Thursday, February 21, 2013

NHVSP Update 5

We have now finished the first leg of our journey! We have worked hard on learning to ski with our heavy packs, falling a lot but nevertheless getting up a lot, too. We’re getting stronger daily.

We wake at about 5:30 each morning, and have ten to fifteen minutes to get dressed and get our backpacks packed, and then we eat a substantial amount of breakfast. (Trail Tip: when on the trail, one needs to eat quite a bit more than otherwise — both because of all the exercise and because we use so many calories staying warm!) We finish packing the tent and stacking the conifer boughs that form our floor. We take the boughs and set them around the bases of trees in thickets to form shelter that rabbits can use. Then, we leave camp, skiing long and skiing hard. We have small cloth bags that we have our day food in, and we eat it and enjoy it and ration it and trade it and save it. On trail, food becomes the most valued currency.

Skiing up hills and down hills, but mostly trying to ski around them…
We have two navigators, who are in charge of determining where we go. One is Sam, whose “big job” (which he will have until we reach the final layover at Northwoods) is Navigator. The other changes every day, as part of our trail jobs rotation. The other trail jobs are water manager, pole manager, woodchopper, trail sweep, tent setup managers (we have two!), keeper of the flame, cook, and day leader. The daily rotation of these jobs helps us learn all of the parts of going on an expedition.

Once we reach our evening camp, we start by unpacking all of our group gear and the day’s food. Then, we each go to collect a large armload of boughs for the tent floor. We start work on our individual jobs, which continue until ten or twenty minutes before supper. Then, we remove our ski boots and wash our feet with s­now, and meditate for a little while and become one with the day and the world around us. If we have time, we write in our journals then, beginning by recording certain observations about the day, such as location, travel, and weather.

We enjoy our delicious suppers enormously, and then get a readaloud from the book we are studying, Lies My Teacher Told Me, about the misrepresentations of the history of European contact with Native American civilizations. We then have our evening meeting, get our new job assignments, and crash to sleep, exhausted.

Thoughts from the trail

Be the wise man; be the curious boy. Allow your mind to question, and don’t allow your knowledge to make your thoughts stale. Only use it to help search for more. Learning and growth is a lifelong journey.

Wind is picking up now though. It’s not real cold, but it’s far less pleasant than a nice day with clear skies. I haven’t seen the sun in at least a week, and when I do, it’s just like a dim lightbulb in a thick felt blanket.

Have you ever seen the ladybug,
who by some unfortunate turn of events
has found itself lying on its shell?
Hopeless, he scrambles about
doing whatever he can to somehow turn
himself around and continue on his travels.
I am that ladybird, and my pack is my shell.
We move together, and when I go down,
down comes my shell.
Ahead of me lies a steep hill,
I lose my balance — down I go,
down comes my pack.
I can’t stand up — so I wriggle and toss
and I situate myself,
and I use all my might
to turn myself around.
To continue on my travels.

every morning,
we pull the firs, spruces, and hemlocks out of the packed snow floor, like plucking a chicken
the satisfying release of tension.

As we descend in the upper levels of the Green Mountains, we are greeted by a very Appalachian sight. Rusty horse trailers and pickup truck caps and sheds assembled from scrap metal and other junk — a hound dog runs up and greets us, sniffs my hand, and runs away barking. A few others join in. As we ski further on, we go past a large fence with about ten dogs in it, barking at us. At this point, there is a massive cacophony of barking, and we all start to chuckle. As we ski further on, we see about thirty dogs come from out of the latticework of broken down Challengers on blocks and decrepit lawnmowers. And then, we are greeted by a gentleman with the most magnificent schnauze, and a majestic beard worthy of an Ottoman Shah.

We left Moses Pond and are now camping on a beaver pond on the southern end of a beaver pond chain near the southern peak of Okemo. We traveled seventeen kilometers with little precipitation or wind. The moon is a waxing crescent. We made trains of four people going downhill. My train of Noah, Elliot, and Lotte was the only one to not fall. The temperature was in the mid twenties.

These past two weeks on trail have flown by so fast. I have learned to love everything about trail, waking up in the cold tent, listening to my skis slide across the snow, eating trail mix all day, coming into camp and setting it up with frozen toes, going to sleep by nine o’clock every night. I have learned so much on this first leg and can’t wait to learn so much more.

I sit content. Sometimes I catch myself being caught up in the stressful bustle of preparing for this trip. Sometimes I think back on my past times at home, but I feel good. I am healthier than I have been in months. I have grown close to the community around me, and I fill my day with productive work. I am tired, I am busy, and I am content.

Once we leave the Farm and Wilderness layover where we are now, we will continue skiing to the Battleground and Heart Beet layovers, and finally to the Northwoods layover, where we will transition into the spring part of our expedition. On the trail during the second leg of the trip we will work with two new teachers, Chris and Leah, and the academic focus will shift from learning the rhythms of winter travel to forest ecology and English.

Thank you to our wonderful first leg teachers, Emily and Misha, and to our trip teacher Zack and assistant Kreston. Thank you also to Farm and Wilderness for letting us stay here!­

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