The last week has been the week of “Ohh wow! We’re leaving for the Green Mountains really soon! We’ve got to get our act together”. It is true, we only have a few days left before we scram out of here. We can no longer pretend to have all the time left in the world, like master procrastinators usually do.
On Saturday we drove an hour to Peru, Vermont so that we could skate ski on the Wild Wings Trails. I enjoyed the creative bird names of this trail system. We could choose from three different loops: grouse, turkey, and peregrine. We also appreciated the beautiful snow, not yet ruined by the spring like winter we’ve been having. Our goal was to ski without coming to a stop for an hour, then reconvene and ski some more. On two of the trails, this was easy enough but on the last one, peregrine, there was no middle ground – either you were barely moving up the steep incline or you were flying down it. Once we had tired ourselves out we were hangry monsters ready to bite each other’s heads off – but in a good way. Jo made the right call to pull into the Londonderry market and buy us some treats.
Steve, the van, took us to many new places this week like Crotched Mountain, where we went downhill skiing. We all started on the bunny hill, where the lift was really just a long treadmill. It was there on that bunny hill, among all the children that were too small to support the amount of snow gear they had on, that we were introduced to telemark skiing. Telemark skiing is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and is so beautiful when done right. Oliver went ahead and showed us how it's done - “swish, swish, swish, tada!” Yep… That’s exactly how easy it is, you barely have to think about your weight distribution, or how your feet are positioned, or your toe pressure. Yep Oliver, it is a completely effortless sport.
Soon we were ready to go up in a real chair lift. We marveled at the absurdity of semester students being carried up a mountain, it felt very recreational. Telemark skiing is basically skiing in a lunge position. When you want to do a tele-turn, your outer foot should be in front. If your weight isn’t evenly distributed between the two skis then they will cross over, forcing you to the ground. While learning a new skill is never easy, we all had a blast on the slopes and were sad to go back to skate skiing the next day.
Alongside physical training, we have also started packing out food for the next four months of expedition. After many hours of prep and planning done by Calla, Elena and Zoe, food is finally finding its place in ziplocs, stuff sacks, and orange NRS boxes. Lentils, rice, beans, and oats, all scooped up and stored away until it's time for them to meet our hungry mouths on trail.
Gear is also being prepared. The Boathouse is covered in anorak jackets, sleds, and snowshoes. Our winter tent has been set up next to the yurt so we could check it for needed repairs and say hello to the beautiful being that is to be our home. Inside feels like you could be anywhere on earth, like a time machine or the magical tents in Harry Potter (except ours definitely isn’t bigger on the inside). There is just enough space to squeeze in 16 individuals with just a little bit of burnt butt for whoever is sleeping next to the stove. This tent will be where we sleep, eat, and do academics on the winter trail.
Speaking of which, we’ve been rushing to finish our base camp assignments on time. On Friday night many of us stayed up till almost 11pm, finishing our Braiding Sweetgrass essays and creative writing pieces. They look beautiful on our special Book of Wisdom paper in rich black ink, sprinkled with illustrations.
We haven’t been stuck in the yurt doing academics all week though, we’ve also been entertaining ourselves with wrestling competitions, games, hockey on the Marlow pond with Ice (the semi professional hockey playing farmer), making music, and spending our day of rest at Orchard Hill Bakery.
Orchard Hill is a blessing to Kroka and all those living on campus. How amazing is it that there’s a bakery just two miles away when the local area is mostly comprised of homes, farms, and forested land. We’re even luckier considering that Noah, who runs the bakery, has many ideals that align with Kroka’s and has been partnering with us for many years. Kroka’s freezers are always filled with Noah’s bread and so are the stomachs of semester students! Noah talked to us about all of the semester students that have come and done service for him, both before and after their expeditions, and how he is always amazed at how drastically the group changes. He emphasized that while individuals grow and evolve it is the group that really comes together as one brilliant well-oiled machine that can take on anything.
Noah also showed us Orchard Hill’s gigantic wood fired bread oven. It’s the size of a small room, and super insulated to the point where it was at 400 degrees and the fire hadn’t been lit for two days. We had many questions about the oven and the bakery in general, and Noah had answers waiting. Sadly when asked if the oven had a name, the answer came back negative.
What would you name a GIGANTIC wood fired oven?
After Noah got tired of us, he threw us outside into the cold and used us to rearrange his firewood. It was actually a lot of fun to chuck wood onto the top of the pile and watch the hill grow steeper and steeper until adding more to the top just caused more to fall down. Once this point was reached, we meandered down the hill to the sauna.
Noah’s brother built the sauna using traditional Japanese woodworking methods and it’s conveniently situated right next to a pond with a hole cut through the ice. I wonder what the hole could possibly be for??? Perhaps for jumping into the pond naked as can be! Perhaps also for the purposes of screaming and jumping out. The sauna itself was hot with a capital H and Steeaammmyyy. The room had two story seating on both sides, with a wood stove at the end opposite the door. The top benches were so hot it felt as if your bum might just burn off and it was a little difficult to breath - all in all, a very enjoyable experience. By the second round of dunking in the pond, the cold water didn’t feel half as bad and the air temperature felt like a warm spring day. We couldn’t, however, stay there all day and so eventually dried ourselves off and made our way back to the bakery for lunch.
Lunch, OOOOHHHHHH my god! It might have been some of the best food ever eaten by man or woman or any human or alien kind. Open-faced sandwiches melted in the oven with tomato sauce, pesto, olives, cheese, bacon, peppers, and onions on top! Next came the focaccia bread, so soft and flavorful, then dessert- cinnamon buns sprinkled with pecan pieces and pastries topped with lemon, goat cheese, and honey. The drool poured out of our mouths and must have pooled together all the way to Lake Warren. Plus there was groovy music to dance to. We left Noah feeling like we hadn’t completed enough service to properly thank him, but he told us not to worry, because in the spring he’ll have plenty of work for us to do. Thank goodness!
Here’s a poem by Pele Clark that’s bound to make you giggle or snort:
fall down fast,
and after chores we get to chow.
Swallow butter, milk, and grits,
Now I got the sh*ts!
Now go and treat yourselves to some locally baked goodies, help out a neighbor, and enjoy the winter forest. Peace out girl scouts, I’ve got chores to get to!
If you are settling in for a movie night STOP, get up and make yourself some popcorn and chai tea. If you accidentally make too much, invite friends, family, or neighbors to come join you, its more fun with others anyways. And finally, watch Captain Fantastic instead of whatever you had planned.
This blog is from the week before students left on expedition. After a weekend filled with families, packing, and fulfilling commitments, students set off on trail on Tuesday, February 11th and are currently snowshoeing on the spine of the Green Mountains!
|Students performing in the future multipurpose room of the new farmhouse.|
|Misha and Lynne performing in the parent and staff talent show on Parent Day!|
|Benjamin performed, "The Cremation of Sam Mcgee" written by Robert W. Service in the early 1900s.|
...and so the expedition begins!