Desert Solitaire Presentations

Junior Canyonlands Backpacking/Solo and Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire. The two go hand-in-hand for one of Sun Valley Community School's most treasured traditions. For those not familiar with "Solo," here's the scoop: in the spring, juniors embark on a challenging and unique trip to Utah's famed Canyonlands, where they backpack for three days in Canyonlands National Park and immerse themselves in a supported 48-hour 'solo' in the Southern Utah desert to experience solitude first hand. The solo is a formative trip for many, and the trip helps students get a better understanding of Abbey's work. For all juniors in Upper School English teacher Phill Huss's American Literature course , his students read some of Desert Solitaire before they go to Canyonlands and finish the book on their two-day Solo. Says Phil, "The idea is to reduce life down to the bare essentials: water, small amounts of food, a journal to write, and Desert Solitaire to inspire a connection to the desert wilderness." For the project, students take notes in the margins of each chapter, keep a journal for the backpack and the solo, record their thoughts and observations each day, and take pictures throughout. Once they return to campus, each student creates a poster that includes images, three journal excerpts, three passages from the book, and three analyses of these passages. Analyses include three defined concepts from a list that includes topics such as self-reliance, ecocentrism, organic transcendence, and more. In the end, Phil says, “students walk away with a better understanding of who they are, the importance of solitary experiences in wild places, and gratitude for their school that pushes them to be comfortable with being alone.”