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Adventures in Yellowstone and Glacier National Park

Posted on Friday, September 22nd at 4:57 pm

Adventure based trips provide Dragonfly students with the opportunity to develop self-confidence, connect with community, and experience things they may have never tried otherwise. These experiences then translate into exploring new interests, connections, and success in other areas of life such as school, work, and developing healthy peer relationships. Recently, several Dragonfly students returned from two epic trips to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park with Dragonfly therapists and experienced mentors. Here are some photos and highlights from the adventures shared by Dragonfly students and trip leaders.

Yellowstone 

By Casey Sims, MSW

The annual caseload trip offers a unique opportunity for students, mentors, and therapists to connect with one another while exploring incredible destinations outside of Southern Oregon. Depending on the students’ experiences and interests, each caseload trip looks different and reflects the requests of the group. This year, the most requested activities were rafting, horseback riding, and helicopter rides. Although we couldn’t work in the helicopter rides, we did have the opportunity to go rafting, horseback riding, and a handful of other experiences.

On the morning on August 31st, 14 students and 4 staff members piled into vans packed with food and camping gear for the next 10 days. After two days of driving and one overnight pit stop in Boise, ID, we finally arrived to Yellowstone National Park. Some key highlights of the trip included joining the Mad River rafting company to participate on a scenic river float and go whitewater rafting. Another big hit was the driving tour of Yellowstone National Park. Our tour guides entertained us with current and historical park information and brought us to some of the most scenic stops including Old Faithful, Firehole Falls, Upper and Lower Geyser Basins, Paint Pots, the Upper Falls, and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

The rest of our trip consisted of a 3-hour long horseback trail ride, swimming in a natural swimming hole at the bottom of Firehole Falls, a day of exploring Jackson Hole, WY, a full moon night hike, and a visit to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT. We ate at a few restaurants throughout our trip, but the majority of the time the students took turns cooking meals and cleaning up camp each day and night. In typical “glamping” style (glamour camping), we made some gourmet meals including bacon and eggs, chocolate chip pancakes, stir fry, pizzas, and of course S’mores and banana boats almost every night. Dungeons and Dragons, bananagrams, Magic, nail painting/facials, and cribbage were some of the common activities that took place during the afternoons and evenings at camp. These moments were often interrupted by an elk wandering through camp and most evenings we fell asleep to the strange alien-like calls of a nearby bull elk searching for his mate.

This year our group was a mixture of new students joining the Dragonfly community and a handful of students preparing to transition out of Klamath falls. Although the focus of the caseload trip is not strictly therapeutic, we did create opportunities to acknowledge these moments of transition and held space for a few groups so that students could give/receive feedback, complete therapeutic assignments, and address group dynamics. The students were patient, helpful, and engaged throughout the 10-day trip, and it provided a wonderful time to connect, reset, and explore new experiences together before launching into the new term at Dragonfly.

Glacier National Park

By Peter Erickson, MA, LPC and Dragonfly students on the trip

At Glacier National Park, the views were breathtaking, and we were often overlooking mountains and the most pristine river I have ever seen. Some highlights from this trip included spending a beautiful day rafting, fishing, swimming at Lake McDonald, and doing some epic hikes.

Experiencing the water at Glacier National Park was incredible. One day we drove to a short boardwalk trail that went through beautiful evergreen scenery with a crisp blue and green creek running through through a large stone section of hillside. Standing near the surface of the water, walls of smooth red-brown stone on either side, I jumped in for a full immersion. It was beautiful and freezing cold. Then when we went rafting, there was something so peaceful about feeling the roll of the boat, sunlight on water, fish underneath us, and the shock of cold water. We also felt the fun of being children again, as pirates defending our ship and boarding other ships, splashing oars instead of cannon fire. 

Later, we set out for Whitefish Mountain Resort and took the chairlift to the summit, which boasted amazing views from every angle. After visiting a nature center at the summit, we took a four mile hike back down the mountain which gave us great exercise, great conversation, and many more gorgeous vistas to take in. Growing along the trail was an abundance of huckleberries, which we all enjoyed snacking on along the way. My fingertips are still tinted with purple juice as I write!

We then transitioned campsites and began the next day with a therapy group right by the lake next to which we had camped at Lid Creek to reflect upon our experience so far in the trip. After we reflected, we shared with each other an intention we all had for ourselves for the rest of the trip. Elliot then led a ceremony for intention setting with blessings for our hearts to feel well, our heads to think well, our hands to work well. It was great to connect with the group like this and think about on how amazing this experience really was. We ended that active and exciting day with our settlement into Big Creek.

Getting close to the end of the trip, half our group went on a formidable twelve mile hike!  Not only that, but it was to see an endangered, soon to be extinct species. It is known as a… dun-dun-dun… GLACIER! Said to go extinct in less than ten years! On the other hand, the other half of the group hiked two miles. Even though the distance was shorter, the elevation was much greater. That skyrocketed the difficulty! I can personally testify the mile uphill was not a mere mile of hiking, but the rugged destination was an untouched vista seen by an enchanting waterfall creating a refreshing pond.

The first part of the hike was the hardest as we hiked uphill, and as we hiked up we could see the rocks leading up to the stunning water. It was difficult to surmount. At the fantastical destination, I saw that even though the view was UNBELIEVABLE, I could tell at the top of the hill the view would be infinitely better, or to use Tom Sawyer’s words: it would be “the difference between a lightning bug and a lightning bolt.”

As for the other half of the group, the wake up was at the crack of dawn. They then got their day packs and got in the van for an interesting car ride where they saw not one, but TWO bears. After they started hiking, on the way to the glacier they saw two moose. Not only that but they saw giant horned sheep! You have to wonder if Pan, the Greek God of wilderness, was smiling upon them. At the glacier, they saw it was melted with glacial fragments floating in the water. Without a moment’s thought, they as one jumped in. It was FUN. On the way down, they saw another moose!

To wrap up an in incredible experience together, we did a debrief group including a highlight, lowlight, and hopes for the future. It was a great way to wrap up the summer and create a memorable experience together before returning to Dragonfly refreshed for the school term.

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