Making a Bow Drill Fire – Video

Here is staff Curtis making a bow drill fire.



What makes a hero?

Great video by TEDEducation on the Hero’s Journey. Every client or student of wilderness therapy will recognize this pattern as their own.



Adventure Moduals

Legacy’s adventure modules are solidly based on the concepts of “Safe, Fun, and Meaningful”.  We engage our clients in activities that encourage individual participation, build group cohesion, develop self-confidence and self-efficacy, and provide meaningful challenge and a sense of accomplishment. Treatment goals are deliberately addressed through impactful adventure activities.  Adventures last 5 days followed by 2 days to stand down, engage in therapy sessions, and re-outfit for the next adventure. Some of our most common adventures include:

Technical Canyoneering:

Canyoneering is the activity of descending technical canyons by hiking and rappelling down obstacles.  People travel from around the world to go canyoneering in Legacy’s course area.  We have the equipment and expertise to guide our client teams down through some of the most spectacular canyons in the world; right here in our own backyard!  Some of our favorites include Chimney Canyon, Eardley Canyon, Little Iron Wash, Baptist Draw and Upper Chute Canyon, and our “secret” gem, Pete’s Dragon, which we scouted and pioneered ourselves.

Adventure Backpacking:

Legacy operates in some of the most spectacular mountain and desert terrain in the world.  We hike across 11,000 foot plateaus and through deep canyon gorges.  The beauty and solitude of the Sweetwater Canyon defies description.  The grandeur of the Chute of Muddy Creek leaves a powerful impression on anyone who has ever visited.  The areas where we hike and camp are the areas you see on postcards and panoramic photos of the desert southwest.

Mountain Summits:

TWe have several mountain summits within our course area that serve as solid objectives for an adventurous group of young men to conquer.   Mt Hilgard (11,533 ft), Mt Ellen (11,522 ft), and Mt Terrill (11,547 ft) are some of our regular targets.  These summit adventures involve a one or two day approach hike followed by the actual summit attempt day.  The exhilaration and sense of accomplishment a young man feels standing “on top of the world” is difficult to describe.  Sharing the experience with a team of brothers makes it even more powerful.

Backpack Fishing Trips:

Boulder Mountain has over a hundred fishable lakes, most of which are accessible only by foot.  Our fishing adventures are relaxing and gratifying.  Hike, fish, camp, repeat.

Wildlife Adventures:

We plan specific adventures around wildlife observation during peak seasons.  We observe and photograph wild horses in the Link Flats area of the San Rafael Swell.  We hike into the Fishlake Mountains to call and observe rocky mountain elk during the rut in September.  We watch desert bighorn sheep jousting and head-butting during their rut in November.  There is a large free ranging herd of American bison in the Henry Mountains that we locate and observe.

Mountain Biking:

Central and southern Utah has some of the best mountain biking routes in the world.  People travel from afar to enjoy what we have at our doorstep.  We ride in the San Rafael Swell, the Henry Mountain desert, and on top of Boulder Mountain.  Riding bikes is fun but we make sure we include the meaningful part too.

Ten Years after; Gary Ferguson Interviews Former Wilderness Clients

Gary Ferguson’s Keynote speech given at the NATSAP 2008 conference in Savannah, Georgia.  In this address Gary shares the journey of the students who he wrote about in Shouting at the Sky, 10 years after they finished the program.

Gary Ferguson – Interviews Students From the Book 10 Years After AAA from Troy Faddis on Vimeo.

Canyon Adventure

Crack CanyonEach week the clients and staff are given a position for the week.  We have Expedition leader, Equipment Coordinator, Lead cook, Navigator, Safety Officer, Expedition Photographer, Assistant Cook, and expedition Assistant.    These change from week to week.

At the beginning of our week we sat down with the team and determined we wanted to do Temple Mountain, and some canyon.  We planned the route with the Navigators help looking at the Maps and reading descriptions of hikes.  We planned meals with the cooks.  Talked to the safety officer to go through any issues we may run into, and what our roads mean with the expedition leader.

We found many challenges this week, including the weather and fatigue. We did Ding and Dang Canyon quicker than we expected and worked together well in helping each other over large cracks working on bridging and stemming.  We got a late start to Crack and Chute canyon due to slick conditions, fatigue and lake of time.  The group together made the c all to head back down crack canyon instead of doing the entire loop through chute.  The last canyon we did was Little While Horse, it was our only sunny day, which made for a lot of running water.  We ended at a great sport next to a running stream, that was great for meditation.

Two peak experiences stand out for us this week, week one beginning in dang canyon , we stemmed over 20ft crevasses a few of the clients were a little anxious around it, but with the help of teammates   we were able to make it down very safely. The second is a fire clinic put on by Client (JA). The client learning has some serious difficulty learning how to build a fire, after 3 hours no one had even bust a coal. So client (JA) had to make the fire that night.  The next morning, Client (JJ) woke early and busted a coal into flame, that night client (RW) busted a coal into flame, both over coming and doing what they didn’t think they could.

We dealt with a lot of weather this week, a few days of snow and one night of rain. We came together as a team to get proper shelter up, to stay dry and warm, making sure we were using the proper layering with our clothes, working at a team to get fire in a time of need.   The team became each other allies working together to ultimately accomplish more.

Crack Canyon

Petroglyph Hunting

San Rafael Swell Head of Sinbad PictographsTo prepare for our adventures we examined a map illustrating the topography of the Head of Sinbad where are team would set out to find 12,000 year old petroglyphs. We assigned jobs and set goals to accomplish while we were out.

This week we formed a new team so our primary challenge was to form a good bond with each other, so that we could accomplish the tasks at hand as cohesively as possible. Another challenge we would overcome was dealing with the cold weather by creating fire using primitive bow-drill sets that each team member would make by hand.

After establishing camp, getting our gear and lunch packed, we set out on a hike to find the petroglyphs painted on the side of a tall mesa. We hiked through snow from camp covering a few miles until we reached the base of the mesa, we then walked along the edge of the mesa until we found the petroglyphs drawn on the wall at a site thought to be a ceremonial site used by our ancestors about 12,000 years ago.

In our reflection of what we say we tried to imagine what it might have been like to live back in that space and time, following the herds of animals that roamed the area.  It was a powerful experience for all of us to think about.  It is hard to comprehend how much time has passed since those drawings were made and to hypothesize what they might have meant.

San Rafael Swell Dutchman's Arch Black Dragon

Mountain Biking

To prepare for our adventure we assigned roles for the week to each team member. After these roles were established our expedition leader and navigator (CC and RS) planned and organized our adventure and the routes we would take.


To begin our adventure we backpacked out in the back country for 3 days, a total of 14 miles in 3 days. Each night we set up camp to have dinner and group around the fire. We packed up in the mornings.  On the fourth day we met up with the other team and took their bikes and other gear. To do the mountain biking part of our adventure we hiked from our campsite all the way back to where we started the trip.


The nights were cold and the hikes were long, but we stayed in good spirits and delved into our psyches each night.  We analyzed our lives and talked about our recoveries and about men we want to be and working towards that.  We bonded as a group over the newest member’s life story as well as during our hikes and bike ride.


Upon return we all felt a sense of accomplishment in the air as we reflected on what we had accomplished this week. The longest distances we hiked the inspiring groups we held and making it through -20 degree temperatures during the nights.  All of this made us stronger as individuals and  and very strong group.

Depths and Heights

SummitFor Team One, we would leave into the field with less definition of what defined us, whereas Team Two had given themselves mustaches.  They were team mustache!  But who were we?  Even when the mustaches were chanting down at us from the top of Steele Butte and across South Creek we didn’t know the answer.  Whoever we were, we were not the guys to try to identify ourselves just because another group had.

We went out on Friday and walked over rugged terrain to an old Freemont cliff dwelling.  For such a new group the hike was a real challenge and the men looked quite worn out for the most part upon our arrival, and many for this reason quite disinterested in the actual dwelling with its evidence of long ago days and perhaps simpler way of being.

On Saturday we climbed Steele Butte, most of us.  There were a couple of gentlemen who were perhaps, a little too afraid of heights for this one.  There are rare occasions when all or part of the group does not complete an event.  I find that if we process it well afterward, there will be as much, if not more to take from the experience.  This proved to be the case.  There was such a tender outpouring of courage and ferocious support of one another around the fire that we discovered who we are as a group, the Sensitive Spartans.  Let all Mustaches beware.
For the final day of the adventure we awoke to a world brightened by the white snow.  It was that first day when the weather changes and nothing works right or easy for anyone.  We were undaunted and combined with the Mustaches to climb Mt. Ellen with her 11,522 ft. peak, most of which was veiled in cloud and receiving extreme winds and more snow.  This time we all managed to arrive at the top together in the first “snow ascent” of Ellen.

Many of us had carried rocks to the top symbolizing resentments each wanted to release.  We trudged through whiteout conditions to the summit.  We gathered in a large circle laying down our stones in turn and naming them aloud.  By coincidence or act of God, depending on your world view, at the very instant when the last stone was placed down, the sky cleared above us and we were bathed, albeit briefly, in a warm golden light.

I felt the group engulfed in a new confidence, seasoned now by cold and peril, heights and depths, insights and reflections.  We were bound by an intoxicating respect for each other, genuine expression, and adventure.

Charlie Hopper, Senior Field Guide

Old women wash and the sacred spiral

Preparing the deer hideThis week’s adventure took the team to the San Rafael Reef.  Old women wash was the perfect base camp for a week of canyons and traditional skills instruction.  With the slickrock canyons and pinyon and juniper filled mesas, the team was excited and anticipating a great week.

The adventure started with the Field staff letting the group know that the week would consist of day hikes into some of the most beautiful and remote canyons in the course area, as well as, the tanning and sewing of medicine pouches.  The pre-trip planning was met with both excitement and nervousness and Mark and Brandon laid out what would be required to finish a tanning process of a mule deer hide.  But wait a moment I’m getting ahead of myself here……

Before the week began a donation was made by Yellow Ledges Buckskin of a Mule Deer rawhide.  A deer that was harvested by a local hunter, and the skin was given as a gift to Yellow Ledges Buckskin and then in turn donated to Legacy Outdoor Adventures.  As the field staff retold this story to the clients, a theme of community, and connection started to be portrayed.  The life of the animal was recounted as well as the sacred circle of life that we are all part of.   The guides weaved a spiritual tapestry of how a person can connect with their human roots by learning an ancient skill that at one time, all people knew that of making and producing their own clothing, clothing that would last a life time.  As the tale grew the clients could feel humility in the face of death of an animal, the reverence for life, and the connection to the earth that primitive skills bring.  We weren’t just learning a skill we were reconnecting to something that is the birthright of all humans.  Emotional thoughts and feeling were expressed by students and clients alike, as what the rest of the week would look like was discussed.

The first few days of the week consisted of re-soaking the scraped hide, and a day hike up a beautiful canyon called Little Wild Horse and a connecting canyon called Bell.  This loop is one of the best in the course area, and a late afternoon snow storm did little to dampen the spirit of those who saw it.  As the week progressed so did the spiritual connection and the exploration of the beauty of the San Rafael Reef.  We did hikes up Iron Wash, Old Woman Wash, and Ernie Canyon.  Each unique and beautiful in their own right.

The Buckskin was softened by hand, and smoked to finish, both in the ancient ways of the indigenous cultures from here on the Colorado Plateau.  Each person made a medicine pouch from the tanned buckskin.  Decorated with the perfect amount of bone and horn beads,(also donated by Yellow Ledges Buckskin)The bags each took on the personality of the makers.  The medicine pouch, a small bag that is worn around the neck is a seemingly simple idea, but the metaphor and spiritual touchstone is much bigger.  Each student found something from the natural area to put in the bag to remind them of the week they spend in the sacred spiral, honoring the life of an animal, and their own, and the place where the two intersected.

As a field guide for the  last 9 years of my life, I have been waiting for the opportunity to do a week where we not only could use and make medicine bags, but produce the leather ourselves.  I have a great deal of gratitude for the people at Legacy for the freedom, trust, and foresight to allow this week to happen as it did.  I am both humbled and inspired by the work that happens here.

Written by Mark McKillip

Is Addiction Really a Disease

Dr. Kevin Mccauley has put together a great video called “Pleasure Unwoven” about addiction and the brain. I ask all of my clients and their families to watch his video. Here is the first of eight segments from “Pleasure Unwoven” that have been put up on YouTube.