group chows down on delicious pizza followed by a walk about town for ice cream and other treats, souvenirs, etc. 

Back at camp, we built a final fire for the night of shout outs like no other. It is difficult to express how precious this night is on the trip. It is the time when the entire TLS experience culminates into an open moment for expression and these kids open up. They share their love for their friends and teachers, their gratitude for their parents for the sacrifices they’ve made to send them to The Lexington School. They acknowledge all the gifts they’ve received over the years, and they make it very clear that they plan to do the most with it. There are sweet hugs, tears, and then smiles for a treasured time together on this southwest trip. 

The EXPERIENCE of the southwest trip is invaluable for these young people and us, their teachers. They will never forget the challenges, the exhilaration, the joy, and the friendships sealed on this final journey. It will bond them forever to each other and to The Lexington School. 

Today will bring more work and play as we pack to move and explore along the way. If you’ve read this blog each and every day, you are a true follower and deserve a HURRAY! 

Be back tomorrow with a final report;-)

DAY SIX COMPLETE

Did We Mention Resilience? 

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Time to level with everyone at home–it is FREEZING OUT HERE! We are back at Zion after a nice warm van ride from FREEZING North Rim, and it is still really cold. I report this not to complain but instead to brag on the utter resilience of these 8th graders and faculty. They are not letting this bizarre weather hold them back or keep them down. Yesterday (day six) was evidence of the strength of spirit none of knew for sure was within us. The southwest experience clearly brings it out!

Despite brief moments of hail (yes hail), yesterday’s excursions of biking and canyoneering were actually a lot of fun! One group biked all the way up to the Virgin River narrows where they took in the awesome natural carving that years of water from snow and rain creates in the “narrow” canyon of the pristine Virgin River. In years past when the water is low enough, we’ve been able to hike through the shallow, rocky river almost a mile up where the canyon walls are too tall to let the sun shine down. This trip, the waters were WAY too high and fast from a record-breaking snow and rain winter PLUS with these temperatures, there would be no way. So the bikes took us there and back, and we experienced a natural phenom all the same. 

Zion is the perfect place for the flexible. With trails and canyons, rivers and sites, there is no shortage of ways to experience the rugged beauty of this desert park. Another biking group went off road for a rugged cross-country adventure where they discovered cool silver mine and museum and poked around a bit in typical TLS curious fashion. It’s one of our favorite things about the southwest experience–allowing time for a little extra exploration!

Another flex came with canyoneering taking the place of rock climbing. It was important to keep the group moving, and while rock climbing is great on a warm, sunny day, standing in a shaded, breezy canyon while individuals scale a cold, craggy rock face (with cold hands) is just a little too much! Canyoneering proved the perfect alternative, and since there are gobs of amazing areas to explore and rappel in Zion, everyone had a new and different experience. 

FLEXIBILITY…RESILIENCE…COURAGE…STRENGTH OF SPIRIT…OPTIMISM…That is this year’s 8th grade group as shown to us on this southwest trip. We are so proud of this crew. Blown away actually. More today as we pray for a little sunshine and gear up for tonight’s WARM Pizza Noodle! 

DAY FOUR and DAY FIVE

Cold Hands Warm Hearts

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Packed and packed, imagine 10 vans following each other across miles and miles of open desert road. Tired bodies enjoyed the time to rest. The terrain changes dramatically as we motor our way up the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Scrubby short trees and cactus become tall alpines. In some places, snow still covers part of the ground. 

On the way up, we stopped for lunch and a grocery run. Once we arrived, we bundled up, set up camp, and took a short hike to the “rim” for sunset. Only one picture of that moment so far because service is pretty much not existent, but you can get the idea of how sublime the views are up here. There will be plenty more pictures coming in once we head back down. 

Last night groups cooked, played, played cards, talked, sang…and we closed our day with our usual group campfire and shout outs.  

It is COLD up here, but today’s DAY OF AWESOME will warm their hearts and blow their minds. We will pack a lunch and hike it out to the most amazing view of the canyon. These guys are ready for it. They are so open to experience and the drama of this landscape. They are taking it all in and not taking it for granted. We are having a great time being a part of their journey! 

DAY OF AWESOME (Trek and Talent)

You can see from the pictures that we’ve endured a pretty dramatic shift in terrain and weather, but this group has handled it all like the champs they are. Our Day of AWESOME was completely awesome. We hiked out to an incredible view of the Grand Canyon (see pics above). Back at camp we kept the fires burning, cooked dinner and prepped for the GRAND talent show where we laughed and sang and danced and had a great time. 

Next morning, we were cold enough to get moving fast in our packing up camp and back in the vans for a warm ride back to the desert. While the north rim was wonderful, we were happy to be back in Zion with fresh food and rested bodies. 

Today we are getting back after it with biking and rock climbing! Will add photos and more description as we can. Excited about this third chapter of our southwest experience! 

We will add photos to this gallery as we can. Check in tomorrow for more photos. Hope your day is awesome too!

DAY THREE

We Teach Resilience

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You don’t have to look too close to see the weather turned to clouds, rain, and a little bit chilly out here in the desert. Look a little closer and you can see that the weather didn’t slow these troopers down one bit. In fact, the change in temps was a blessing as we pack and drive today to the chilly side of the Grand Canyon for round two of the southwest experience. 

Perfect timing for a long van ride, no doubt there will be some napping, snacking, and chatting along the way. Some of the best TLS stories and reflections happen during our drives. 

We’ll stop for more supplies, get to the rim, unpack, and prepare for the Day of Awesome tomorrow. More to come on that soon. Rest assured, this part of the trip is really special as well. 

NOTE: cell reception where we are going is NOT good. There may be some time without photos until we get back to the desert in a couple of days. Keeping checking back though–we will post when we can! 

Here we go–SW Experience GRAND! 

DAY TWO COMPLETE

What Goes Up Must Come Down

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Zion calls itself “an oasis amidst the desert,” and you can see from yesterday’s incredible photography that the moniker suits. The Virgin River carves its way through most of Zion taking rocks and pebbles with her as she flows, changing the landscape of the canyon each year depending upon how much rain and snow the region gets. That’s why traveling to Zion year after year never gets old. There is something about the experience that is always new.

Yesterday, half of our crew hiked sandy trails and canyon crevices avoiding cactus and water pools still there from a super rainy year. They traversed sandstone rock pathways built by the water from the canyon runoff and slowly ascended the top of the canyon where they stopped to refuel and take in the stunning views. 

Zion Guru, our favorite, Springdale outfitter, took great care in its tutorial and gear, taking away the fear of many’s first rappelling descents. Watching the students belay for each other, cheer each other is inspirational, a big part of what makes this trip so magical. 

While half our crew experienced canyoneering, the other half researched hikes that would allow for the most promising overarching views of the park, and boy did they find it! Check out the slideshow. The photos tell the story better than words. 

Hot and tired hikers then experienced the oasis in the desert as they took to one of many secret water holes in the park. They built on their courage, trusted the water (and their teachers), and jumped! Refreshing is a euphemism for CHILLY! 

Back to camp late afternoon for all, campsite games and chatter are a southwest ritual. Comparing notes, planning for the next round today, prepping for dinner, campfire meeting with shout-outs (where they shout-out a compliment or atta-boy/girl on something good that happened in the day), and then finally to the tents where whispers turn to silence as everyone’s bodies and brains regenerate for another stimulating day today. 

Today they will flip-flop experiences on what looks to be another perfect weather day in Zion! 

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DAY ONE COMPLETE

IT IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION. 

PART ONE

4:00 A.M. may seem like an insane time of day to depart, but you wouldn’t know it was that early by the energy and spirit of this year’s 8th-grade group. Layered in fleece jackets and hoodies, personal packs filled to the brim with all the extras: rain jacket (check), sunscreen (check), water bottle (check), sunglasses (check)…they are ready!

Lots of movement today will land the group in Zion tonight where they will set up camp, cook, and pat themselves on the back for executing what they’ve practiced and planned for a most efficient journey. 

Back to 4:00 A.M. for a second. Cut the early morning anticipation with a knife and out will flow an eager resilience that makes up who these TLS students are, and many don’t even know it yet. That’s what the Southwest experience is all about–building on their time at The Lexington School and the character skills, confidence, and self-awareness they’ve developed this far. They will surprise themselves, but they won’t surprise us. We, adults, are ready too, ready to watch the magic happen and enjoy our role in this rite of passage.

PART TWO

Thank goodness for the anticipatory energy everyone has on day one because it is an arduous day of travel. It’s not just the bus and plane and vans…it’s the loading and unloading, the crucial grocery store stop where they purchase the food that must last them a couple of days for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And they are in groups and they have a budget. A little stressful, right? Excitement smooths the stress and they do a great job. 

The drive into Zion is simply awesome. No other word to describe it. The vans go silent as they take it all in.  Most have never seen the southwest, the dry, dramatic canyon landscape, scrubby here and lush there, parched on one place, rushing water in another. It is a diverse geological and ecological terrain which is one of many reasons we keep going back. There are limitless things to see and experience and today is the start of something really special. 

Setting up camp, cooking for the first time…all of this is a test of their mental preparation and seems last night all of them passed with flying colors. You can see from the photos smiles at clean up and more smiles at the river (bathtime) too! This first day is long and busy as it prepares the group for what’s next–Today means early to rise, quick breakfast, and out to the park for hiking and canyoneering. 

Tune in tomorrow for more scuttle and more smiles. 

Comments (8):

    Sallye May 14, 2019

    Pictures are great! Glad all made it there safe!! Hope adults packed a mallet since I’m not there ‘

    CAROL W McILWAINE May 14, 2019

    Such a nice touch to see these kids starting out on what will become, this Grammy believes, a memorable trip which they will end up telling their kids about years from now. Get some rest, kiddos, for tomorrow awaits you!!

    Tina Erpenbeck May 14, 2019

    Have fun! Great Can’t wait to hear updates and see pictures!

    Peter Dimakogiannis May 15, 2019

    Awesome! They look great. Thank you for starting this blog so we can follow along with their adventures!

    Christy Harris May 15, 2019

    Amazing!

    Pete Hagan May 15, 2019

    Truly a rite of passage for these young adults. These memories will last a lifetime!

    Paula May 15, 2019

    Is there room, for one more??!!! So envious! What a BLAST!! Have fun kiddos!

    CAROL W McILWAINE May 22, 2019

    Whether kicking back with my morning coffee, keeping up with watering the flowers in our current heatwave or plumping my pillow in anticipation of a good night’s sleep, I always found daily time to check in on the daily SW blog. How I have enjoyed keeping up with this wonderful group and all of their activities!! A huge round of applause to each and every one of you. You mastered a challenge – no matter how large or small – on this trip and it speaks volumes as to your tenacity and character. Godspeed you as you journey back to Kentucky tonight!! And much appreciation to all of the adults who took such great care of our children/grandchildren. They couldn’t have done it without you!!

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