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Leadership in the Rockies

Leadership in the Rockies

Jesuit High School has connected with COR Expeditions (Catholic Outdoor Renewal) and their Outdoor Leadership Program for years. COR guides have come to Florida several times and led experiential leadership retreats for Jesuit students. Then, in 2019, 2021, and 2022, it was the opposite: a Jesuit contingent traveled to Wyoming for a week in the rugged Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains. This summer, six Jesuit students – Christian Diaz ’26, Gage Holeman ’25, Nico Mammola ’26, Jason Thrower ’25, Luis Trejo ’24, and Jackson Wuthrick ’26 – along with chaperone Mr. Peter Bell, S.J. traveled to this raw and isolated part of the country to experience the Wyoming Leadership Retreat. Trejo shared his experience below, and below that are photos. 

Wyoming Leadership Retreat 2023
by Luis Trejo ’24

I walked into the airport sleep deprived at 3:00am and was greeted by Mr. Peter Bell, S.J. Soon my companions for the trip arrived.

I was the only rising senior there.

I was embarking on an eight-day adventure deep into the Rocky Mountains without really knowing the people I was with or what I would experience. I had joined this Leadership Retreat to Wyoming with a lot of unknowns but for the purpose of becoming closer to God. That’s exactly what would happen.

After a long day of travel, that first day in Wyoming, me and my younger Jesuit brothers were packed into a van and taken to a base camp. The camp was a large area with beautiful scenery – a running creek and gorgeous trees and nothing like Florida. This was only the beginning, the mountains were ahead of us

We explored the camp and met our guides from COR Expeditions, a Catholic Outdoor Leadership Program of Wyoming Catholic College. The guides taught us the basics: how to cook, how to pack, how to use the maps, how to not get eaten by bears, how to cope with the elements, how to not get struck by lightning – basically how to come back to Florida in one piece.

We had two days of preparation at the base camp and did things such as rock climbing. The guides explained that the rock climbing would get us used to the high altitude we would experience. Many of the mountain peaks were above the 12,000-foot threshold, where there are 40% fewer oxygen molecules. Rock climbing was extremely fun but very challenging as we used muscles that weren’t exactly used very often.

Finally, we were ready to go. With our enormous 50+ pound bags, we headed into the mountains and the journey truly began. The first day hiking was probably one of the hardest. Our bodies just weren’t used to carrying such a heavy load, and we were moving pretty fast with major elevation changes. The total hike that day was more than six hours, up and down. Everyone was exhausted and hungry. But the scenery was truly incredible. The mountains, lakes, and trees were amazing. The photos Mr. Bell took were only a taste of the incredible things everyone saw.

Once we set up camp, we all headed to dinner. We were so high up that we could see everything. The beauty God has created in the Rocky Mountains is just absolutely breathtaking. When dinner was over we huddled around a camp fire and talked, while reflecting on God’s amazing creation. What a day.

The second day the hike wasn’t as long, but it was still very challenging. We saw many beautiful lakes and rivers and extraordinary terrain. Again, it’s hard to put into words just how beautiful and incredible God’s creation is. Each day we would have a new leader from our group, and everyone rose to the challenge to be that leader. As the days passed, we had Kairos time and a little free time to explore the surrounding area. The fourth day was the best and the most challenging – we had to climb a major mountain peak and reach our next destination, and it took about nine hours. This peak is my favorite memory because I could see everything and see God’s beautiful creation all at once.

During this hard but amazing journey with my Jesuit brothers, Mr. Bell, and the COR Expeditions leaders, I started to grow closer to God in a way I never thought possible. There are many things I learned from this trip, at least two that I consider very important. One is to keep momentum. When life becomes a storm you must keep going no matter what. No matter how many times you fall and no matter how much of a failure you may think you are, it is important to always keep moving forward. There is a quote from the Bible that says “a righteous man will fall 7 times but get up 8.” So no matter how bumpy the road is, never stop that momentum. The devil wants you to feel like you are not enough, but God says you are. The second important thing I learned is to put life’s problems into perspective. When you feel anxious or you are feeling like you cannot do anything, give those worries to God. God will always be there, you just have to be willing to lean on him.

This trip had an amazing, life-changing impact on me, and I hope many more Jesuit students can have this same experience.