|Our village at Northwoods|
We are now at the end of the winter half of our expedition! We have arrived, safe and sound, at the NorthWoods Stewardship Center in East Charleston, Vermont. We have now completed setting camp, and have begun pounding ash logs to make into baskets.
During the first three days here at NorthWoods, we set up our camp — three wall tents and two pole tents. What a lot of poles to cut and boughs to gather! We worked hard, and it was a good three days. We got to shower and clean our laundry, and we unpacked, organized, and repaired all our winter gear. We learned to use plastic-welding to make ourselves polyvinyl chloride dry bags, which we will take on the river in the spring.
The next day, we started out with an Easter egg hunt, using our orienteering skills to take bearings from one egg to the next, and we set a tent in anticipation of the arrival of Mr Chris Knapp and his family. We then participated in a communications workshop led by Mr Nathan Lyzack, in which we studied the elements of conversation, and practiced having helpful, productive conversations to help draw our group closer together. In the afternoon, we went out with Mr Knapp to fell, cut, and peel a brown ash for our baskets. A cedar swamp was the setting for the felling, and despite tripping on the enormous quantities of fallen logs in the swamp we located a good, healthy tree, perhaps eight inches in diameter at the base, fairly quickly, and we were able to bring it back to NorthWoods and peel it before supper. We had a ‘social contract meeting’ in the evening, reflecting on how well our conduct and work had followed the community contract we wrote during January, and discussing ways we can bring ourselves towards the ideals expressed in the contract.
Today, the first of April, we began scoring and pounding the peeled logs. First, we kneel on a log, drawing along its length with a knife to divide the log into the sections we will use to create our basket splints. Second, we use small hammers to pound flat against the outsides of the logs, separating the growth rings from each other. Finally, we lift up the growth ring we have released, and begin scoring for the next layer.
We look forward to hosting our team’s parents upon their arrival this weekend, and eagerly anticipate the many wonderful activities we will undertake during the rest of our stay here at the NorthWoods Stewardship Center.
During the last three-day section of our journey, our team of nine split into three sub-groups of three students each, and we undertook the last sixty kilometers independently, followed at a distance by the trip leaders. Along the way, each group had different experiences, and so we present here a reflection on the journey from each of the three groups.
Kerensa, Kenya, and Lotte
We had been looking forward to solos since the day we knew about them — and our solo was all that we had looked forward to and more. Being independent from not only our leaders, but from the male students as well, was freeing. No one was there to tell us how many breaks we could have — we just got to ski, be with each other, laugh together, and soak up the experience as just us women — moving by our own power.
One of my favorite memories from solo was our last day — camping in a cedar jungle right on the Clyde River. We had a late start to the morning, but it wasn’t long before we had set out for our last day of travel, with war paint and smiles covering our face. We were almost at our final destination and a man pulled over in his truck. He knew who we were and he smiled, asked us if we always looked like that, and told us we had made it — congratulations. And we had — we had completed the winter journey. —Kerensa
Elliot, Sam, and Noah — Represent 207!
In these three days, our group learned, laughed, and lived. Each day, we arose and cooked a breakfast over an outdoor fire screen. We then set out onto the trail, and we hustled. It was a lot of fun to be able to look back on our day and see how much faster we moved as a group of three than as a group of nine (and we didn’t stop for many breaks).
One day when we had only thirteen kilometers to travel we were able to reach camp in time to cook a delicious mid-day pot of oatmeal! That day, we carved wooden spoons and worked on our personal research essay drafts. We were glad for the leisurely afternoon. Each night, we cooked a soup for supper, and each night it was delicious. We went to bed early, and got lots of sleep — what a wonderful feeling!
One moment which stood out on the journey was the descent into the Clyde River valley. The snow had largely melted from the ground, and the descent was steep and icy, down a dirt road. There were patches of gravel where the ice had melted away, and because we were moving quite fast on the steep hill we would occasionally run onto one of those patches, and it would be a struggle to keep our balance. When we came into the valley, we arrived at a more used road, where there was little enough snow we were forced to remove our skis and walk to our destination. We stopped by the Clyde River on the way, and cooked some meat over the fire, rested, and worked some more on our essays. It was a good day. —Elliot
Max, Wayland, and Angus
Although I cannot tell all sides of this story, I can tell my side to the best of my ability. Northeast-bound and away we woke on the morning of the 24th, and saddled ourselves up with the various implements we needed for the next four days, pots and tarps and food and such. We did this all in the dark of the hayloft of the barn at Heartbeet, and to me the whole affair had a rushing, ominous feeling, like the feeling of someone stocking supplies for a coming hurricane which they feel they may not survive. Although I knew we’d survive, I still felt a leaden ball of dread in the pit of my stomach. I rounded up my fellow travelers, which felt like the task of herding cats, and arranged them in front, ready for the march. I double, triple, quadruple check our things, everything was in order, and off we went up the hill.
A grey sky hangs above us as we ski north on the mudded road, I look at maps which resemble nowhere to me, and I conclude that although I don’t know where we are, I also know where we aren’t, so lost is not what I’d call us. Skiing north forever, sometimes frantically rushing, often leisurely though, we arrive at an old dairy farm at a country crossing of two roads. We go over and ask for water, and two men answer the door, one large and one small. They invite us inside to sit down, and although we’re on a tight run, we agree. We sit down, and the two men offer us lunch, a pork sandwich on white bread with mustard. We accept graciously, with mouths watering. We finish our food after our brief conversation, and are offered bananas. Thus began a trend: receiving bananas wherever we went on solo. Departing happy and full, we crawl to camp on the edge of a beaver pond in a stand of spruce trees.
We set camp at the oncoming cusp of darkness, eat quickly and sleep. We rise early the next day and stalk out of our pond in the still, clear, frozen morning air with the sun and the blue shining sky radiating onto us. Still northbound, we ski to the town of Glover, near Lake Parker, and stop in the general store. In the store, a man who looks much like Walt Whitman stops and speaks to us. He says he’d like to interview us for the local paper, The Chronicle, seeing as he is the lead writer and publisher. Over coffee, he asks us questions and we tell him what humorous recounting we can, our highs and lows of the trip. An hour or so passes by in this way, and we leave him after he is satisfied with the story. We carry on to the town of Barton, the largest local township. We skirt through it, and drop into the local market, buy ourselves cinnamon buns and, yes, bananas. Off we go into the setting sun. We ski out of town into the hedged woods and old pastures, cross over a stretch of railroad tracks, and stumble onto a run-down barn. An older man in his late fifties is stacking things in it, and we offer to help. He takes our offer and we help him stack “priceless valuables” into his empty hayloft. As darkness falls on us a few doe run up the wooded hills in the distance and the man, James, asks us if we’d like to sleep in his loft. Naturally, we accept, and establish our base for the night in the nest of hay and clutter, and settle to a nice macaroni supper.
We awaken safe and sound to a beautiful sunshine, and pack out. Eastbound and down at this point, we ski hard through a seemingly endless expanse of snowmobile roads to a cross in the roads. We stop there at a small house for water, where an older couple employs us to split wood in exchange for a meal. Gladly we take up this offer, and after several hours of splitting, we go set camp near Lake Willoughby. We go back to the house of the couple, Frank and Renne, and eat our ham supper, a wonderful treat of food and hospitality. Our hosts bid us farewell after the meal and off we go, memories in mind and food in stomach back to camp.
We arise early the next morning, and walk the muddy roads to East Charleston. The sign greets us: “NorthWoods Stewardship Center”. We ascend the muddy path, and arrive. It is surreal to finally be here and have had our journey done. The road comes to a close… for now. —Max
Thank you to the NorthWoods Stewardship Center for hosting us for these three weeks! NorthWoods is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 focused on land use and forestry conservation and education efforts in the Northeast Kingdom.