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Our next journey brought us to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the Mahoosuc peaks of Maine. The Gap Year group stationed themselves at Mahoosuc Guide Service for the first few days of expedition, while the High Schoolers headed to the Presidentials. The groups switched mid-week, with some itinerary changes. Along the way, they both faced driving rain and snow, beautiful terrain, and 27 excited Yukon huskies.

HIGH SCHOOL BLOG

Entering the tail end of fall, we packed our backpacks and traveled north for our final New England expedition. We drove to the Jewell Trailhead along the Presidential Mountains, setting off for the peaks. Our first day we hiked about 4 miles. With heavy packs and full water droms, we heaved up the trail and made our way to our campsite below the tree line on Mt. Clay. We arrived after the sun had set and prepared our basecamp in the mossy forest under the stars.

A sleepy van ride to the White Mountains

On the second day of our trip, we woke up early to prepare for a full day of hiking. As the sun peeked over the mountains, we emerged from the tree line and were met with incredible views to the East. A few more miles and we made our way to Mt. Jefferson, our first peak. Stepping to the highest rock and looking out for miles in every direction was immediately gratifying. We took a few minutes to let it soak in and set off. We passed down the ridge and made our way to Mt. Adams. The wind was picking up and we cut through it, trekking up the second peak. We climbed down Adams and summited our final peak of the day, Mt. Madison, looking across the range with sore feet, tired backs, and wide smiles. After Madison we turned back and hiked back along the ridge. The golden sun set and lit up the mountains until night fell and we kept hiking through the dark. After 12 hours, 7,080ft, a few scrapes and bruises, and some breathtaking views of the White Mountains, we made our way back below the tree line and to our basecamp.

 

Trish, Elena and Teo pushing over the ridge before Mt. Adams

 

Finn fighting through the wild winds of Mt. Madison

Cate and Sonai having less trouble with the wind

Anna hiking into the sunset

Looking back down after Madison

Overnight, the pressure had dropped and rain began to fall. We woke up to pitters and patters on the tops of our tents. Due to the inclement weather, we adjusted the original plans to pack up camp and complete the traverse. We decided to spend the day summiting Mt. Washington, the highest mountain in New England. We started our hike mostly dry and once again made our way out from the tree line, this time entering the thick white clouds. We climbed through wind and rain and made our way to the summit. By the time we reached the peak we were soaking wet but once again we had wide smiles and felt the gratification from the discomfort. We returned to the basecamp and finished out our day with a good dinner.

After a good night’s rest, we unzipped our tent to find 8 inches of snow on the ground! Our campsite was transformed from a mossy wood to a frosty, snow-covered forest overnight.

Elias feeding a wild gray jay right from his spoon

Snow!?

Our socks, shoes, clothes, and packs were wet, but we lived through it. We packed up our camp and hiked through the snowstorm. Our hike out of the mountains was filled with snowball fights, laughter and bliss as we slipped and slid down the snowy trail. By the time we reached the trailhead, we had trekked through whipping winds faster than we had ever experienced. After days of sore bodies, pouring rain, and beautiful snow-covered mountains, the rewards were incredible. We all came out of the trip as foul weather friends with stronger minds, bodies, and souls.

Elias giving Jackson a Kroka Shower on the drive back

Fun at the Pemigewasset

More showers Kroka style with Ruby

COMBINED HIGH SCHOOL/GAP YEAR MAHOOSUC BLOG

Kevin and Polly have led wilderness trips for 30 years, and care for over two dozen Yukon huskies. They have a deep-rooted history with Kroka, and were kind enough to provide us with the resources to camp and hand-craft our own wooden canoe paddles over the course of three days.

Crafting our paddles with Kevin was a valuable experience. We began with a prepared paddle blank—a thick, sharp-edged block of white ash. Jack-planes, hand-planes, spoke shaves, and a variety of other tools were used to shape the wood into a smooth, well-balanced blade.

Reina and Cate jack-planing their paddles

Kevin helping Emmett N

Finally we sanded it, painted it with finisher, and signed the shaft with a fountain pen. Our many hours in the workshop with Kevin taught us the value of handcrafted over mass-produced items. Making our own paddles connected us with the process, the tools, and the teacher. We all developed a new skillset and came away with a high-quality paddle that we’ll use on our expedition down the Rio Grande.

Sam’s finished paddle

The High Schoolers after hours of hard work

Our storytelling classes with Ruby culminated in writing our own short stories, responding to prompts within the lens of “hope, curiosity, and humor.” Each night was spent telling tales around the fire, beneath the brightest stars we’d ever seen. On the last morning at Mahoosuc, we were able to visit with the 27 sweet, wolfish huskies, giving some belly rubs and receiving kisses (and lots of dog hair) in return.

Aislyn’s new friend

Kisses for Luke

It was time for Gap Year students to venture from the valley into the snow-capped mountains we’d marveled at for the past few days. After a gear shuffle and story swapping, we journeyed into the woods.

Goodbye Mahoosuc

GAP YEAR BLOG

Due to the rain and snow we’d received, with signs of more to come, we re-routed from the Presidentials to the nearby Eastern Grafton Loop. Although we were a little disappointed at first that we wouldn’t be able to tackle the White Mountains, the loop ended up being a beautiful and challenging experience through a variety of terrain. Tricia led us through leaf-carpeted woods to our first campsite, 4.9 miles from the trailhead. All but the beech trees were bare, and there was a carpet of newly fallen leaves, saturated reds and yellows from the rain. We summited Puzzle mountain, with panoramic views—including Mahoosuc’s red barn far below. We even heard the dogs howling faintly.

Day one- Stuart Campsite

Day 2 was our longest push; 9.3 miles over multiple peaks. The day was full of thoughtful conversations and incredible views. At one point we were walking down a forest road bordered by golden-leafed birch trees, leaning together to form a sort of tunnel. As we ascended, we crossed streams overflowing with snowmelt (more than one shoe plunged into the water), and rock-scrambled past clouds of lichen and moss studded with small spruce trees. The only thing lacking was a Sasquatch sighting.

Aislyn successfully avoiding a foot-dunking

Our final day in the mountains was a drizzly ascent of Baldpate mountain. We emerged above tree line to buffeting 30mph winds and an expanse of rapidly moving whiteness. Every so often a gap in the clouds would reveal a glimpse of the valley below. Walking the half mile along the exposed ridge was a major highlight of the expedition.

Descent through the clouds

Summit selfie

Kiely preparing dinner over the fire screen

Since we’d decided on a shorter day, we had some time to hang out at the lean-to, massaging sore shoulders, journaling, and talking around the fire. The following morning called for a short 2.4 mile hike down to the road, where the van and trailer were waiting for us. We returned to Kroka excited to prepare for our expedition to the Southwest, where we’ll further connect with each other and the land around us.