Leadership Spring Break Intensive: Backpacking the Canyons of Southern Utah


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Course Overview and Learning Outcomes:

No backpacking experience is necessary to enroll in STEV 13; however there are important course pre-requisites that must be met, which are outlined on page 2.  

There are 10 spaces in this course. A permission code is required. Contact Miranda Allen, course instructor (miranda@ucsc.edu), for details. 

This expedition-based course is designed for aspiring and practicing leaders to gain confidence, competence and tools for working effectively with people.  We will be building a learning community while backpacking deep into red rock canyons, traveling along expansive sandstone mesas and exploring meandering river-valleys. In addition to learning best practices for wilderness travel and Leaving No Trace skills, this course will focus on two areas:

  1. Exploring good leadership and putting this learning into practice
  2. Working in teams and cultivating an inclusive environment

The leadership skills, insights, practice and confidence you will gain in this course are transferrable to working with people in any context including organizations, communities and classroom.  Be prepared for a highly interactive and hands on course.

STEV 13 includes:

  • Three, two-hour pre-trip classes held during Winter Quarter
  • A ten-day field intensive held over Spring Break
  • A final post-trip class held during Spring Quarter. 

Field Intensive Overview:

Our adventure starts with a 3-day road trip, traveling in a 12-passenger van, to reach the beautiful and remote Escalante River Canyon and Grand Staircase National Monument, Utah.   We will use travel time to get to know one another, bring everyone up to speed with basic camping skills and visit places along the way.  We will car camp at the Kelso Sand Dunes, in the Mojave Dessert, California, and at Zion National Park, Utah.   In Zion we will also spend a day exploring and adjusting to stunning desert canyons, before driving the final leg of our trip east to Escalante, Utah.

Once we reach the Grand Staircase National Monument, we will drop into the Escalante River Canyon for a 5 day backpacking trip.  Although very remote, and far from cities that we know today, it is a landscape that has been inhabited for thousands of years.  We will come across signs of the Anasazi people who lived in this area, including petroglyphs and stone structures. 

This is a remarkable landscape to have an adventure, build your skills and make new friends.  It is also a wilderness area that requires being well prepared.  This course teaches students to bring appropriate gear, work in teams and practice using a risk management and safety mindset in a wilderness setting.  We will be making multiple river crossings a day (swimming is not required) and plan for a range of possible weather conditions including heat, cold, rain and snow. 

We will take the last two days of our trip to take showers, clean up our gear, car camp and travel back to Santa Cruz.

Pre-requisites A & B

A) You do not need to have previous backpacking experience to participate in this course; however, you do need to have a good attitude, the desire to practice good Expedition Behavior (EB) and an interest in developing your leadership skills with your classmates.  Regardless of your experience level, good EB includes:

  • Showing up on time, prepared and ready to give the experience your best shot
  • Practice being a positive contributor to the group experience
  • Practice finding humor in adverse situations, diving in to help the group or leaders and taking initiative to connect with other participants.
  • For more detailed guidelines for good EB, see more in Course Requirements

B)  You do not need to have special athletic skills, but it is important to know that this is a physical experience.  We will be getting up early in the morning and hiking during the day.  You will be carrying a 45-50 pound backpack over rough and uneven terrain.  We will be making multiple river crossings a day (swimming is not required) and plan for a range of possible weather conditions including heat, cold, rain and snow. 

Students will demonstrate increased confidence and the ability to do the following:  

  • Draw upon a range of tools and skills to support groups to work effectively with one another
  • Step into a leadership position that involves work with people in a complex and varied environment
  • Articulate principals for good leadership
  • Give and receive feedback within teams and in leadership positions
  • Travel and work effectively with a small team
  • Plan and prepare for an expedition-based trip
  • Practice Leave No Trace principals
  • Engage in best practices when camping and backpacking
  • Support safe decisions and maintain self-care in a wilderness setting
  • Contribute to a positive group experience
  • Enter into the unknown and face challenge and adversity with a team