Edge High School Breaks Barriers

On December 11th, 2019, 12 students from Edge High School left for an amazing adventure into the Rincon Mountain Foothills. Our goal was to hike to Bridal Wreath Falls, and gain a better understanding of high desert grasslands in our Sonoran Desert. Outdoor learning is a variable as the weather, and goals and plans are often flexible to meet the changes that come from the unexpected. What we actually accomplished on this trip was so much more than we bargained for, gaining something truly special. These students were seasoned hikers with SOS, some participating on our trips from previous seasons! That being said, none of these students had hiked in this area before. This was a brand new trip and experience for them all.

We began by listening. The day was cold, and bird songs carried over still morning air easily. Wind rattled leafless branches. The mountain slopes are a gradual blend of flora which is revealed by their color changes. We spent our time listening, then observing the landscape changes around us before we started our march forward. We spent some time discussing the Sonoran Desert thorn-scrub biome that all of us are so accustomed to. Testing their memories, we addressed some of the more important questions and qualities of this biome, reaffirming our knowledge and consideration as to why it is so important as an ecological resource. Surprisingly, the students remembered more than I expected and shared many wonderful facts and thoughts about this landscape.

Our hike gained in elevation and we passed indicator species that told of our elevation. We stopped to observe sotol, new grasses, and agaves. Crossing our path, we found ourselves at a gorgeous clear creek that moved slowly over granite gravel and stone. We paused for a break and a chance to enjoy desert water. The group split up, and students promptly relaxed with feet in water or simply lying down enjoying the sweet sun’s rays. I asked the students to pull out their journals and head off to their own locations for some self-reflection. “What does the outdoors do for you? What do places like this offer you that you don’t get elsewhere? How do you feel when you are out here, compared to when you are in the urban city?” The students rushed off to find their own place and settled in. 15 minutes flew by like a cottonwood seed in the air. The students all eventually came back and together we circled up.

“Would anyone like to share?” Students shyly stayed quiet, but one by one they started to open up and share. One student shared that hiking was never something they ever expected they would do because they felt their body wasn’t the “correct type” for the activity. Normally, they felt like they weren’t good enough, but that after this hike they felt a surge of confidence and a realization that there are many different ways to be outside. Other students shared the same sentiment. Together we spent nearly an hour discussing body dysmorphia and the cultural constructs society has about those that can hike, which are separated by body size, health, physical capability, race, gender, sexual orientation, and so much more. We came to the understanding that all of those are made up concepts, and in reality the outdoors is a place for everything of all types. 

We spent as much time as we could playing, relaxing, talking, and learning around that creek. The students had massive smiles. They seemed to be blending into the landscape seamlessly, and pulling them away was proving to be difficult. The hike back was steady, quiet, and reflective. Some students seemed to have revelations, stopping to journal thoughts and ideas as we hiked back. Learning about the ecology of our wild places is important, but developing a healthy and compassionate environment for these landscapes as well as ourselves is even more so. The students having the chance to do this, out in their backyard desert, is exactly why SOS does what we do. A great success for a great day.