Yet another photo of 13 year old me at MHYR

IMG_3993I believe this photo was taken by Ellen, as she has it. She sent me this on Facebook after we reconnected. This was from inside of our tent and I was wrapped up in my wiggy like a worm, goofing around as we typically did inside of our tent. The pad under my hand was what separated our wiggies from the ground. I think the red thing was my jacket that I would use as a pillow.

The featured photo was taken while I was Ranch level. Ranch level students earned a fold out chair to sit on rather than a tarp and a foam pad. I noticed my teeth became extremely white, and it was because I ate charcoal by accident a lot. (Ash cakes and charcoal getting into our food).


Photo of me at MHYR

Thought I would add something kind of fun. This is me at MHYR probably in May or June of 2013. I was 13 years old. Note the very dirty hands and nasty hair.

This outfit was what we typically wore for warmer weather. Bucket hat, yellow shirt, training bra, desert camo pants, military belt, cotton socks, hiking boots.

MHYR Lingo

This will be an ongoing thread and I encourage former MHYR students to add what they remember. Sort of a fun and reminiscent thread I think.

Blues: 5-gallon water buckets that we got our drinking, shower, and cooking water from.

Hand Water: Blue hung from a tree that we used to wash our hands

Wiggy: Sleeping bag

Chones: Underwear

Dirty Thirty: Disrespect penalty

Severed: A term that we were no longer allowed to use or say. Most of the time it was because we would say it too much, or if it was the name of a former student.

Latrine: Toilet

Belt and Laces: These would be taken away from students who were either runners or who posed a threat to themselves

Gorp: Trail mix


Part One of Day Two: Rituals and Embarrassments.


I jumped at the sound of someone screaming “eight minutes” from what sounded to be the fire circle. I had absolutely no clue what was going on and I just sat up and looked around, tired and confused.

First of all, I woke up with condensation all over the outside of my wiggie (sleeping bag). It was a little moist inside, and I realized that I was COLD. Sydnay told me to put my clothes on, shove my sleeping bag inside of it’s storage bag, roll up my mat, and stick them on my backpack on the pack line.

I must explain this ritual before going on.

Every morning, we were awakened by someone yelling “eight minutes”. We had eight minutes to jump out of our sleeping bags, put our clothes on, put our boots on, roll up our sleeping supplies, stick it on the pack line, and be at the fire circle. Sure, this sounds simple to accomplish in eight minutes, but shoving a fat sleeping bag into a small bag is not as easy as it sounds. There did come a time that my hands were so dry from the cold that when I would pack up my sleeping back, my hands would crack open and bleed from rubbing them against the bag. Ouch.

If our bags were not put up correctly or not attached to our backpacks correctly (it should always be ready for a hike), we got points taken off of our point cards. Point cards were these little papers that we carried with us through each week. They had a large list of different offenses and how many points they were worth. I cannot remember each one and their penalty, but two that I do remember were: “Disrespect: 30 points” and “Deity: 60 points”. Yes, if we said the word “God” or the word “Jesus”, we could fail our day or our weeks. So, in both of the Wilderness stages, you can fail 2 days and still pass your week. In order to fail a day in Wilderness, you had to have lost more than 60 points, which was easy. In Ranch, you couldn’t fail a single day. If you failed a day, you failed the week. If you failed a week, you had to stay another week: which meant that your parents had to shell out another $2,000 to keep you there. I failed 3 weeks in total.

So, during eight minutes, I certainly did not meet that time requirement given the fact that I was new and had absolutely no clue as to what was going on. I lost 20 points on my first morning. Great way to start the day.

We began our cleaning and inspection ritual, then we went down to the bear boxes to get our food bags (forgive me, I cannot remember what they were called. If any former MHYR students or staff remember, please comment). We went back to camp to begin breakfast.

Our food sacks contained rations of -extremely- minimal food items. It was just enough to get us through the week, and that was it. The food sacks contained the following:

-Steel cut plain oats

-Wheat germ

-Powdered milk

-Brown sugar

-White rice


-Chicken bouillon

-Beef bouillon

-1 can of vienna sausages

-1 can of either canned chicken or tuna (it rotated every 2 weeks)


-1 can of spam

-Gorp (pretty much crack to us. It was a trail mix with M&M’s and we loved it)

-2 packs of ramen noodles

-1 pack of pasta sides

-1 block of cheese in the cooler

-2 “mac packs”- small serving of macaroni

-Powdered gatorade (also crack to us)

-1 quart water bottleĀ  (they required us to drink so much water it wasn’t even funny)

I think that’s it. Feel free to add if I forgot anything.

For breakfast, Sydnay helped me prepare “oats n germ”- 4 spoonfuls of oats, 2 spoonfuls of germade. We often mixed a lot of brown sugar and powdered milk in it to make the taste somewhat tolerable. We would add water to the cup and cook our food on the fire. We had 30 minutes to eat (what seemed like a LOT of food) and drink a full quart of water. I don’t think I finished, and I lost another 10 points on my point card. We ate oats and germ for breakfast every. single. day.

Not being used to drinking so much water, I had to pee- a lot. Our “restroom” was a latrine. Every camp we went to, we dug a 3ft hole in the ground, set up a tarp in between trees, put toilet paper in a plastic bag next to the hole, and called it a bathroom. Standing over multiple piles of reeking human shit is not fun. Especially when you can see all of the lentils inside of it. I wasn’t exactly taught how to use the latrine, so I used it.. quite awkwardly the first few times. I would sprawl out with my back facing the hole, and kind of bend over backwards with my hands and feet holding me up, on all fours. While we were behind the tarp, we would have to say our number the whole time, I guess to make sure we didn’t run. Then, we would wash our hands with a blue that hung off of a tree and cheap hand soap.

We couldn’t use the latrine if the boys were using theirs (it was on the other side of camp and I still don’t understand that), and we couldn’t go all of the time. On my second day, I peed myself not once, not twice, but three times. Humiliating.

Every day was extremely structured. We had weekly packets that had to be completed, daily journals, weekly readings, tasks for each week, schooling time, therapy once a week, monthly visits from the doctors, chores, cleaning, half quart time, etc.

The weekly packets were long, and if they weren’t completed and signed by your staff for the week, you would fail the week. Every journal had to be read by the staff, and every day had a different topic. Each journal HAD TO be a page long. Each week, students had different tasks to complete that were inside of the packet. For my first week: I only remember a few tasks. Read “Who Took My Cheese” and write a report over it, achieve 10 flint and steel fires, craft something, and more that I cannot remember.

I will pick up my next post starting at day two lunchtime. There is so much that needs to be written and said, I feel that it is best if I just break these up so they aren’t a million miles long.

To be continued…

Phase I: Beginning Wilderness. My First Night.

Beginning Wilderness is the first of three phases at MHYR. The other two phases are Advanced Wilderness and Ranch. I will cover those later as this story progresses.

Being in Beginning Wilderness: your privileges are minimal, at best. During your first 24 hours in camp, you are not allowed to speak with anyone other than to ask your mentor or staff questions. I was told that this was a period of observation in order for me to acclimate to the environment that I was going to live in for the next 22 weeks. I have to say, I observed, a lot.

My first night was restless and full of silent tears. As we packed up our belongings and cleaned up for the evening, we were taken down to the “bear boxes” where we put our food sacks for safe keeping. Everyone went to the fire circle and began cleaning time. This is where it gets gross. First of all, we showered TWICE a week, and I believe that we had 5 minutes to shower, but I cannot remember. In order to maintain some minimal level of cleanliness, every morning and evening we had to use baby wipes to clean our feet, hands, face, and necks. We would have to call whichever staff was in charge of us and tell them which part of our bodily routine we were cleaning. Ex: “Sarah Ma’am, face and neck”, and they would observe us when we were done. When it was cold (for the first half of my time there), we would have to take our snow boots and socks off and let them dry by the fire (our feet were always wet and cold). It was often, too, that we had to take our feet out of our boots throughout the day and stick them by the fire to warm them and avoid frost bite. Staff would come around the circle and pinch our toes in order to observe circulation. If it was not satisfactory, we had to keep our feet by the fire longer.

Along with this routine, we would do “group sessions” every evening. During the time that it was cold, while group sessions were going on, we would fill MSR bottles with water from the “blues” (I will be making a post about all of the mountain lingo here soon) and stick them on the fire. The water would have to boil, then we would ask permission to enter the fire circle with our fire gloves on, grab the boiling MSR, stick the cap on it, and put it inside of a wool sock. We slept with these inside of our sleeping bags in order to keep us somewhat warm at night.

Back to my first night.

After completing this ritual that I had explained, we had group. Group was pretty much a time each evening when we would speak of a topic. We would go around the circle and everyone would have a chance to speak on it. That night, I pretty much just introduced myself and everyone introduced themselves to me. It was scary sitting in the middle of butt fuck nowhere and introducing myself to complete strangers, who, frankly had much larger issues than I had.

After group, we sat by the fire and talked a bit, then it was time for bed. CiCi took Sydnay and I to the tent, and Sydnay taught me how to prepare my sleeping space.

Being from South Texas, I had never experienced a cold like what I felt up there, much less snow. I took my boots off and put them in the boot bag (which had a lock on it for safe keeping, in case anyone wanted to run), and I kept all of my clothes on, and attempted to get into my sleeping bag. CiCi stopped me quick. We were not allowed to sleep with our pants on, but I wanted to keep them on because it was COLD (like -9 degrees cold). I reluctantly took my belt, pants, socks, jacket, and sweater off. I grabbed my MSR sock thing and stuck it in the sleeping back with me. It was like a temporary mini space heater that really only warmed my torso, and kept my toes cold.

That night was filled with a lot of silent tears and coming to terms that this was, in fact, my life for the next however many weeks I was going to be there. I eventually fell asleep, shivering, and hoping that the next day would be better.

I Am Officially Back!

Hello! Seeing that this blog has blown up, I think that it is about time that I start it back up and finish my story of my journey. A lot has happened in my life between 2013 and now, and I look forward to sharing my experiences in MHYR. Feel free to leave a comment and add me on instagram to keep up with me. Thank you all so much for the continual support. I am humbled by this.

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