“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir
As the sun starts to shine and we emerge from the winter, Dragonfly offers spring break trips for students to provide an opportunity for adventure, explore nature, and connect with themselves and peers in a deeper way. For students who come to Dragonfly struggling with anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, substance abuse, or tech abuse; the spring break trip provides an opportunity to reflect on life and feel fully refreshed as they return and continue their school year. Here are some photos and highlights from the adventures around Southern Oregon and Northern California as shared by Dragonfly students and trip leaders.
Rogue River Trip:
Spring break for many young people means a weeklong party, and not coming out of it with much more than a nasty headache, if you are lucky. This was not the case for the courageous Dragonfly students who braved the wild and scenic Rogue River trail this year, which consists of 40 miles of rugged trail following the beautiful and tumultuous Rogue River, deep in the heart of southern Oregon wilderness. The group packed everything we needed for the four day trek on their backs, carrying packs upwards of 40 pounds. They were each individually outfitted with all the gear they would need: packs, boots, camp stoves, headlamps, tents and more. Early Sunday morning we headed deep into the the wilderness to find the trailhead to set off on adventure. Driving deeper and deeper into the misty, mountainous forest we came around a bend that revealed the trail etched into the side of the steep, craggy river bank. Nerves were on high as we pulled up to the trailhead, donned our packs, and took the first steps into the adventure.
The first day was breathtaking; the contrast of coming from town to this wilderness was stark and vivid. Bald eagles soared overhead, waiting to dive on a river trout; ravens croaked and called as their wings were heard swooshing just over our heads, and the crashing and rolling sounds of the river were ever present. Over head the sky was blue with a storm cloud blowing past, being torn apart by the steep valley hills that surrounded us. A light mist was breaking out from the black cloud and shimmered in the sunlight as it swept over our warm skin. We crossed a series of creeks and streams that cascaded over the trail, and the students worked together to get each member through safe and dry. We made it to our first campsite as the sun dipped behind the forested buttes and gave way to a bright, clear moon.
We set off the next day feeling the the aches and pains of the day before, and supported and motivated each other to push on. By midday we had gone over four miles of steep inclines and stream crossings, filling our water bottles from fresh mountain springs. We made it to a sharp horseshoe bend in the river which had created a large and flat landing; it was the perfect campsite. Here was where the group had a serious conversation about how feasible it was to go to the 40 mile point; some students had never backpacked before but had bravely signed up for the adventure. As a group we weighed the pros and cons of different decisions, and listened respectfully as each member shared their opinion and advocated for themselves. A consensus was reached, and as a group we decided that the safest option was to end our push at that river bend. The adventure was not over though! We spent our evening on that landing, had a fire, and played music. At night the stars and moon shone bright through the clear and quiet night sky. Only the roll of the river was heard as we drifted off to sleep.
The next day we hiked all 11 miles back to a campsite near the trailhead. The way back felt like a whole new experience, and it was apparent that the group had learned so much in just two days of hiking. Each stream crossing became smoother, and each steep incline was climbed with confidence and determination. We had really become attuned to our environment and to each others needs, and were able to reflect on our lives back home with a new sense of clarity. That afternoon we reached a beautiful, sandy place to set up camp on the river bank. There we had another fire, and connected over stories and jokes as our genuine selves. The following day we had a bright hot sun, warm sand and time to kill. Some dove into the cool and calm river eddy, some basked in the sun and some read books. The heat was divine and really reminded us all that Spring had sprung. We grouped up before heading out and shared highs and lows, reflected on our experience, shared feedback with each other, and gave props to one another for all the support we received.
By the last night of the trip, it was clear that the group had made a special connection with one another, and returned to Dragonfly with a genuine shared experience, and as new friends. This certainly was not your average spring break, and everyone who attended ought to feel proud for giving it their all and making this a week that we all will look back on as an experience to grow and blossom, alongside the spring wildflowers we hiked past.
Mt. Shasta Solo Trip:
Imagine yourself in the foothills of Mt. Shasta, under the watchful eye of 2 experienced guides, with only your gear, about to embark on a 45 hour solo experience not knowing what will come next…. This became a reality last week for 10 students of Dragonfly Transitions, all of whom saw their solos through to completion, even when faced with chilly nights, coyote howls, and lots of time with only themselves.
Once solos were finished, the insights began. Students shared their experiences and reflections ranging from clarity on what is the next step, to finding peace within oneself, to recognizing the value of stepping into the unknown. Before doing these solos, some students had extensive experience in the wilderness, for others it was their first time. All of the students on this trip finished their solos successfully and were witnessed by their mentors and peers as they returned to tell their stories.
The Mt. Shasta Solo Trip was a great success. As we drove away from that sacred place there was a new lightness in our hearts, one that we carry back with us to our daily lives.
San Francisco Bay Area Trip:
This year’s spring break trip took us down to the San Francisco Bay Area. We spent a day exploring the city and partaking in a self defense class with IMPACT Bay Area, learning the basics of holding physical and verbal boundaries. We explored the Pier and got to try some great seafood. We spent a day on the beach, enjoying seals and sea lions, beautiful blue ocean water, and incredible rock formations. We then made it to Sausalito and spent a few hours kayaking around the bay. As the only “urban” spring break trip this year, it was definitely a balance of city and nature. Our students couldn’t stop raving about how much fun they had.