UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | October 01, 2022

Robby Briggs searches for spirit animal in wilderness

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A little birdie told me it was time to go home.

Pummeled by the influences of today’s constantly fast-paced, distracted lifestyle, I took a step outside the social world and into the natural world for three days and two nights.

I embarked on a spirit journey.

Native Americans would set out on spirit journeys to become men—to find themselves by finding their inner spirit animal. A person must push themselves through intense sense deprivation, although there isn’t an exact traditional method on doing this. This means no tasty treats will feed a hungry soul.

My friend drove me to Moe’s Valley. I figured it would be the least disturbed wilderness area around St. George where I could find a place which would call to me.

I wandered for a couple of hours, hiking on and off the trail, for I had no direction in mind. Eventually, while climbing the boulders at the edge of the cliffs facing the Arizona strip, just before the top of the highest nearby point, I reached a place that caught my fancy.

I built a 10-foot by 10-foot parameter of stones where I would have to stay the entire time—no exploring. I placed rocks for a fire pit and gathered what wood and twigs I could find; I knew the nights would get cold and desperate, which they did.

Although my journey had already begun with the hike, I dedicated my area with a prayer for safety and strength for the next three days. I brought only water, a lighter, a knife, scriptures, a small blanket and the clothes on my back, which included a hoody and khaki pants.

The first day was dull and uneventful. I couldn’t dedicate myself to read much at a time, and I wanted to leave after what felt like a few hours. I kept imagining how I could tweet each moment or who I could text some obnoxious comment, but I was alone.

I threw some rocks off the cliffs and reenacted the scene from “The Karate Kid” when Daniel and Mr. Miyagi were practicing the crane kick on the rocks.

The nights would have been more bearable if I had brought a sleeping bag, but I didn’t want this to turn into a lonely camping trip. I just huddled by the fire trying to keep it alive and warm enough for occasional naps.

That first night was miserable; I don’t know how I feel asleep. I woke up in the fetal position as the sun broke over the mountains. I sang some morning songs and fell asleep again until the sun was high up in the sky and heating things up.

The hunger didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I drowned it with water and continued to stare out over the cliffs.

About midday more than 24 hours had passed of sitting around in the same area with no food and no Facebook. The temperature got a little hot, I got antsy and already somewhat crazy, and so I stripped down to my underwear to get comfortable.

I couldn’t just sit there anymore, and I broke my rule of staying in one place and wandered above to the highest point and found a trail. A mountain biker stopped just as I reached the trail. Apparently, it’s only natural to stop and talk to a stranger when he’s wandering naked in the desert. We exchanged some awkward lines and the cyclist continued onward. I went back to my square and waited for nightfall.

I expected night No. 2 to be cold, and I already felt too haggard to care.

The firewood ran out, so I built a nest out of stones and the leftover weeds and curled up to die.

I didn’t sleep for a long time that night; I stayed awake with my mind running rampant. I knew I was reaching the threshold before insanity. I didn’t think 48 hours was long enough to already be losing it. I wasn’t bothered by the coyotes howling in the distance or the other desert sounds the previous night. I thought every black shape in the distance was something watching me. I shouted at the dark figures, but there were no responses.

I woke up the next day sprawled out flat on my face; I must have exhausted my mind until I konked out. I didn’t pace or even twitch on the third day. I laid in the same spot all day regardless of anything. I wasn’t sleeping or thinking—just existing. I could’ve stayed there forever.

A small bird, a canyon wren I named Chico, landed next to my face and started singing. Following my urges, I got up and also started singing. I sang every song I knew the words to, mostly hymns like “There is Sunshine in my Soul Today.”

I officially was the crazy person in the desert.

The bird seemed to be talking to me and bid me follow him. I built a memorial of rocks, the plant which would not burn, and my Cub’s blanket which wasn’t big enough to cover both halves of my body. I said a quick prayer, gathered my things and followed the bird.

After climbing down a cliff, I found Chico jumping from tree to tree as I followed him. He lead me the mile and a half to the entrance of the valley.

My body was pumped full of endorphins after the hike because of the lack of nutrients. I never felt so alive, I walked another 5 miles home and said hello to everyone I passed and helped an old man up a hill. After I got home, I passed out from the fatigue.

Although I’ve never been a fan of Thanksgiving food, after my spirit journey, I was very thankful to be eating again. I appreciate a lot of things more now, and I’m striving to keep it that way.

Sadly, it only took a day to be reconnected to the pull of social media. However, I am glad I took the time to do absolutely nothing and find my spirit animal. From my journey, I can find my way out of any valley as long as I’m willing to get up and start walking.