Trek West #1: Welcome to Flagstaff

Shalom from Flagstaff, Arizona! 
We are currently here in Flagstaff but our trip began when we arrived at the Phoenix airport around midday on Tuesday and were greeted by our tour guide Ben and the other staff members. We retrieved our luggage and headed for the hotel where we had an opportunity to swim and relax as we started to make new friends. It was over 100° so the water was extremely warm, but that did not deter the teens from getting in. Once everyone had arrived and had a chance to take a dip in the pool, we gathered for some activities and ice breakers. After the teens attempted to learn as many names as possible and found out plenty of random facts about one another, we had a much-needed pizza and salad dinner. We spent some time after dinner discussing our expectations and hopes for the trip, and established a set of rules or expectations that we want to follow to ensure we make the most of every opportunity!
On Wednesday morning, we set out from Phoenix and headed towards Sedona to do our first hike. Ben, our guide, stressed that the hikes would get progressively harder so we should really take in these views and appreciate the easy pace. In addition, the teens decided they would give some of their own perspectives and share their experiences on the trip through these emails. *As a means of consistency, we will place the name of the teen who shared their thoughts in front of any paragraph they write. If there is no name, it’s us, the chaperones! Without further ado, we turn it over to our teens!
From Maxwell B.: It was a dry, hot morning to start our ‘Trek’, already reaching 102°. After our brief pit stop to fill our water bottles, we headed out to the path and began the hike in the Red Rock State Park. We walked through the wilderness of the awesome red rocks, stopping to take many pictures of the beautiful scenery. Finally, we headed back to the bus to go visit Sliding Rock.
From Trevor L.: After Red Rock State Park we visited Sliding Rock. It’s known for its natural water slides, and incredible cliff jumping. Although the water was freezing, we had an awesome time and had phenomenal views. The best part was towards the end when one of us was really scared to jump from the cliff into the water, but we all cheered the person on and they finally made the jump—and were really proud about it! 

From Jory S.: We finished the long day by checking into our dorm at NAU—Northern Arizona University—and I must say, it’s really cool! As we walked to dinner we saw this really cool futuristic robot just hanging around on the street. We later found it was coming from the dining hall and was making food deliveries to students on campus. Amazing! The meals are buffet style with so many choices, and the food is actually pretty great! It’s a cool experience to stay in dorms with my friends and there is a common room with couches and a pool table, making it even more fun to hang out, play music, and chat! We started out Thursday morning with a walk across campus to eat breakfast at The Hot Spot at the Student Union. Then, made our way to the bus to head towards the Grand Canyon.

From Isaac L.: The grueling hour and a half bus ride leading us towards the Grand Canyon was well worth it. When we arrived the immense size and beauty of nature flooded my senses, the ability for nature to inspire in such a profound and beautiful way was put on display immediately. We gathered together under the shade to escape the brutality of the Arizona sun while we discussed the groupings we would be divided into for our hike. After all of our groups were assigned we dispersed, and my group first went around the rim of the canyon. The rim was really something remarkable in that there were only feet between you and a 4,000-foot cliff. A sense of realization of our place on this world washed over me while I compared the magnitude of the Grand Canyon to our insignificance as small humans when I looked over the edge; it was humbling and left me in awe at the same time. After a walk around the outer rim, my group began our descent down the canyon, but with only 30 minutes until lunch, we weren’t able to explore as much as we may have liked. What we did see was remarkable and it was amazing to recognize the intensity of the routes that people take in order to go on the rim to rim hikes that Jeff (my group’s guide) told us about. We finally returned up to the rim of the canyon and enjoyed a picnic outlooking the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon. As you see the teens are getting acclimated to the new surroundings, new friends, and many new experiences. The trip is all about learning and growing and over the first couple of days, we have had several opportunities to meet those goals. Whether overcoming the fear of jumping from a cliff into freezing water with nearly 100 people looking on (not only our group but many others were cheering as well), or exploring a college campus for the first time, or hiking down parts of the Grand Canyon, we are just beginning to have these precious and sacred opportunities for learning and growth. It’s amazing to think it’s only been two days and we have accomplished so much already. The teens are excited for our trek up to Utah, and we wish you all a restful and peaceful Shabbat as we prepare to experience Shabbat on the Ranch! 
All the best, Ari, Deb, Melissa, and Ilan 

PS: A quick reminder that cell service is limited at our next accommodation. We will be in touch when we can! 

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