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4-Corners Spring Break Exploration

This March, ten students from St. Albans and the National Cathedral School will have the opportunity to explore the beauty and history that encompass the 4 Corners region of the American southwest.  Located amongst the Colorado Plateau, known for its beautifully colored rock layers, rich native history, and easy access to National Parks, this trip will give students a chance to explore and enjoy one of the true treasures of the United States.  Paddling down the San Juan River, exploring the ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings in and around Grand Gulch, watching the sunset at Arches National Park…is there really any better way to spend spring break?  The following information should provide a brief explanation of what this trip entails.

Dates: March 19 – March 29, 2014.

A detailed day-by-day itinerary is included below.

General Trip Description:

This trip will be led by the STA/NCS Voyageur instructors.  Students and chaperones will fly out as a group from one of the DC area’s major airports after classes end on March 19th.  After landing in Albuquerque, the group will be picked up at the airport by the Voyageur instructors and will make its way northwest toward Mexican Hat, UT where the group will camp the first night.  After a day of prep and orientation, the group will paddle expedition style  from Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing on the San Juan River, a six day journey that will cover 56 miles of stunning desert river terrain!  Along the way, we will pass through canyons that were inhabited by Native Americans from the Paleo-Indian times  through the basketmaker periods of 500 BC – AD 700 and up through the three Pueblo periods that ended around AD 1300.  Evidence of these cultures will be all around us, from cliff dwellings to toe hold ladders to pottery fragments and tools; and students will have the chance to see them as they have remained, virtually untouched for centuries.  Our fifth day on the San Juan will take us to its intersection with Grand Gulch where we will spend a day hiking through and exploring the geology, ruins, artifacts, and petroglyphs left behind by the ancestral Puebloan people.  The final day on the river will bring the group to Clay Crossings, where we will pack up, get back on the Voyageur bus and make our way north to Moab, UT.  In Moab we will have a chance to see two of the southwest’s most incredible National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands.  Depending on our timing, the weather, and the group’s goals, we may also have the chance to explore some of the areas numerous National Monuments!  From there we will then travel back to Albuquerque where the group will catch a March 29th flight back to DC and the Cathedral Close.

In addition to the incredible natural and cultural history lessons that will be conveyed on this trip, students will also have the opportunity to develop their own leadership styles and abilities, as a core component of any Voyageur trip is to give the students the opportunity to truly take the reigns.  Pre-trip meetings will allow participants to be involved from the outset in trip planning, menu creation, safety management planning, equipment issue, and all of the components that go into making a trip of this magnitude successful.  During our time in the southwest, students will be given leadership roles and group responsibilities that will challenge them both physically and mentally.  Hard skills such as basic paddling technique, camp craft, and desert river navigation will be a taught throughout the journey, as will the soft skills that go along with group management.  No previous paddling, camping, or backpacking experience is necessary.

Student Selection:

The trip is open to 10 Upper School St. Albans and National Cathedral School  students. Trip participation is on a first-come-first-served basis.  To reserve a spot, please download and complete the Voyageur Program Course/Trip form which can be found at the link below:

 Acknowledgement of Risks Form

A completed Acknowledgement of Risks form and an initial trip deposit of $500 will reserve a spot for your student.  All forms and trip deposits must be turned in at the Voyageur office by Friday, December 6, 2013.

Trip Cost:

The all-inclusive cost of the trip is $1350.00. This includes airfare, camping fees, food, transportation, park entrance fees, permits, and group equipment. Students should plan to bring extra spending money for souvenirs or gifts.  A non-refundable deposit of $500 will be due on December 6th to cover flight costs. The remainder will be due on March 1, 2014.

Financial Aid:

Families interested in seeking financial aid for this trip should contact each school’s respective Financial Aid Departments.  At NCS, that contact number is 202-537-6682.  At STA, please call 202-537-6570.

Additional Questions:

Please contact John Velosky, Voyageur Program Director, with questions. He can be reached at

Next steps:

1. Turn in required forms and trip deposits ASAP.  These are due no later than December 6, 2013.

Once these are gathered, we will finalize the flight arrangements. Students confirmed for the trip will receive an email regarding their participation in addition to the times and locations of our pre-trip meetings.

We look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Introducing the Four Corners Region of the Desert Southwest

“I am healed! Praise the Gorge!  Or the canyon, anyway. The canyon of the San Juan River to be exact.  We’ve been on the water for only a half an hour. Our four-boat flotilla has just passed under the forlorn steel span connecting the desert outback of Mexican Hat, Utah, with the butte and mesa wayback of Dinetah, the Navajo Nation. Once behind us, the arcing highway bridge swallowed around the canyon corner, we have entered the 65-mile-long meandering trench that will contain us for the next five days. And just this knowledge – no, this bodily awareness, this sensual sensibility – is enough to displace the accumulated detritus and flotsam of daily life, the ennui and tedium and fatigue of the routine tasks and distractions of our fussy times and fabricated world. Back there. For me, there is no more powerful medicine for our civilized afflictions than the slow silty slide of the snaky San Juan through its great sandstone gorges.

From “Down the River with Edward Abbey” by Ken Wright

There is a magic about the desert that casts a spell on many who visit this harsh and unique environ. Walking in the footsteps of ancient cultures, sitting in their abodes reflecting on how they made such an inhospitable place home.  Digging deep into the geologic history of the Earth as the river slices it’s way through the land revealing layer upon layer of what lies beneath and what has come before us. We will expand our horizons by broadening our comfort zones, opening up to the possibilities that we can achieve far more than we ever thought possible only to be buoyed by the groups ability to persevere with support from within.  Some would say that six days on the San Juan River is nowhere near enough but we want to reserve time to explore the other treasures of the region.

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.

May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”

-Edward Abbey

Detailed Itinerary


-Information meetings after chapels, after school

-For those attending, sign authorization forms

-Attend mandatory pre trip meetings.

-Students might be asked to do homework in preparation for the trip (e.g., read articles about various aspects of cultural history of the region and geology)

Wednesday, March 19

-3:00pm: Depart the Cathedral Close for DCA

-4:00pm: Check in at Reagan National Airport

-5:45pm: Depart Washington D.C. (DCA) for Albuquerque, NM


5:45pm – DCA to ABQ.  Arrive at 10:00pm.

Voyageur Instructors will pick students up when they arrive in Albuquerque on the Voyageur Bus.

-10:30pm: depart for Mexican Hat, UT

Thursday, March 20

-3:00am: arrive in Mexican Hat, UT. Camp at Goosenecks State Park

-8-12pm: Spend the day making final preparations, packing food and gear

-12-4pm: Hike to the see “Mexican Hat Rock”

-5pm: Return to camp at Goosenecks State Park

Friday , March 21:

-7:00am: Break camp and head for the put in.

-9:00am: Put on the San Juan River @ mile 27

Camp @ Bump Campsite mile 41

Saturday, March 22:

Paddle San Juan River

Camp @ Ross Rapid mile 53

Sunday, March 23:

Paddle San Juan River

Camp @ Furnace Flats mile 63

Monday, March 24:

Paddle San Juan River

Camp @ Grand Gulch mile 70

Tuesday, March 25:

Explore Grand Gulch by foot

Camp @ Grand Gulch again

Wednesday, March 26:

Paddle to the take out at Clay Hills Crossing mile 83

-5:00pm Depart on the Voyageur Bus for Moab area
-10:00pm arrive in the Moab Area, Camp at Canyonlands National Park

Thursday, March 27:

-8:00am: Visit Arches & Canyonlands National Park

-6:00pm: Return to Camp at Slickrock Campground

Friday, March 28:

-7:00am: Break camp

-8:00am: Explore more of Arches/Canyonland

-5:00pm: Depart Moab for Albuquerque

Saturday, March 29:

-11:00am: Arrive at Albuquerque International

-11:30am Check in on __ Airlines flight #XXXX

-12:30pm Depart ABQ

-5:30pm Arrive at Washington-Reagan DCA

-6:30pm Return to the Cathedral Close