Sometimes you need to be pushed to learn you can do hard things. That’s what 17 girls at Heritage found as they participated in canyoneering activities in June. The sport of canyoneering includes climbing, hiking and rappelling to explore canyons and southern Utah is home to many beautiful red rock canyons.
Natalie Dance, a recreation therapist at Heritage, accompanied the girls on the trip to the Moab area and explained that the trip was built around doing canyoneering as a culmination of the skills they have learned during the Summit Program.
“The Summit Program is the high adventure program that the Elevate Academy students participate in during the spring and summer,” she said. “They do sessions including hiking, rappelling and rock climbing with concepts of the ‘Anatomy of Peace’ being taught and discussed each session.”
During the activities leading up to the trip the girls had to prove they were willing and capable of rappelling and making it through the canyon.
“Many still had intense fears but had proved they were willing to fight against those and push past them,” she said.
Eve, 15, said she liked the secluded atmosphere and being away from civilization.
“I felt peace. I was better able to meditate,” she said. “I marveled about how wonderful the landscapes were. It was quiet.”
She said her favorite part of canyoneering was the rappelling – seeking thrills and practicing mind over matter.
“I learned that when I push my limits I gain confidence and strength spiritually, mentally and physically,” she said.
Zoe, 16, said she had never been canyoneering before but was excited to try it. She spoke of her favorite part of the experience.
“The feeling when you get to the bottom of a rock after rappelling and look up at what you just did, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “I learned that I am very brave and I am capable of doing hard things. Even when I got scared and wanted to back out, I didn’t let myself.”
Natalie said the girls showed incredible stamina on difficult hikes and rappelling in hot temperatures.
“I was blown away by the positive attitudes they all showed and their willingness to keep pushing,” she said. “We saw some very raw emotions come out in the canyons and on the rappels and each member of the group was able to embrace and manage those emotions leading to their success on the trip.”
She said the entire group was supportive of each other and it was a safe environment emotionally for each individual to work through whatever they needed to.
“I feel as though something that was accomplished was each of them realizing how much they are capable of,” she said. “Each participant was pushed in some way – physically, mentally, emotionally, throughout these sessions and in the canyon, and each participant came out on top.”
The girls shared things they had learned about themselves at the end of the experience.
“There was a strong theme of learning they can do more than they think they can,” Natalie said. “They also learned throughout the sessions how to deal with difficult and uncomfortable situations and how to make the best of them.”
Natalie said there will be a similar trip for Heritage boys in August when they go to the Capitol Reef area. Their adventures will be in a different canyon but the foundation of the trip and the lead up sessions will be the same.