At Turning Winds Academic Institute we help youth realize their potential. One of the methods employed to accomplish this outcome is through our unique and customized expeditions. Challenging, inspiring and fun is how one of our students defined their experience backpacking in Hells Canyon. The trip to Hells Canyon was amazing! The hike into Kirkwood is a moderate rated trail with three elevation climbs along the way. It was an exhilarating feeling to begin our decent into Kirkwood which sits beside the Snake River. Kirkwood has a number of attractions that are located either on site or within a short hiking distance.
The historical museum is a fun experience with many historic and prehistoric interesting artifacts displayed inside a log cabin that was once used as a sheepman’s bunkhouse.
The Carter Mansion is also an interesting place to visit. Carter’s Mansion was built during the prohibition days by Dick Carter in the 1920s and was used to produce moonshine untilhe was caught and then sent to prison.
Also, just hanging out by the river and enjoying the peaceful environment, or skipping rocks across the river to the Oregon side was a delightful experience.
The following day was spent hiking four miles round-trip to suicide point where the outcrop of cliff sits about 800 feet above the Snake River. Apparently, a heard of sheep was driven off the cliff in the 1950s; hence, the name suicide point.
We also, hiked up to the Carter Mansion and took a quick look inside, as it wreaked unbearably of rat urine. It was fun to hike up the hill from the mansion to the root cellar where all the moonshine had been stored. It was at this location where we were able to harvest some of the volcanic ash from the Mt. Mazama eruption.
The last day in Hells Canyon was spent hiking out from Kirkwood. Climbing out of Kirkwood is intense as there is an elevation gain of about 500’ in a very short distance. We had fun with this section of the trail as we related getting to the top of the switchbacks with conquering something major in our own lives whether it be overcoming substance abuse, finishing school, getting the right career or building a great relationship with parents. We set a goal to hike this major climb by doing so one switchback at a time. At each switchback, we would catch our breath, and then hike to the next when the group was ready. We repeated these actions until before we knew it, we were at the top looking down where we had spent the last two days camping. We processed as a group how we were able to successfully climbed to the top of this hill. Some of the responses included the following advice: finding joy in the journey, establish realistic goals to accomplish your desired achievement; put one foot in front of the other; take it one day at a time; have great guides to assist throughout the journey. All of these were great insights as we all learned a little more about what it takes to accomplish something great in our lives.
Finally, after all that we had accomplished, it was time to get cleaned up and have some fun outside of Hells Canyon. We enjoyed celebrating the birthday of one of the leaders who assisted with the group. We went out to eat at several restaurants and went to the theater to watch the movie, Divergent. We arrived back at the school around 8:30 pm. Looking back at the memories of Hells Canyon will bring to our minds the things that really matter the most in life – family, friends, triumph, courage, strength, faith and inspiration.