A mountain biker bikes through a field of flowers and aspen trees. They're smiling.
Molly Gurney on a bike ride during CFI's trail work volunteer weekend in August. [Courtesy photo]

In late July, the Canyonlands Field Institute held a “mental health in the mountains” event: Moab residents were invited to join CFI and guest expert Elizabeth Bercel for a free, guided afternoon in the La Sal Mountains, complete with a hike, journaling, and art. In early August, CFI partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to host another free weekend of trail work, camping, and hiking. The organization has four more community events planned through November.

“We’ve been doing community events for a while, but we haven’t really expanded on them,” said Alison Anders, CFI development associate, “but I felt like there weren’t many opportunities for the Moab population to get involved—we had a lot of programming for other people, but not for Moab. I wanted to create free opportunities for people to get outside, meet new friends, build community, and build a sense of place here.” 

The free events also always include an educational or stewardship aspect to them, Anders said, true to CFI’s mission to “provide quality outdoor education on the Colorado Plateau, to inspire care of wild places, and renew the human spirit.” 

In her role at CFI, Anders is tasked with coming up with ideas for and planning those free community events. The next event, a queer campout on Sept. 10-11, is meant to provide a space for Moab’s LGBTQIA+ community. CFI is partnering with Seekhaven to host the campout. 

“My inspiration for the queer campout was that it’s something I’ve been looking for—a queer community here,” Anders said. “I feel really passionate about the queer campout because the community is dealing with traumatic stuff and I think it’s really important to have spaces for people to be joyous and celebrate what it means to be queer … it’s important to be able to have people who relate to your experience.” 

The campout will include shuttles to and from the camping location, free meals, and guided stargazing from Moab Astronomy Tours. 

CFI has two annual events coming up as well: the Moab Daily cleanup, on Sept. 25, and archaeological service day, on Oct. 1. CFI is partnering with the Bureau of Land Management for both events—during the Daily cleanup, participants will float the entirety of the Moab Daily and pick up trash along the way; during the archaeological day, participants will build fences and remove social trails near a local archaeological site. 

Anders is also planning another mental health hike for sometime in November. CFI has always taught “social-emotional learning” in its curriculum, along with science. But recently, there’s been a shift: now, social-emotional learning is just as important in the curriculum as science is, Anders said. 

“We teach that a sense of place and connection to the environment can inspire both stewardship and a positive outlook on the world,” she said. 

Anders is excited to expand upon the mental health hikes to hopefully, sometime in the future, organize a campout specifically dedicated to mental health. 

“The overall goal of these events is to build community, find connection to nature and to each other, and give back: we’re highlighting reciprocity,” she said. 

You can register for any of the upcoming events at www.cfimoab.org/events.