Hello All! I’m Faith, and I am honored to be in charge of keeping you up to date on what shenanigans my fellow semester students get into this semester. I hope you enjoy hearing about our many experiences together here at Kroka. So without further delay, I present to you the first chapter of the Winter Semester 2021 adventures!

Your Faith-ful Scribe

Monday, January 18th, 2021: this was the day we had all been waiting for, counting down and repeating to our friends and families many times for what felt like forever. From each of our respective corners of the world we came, and gathered together here in Marlow, New Hampshire for what would be the beginning of a life-changing experience for each and every one of us. After a “knighting” ceremony where we presented each other with axes, we walked silently into the forest, waving farewell to our loved ones, and hello to this new adventure we are embarking on.

Kroka is beginning to feel like home to us, and we are growing to know one another each day. Life here is starting to feel like second nature. Academics take up much of our time, and we have a fitness block every day, where we challenge our bodies to do new, unfamiliar things. 

The victors of the sledding race celebrate

Soon we were starting to recognize the rhythmic flow of daily life here at Kroka base camp. We all awoke at the crack of dawn in order to be ready for the morning chores we had chosen for the week. Some of us hauled logs for firewood from the forest, while others put finishing coats on tables, tidied up the farmhouse, or even made breakfast (pancakes and sausage, on this particular day!).

Usually we have lessons in the Community Room in the farmhouse, but one day, we trekked up a path at nearby Pitcher Mountain and found ourselves atop an open hill with a panoramic view and a lookout tower for our Living on Earth class with Jackie. It started to snow, and the chilled wind whipped about us as we huddled together in a circle sipping tea and brushing snowflakes off our notebooks, learning the weather while feeling it very fully! Once we were nearly frozen stiff, we returned to basecamp and continued our lesson where we learned how to identify the different types of clouds.

We kicked off our fitness at base camp with a skate skiing lesson with Misha, the founding director of Kroka. We soon learned that Misha is good at basically everything under the sun. We have much to learn from him; he has much to teach us, and we are all grateful for all he has brought us.

Skate skiing is (for some) incredibly difficult to learn, while for others, it seems to come pretty easily somehow! It’s sort of like ice skating, except your skates are longer than your body, like skating with duck feet. Some of us got a bit frustrated with ourselves when we failed to grasp the motion right away, but we all knew there would be plenty of opportunities to exercise our skills in the following days. By the following week, we had become proficient enough to take on Wild Wings Nordic Center, over in Vermont, to hone our skate skiing skills. The practice there ended in a relay race and chaos broke forth, and we had a blast all around.

Ski relay race… before the chaos

On Wednesday, we all piled into the van like eggs in a carton, headed to go telemark (tele) skiing at Pat’s Peak. Once there, Jo showed us the ropes on the bunny hill. Again, for some of us, tele skiing is a challenging learning curve, and for some, it’s not as hard as skate skiing – but still tricky to pick up. As we skied down the mountain in the approaching snowstorm and packed up to leave, it felt pretty magical to be out there amongst the steadily descending flakes, knowing there would be many more moments like this to share in the months to come. 

Look mom, I can tele!

Another new and difficult challenge was biking on an icy, snowy trail without putting our feet down! We are challenging ourselves in many ways, and it does take a lot of hard work and commitment. But we are learning and digging deeper into resilience, teamwork, and dedication more than we knew we could. There are so many wonderful things to be gained from this experience.

A typical Kroka style knife, made by a student, for a student

Over the weekend, Samuel, a 2017 Kroka winter semester alum, came to lead a knife-hafting workshop. He taught us how to measure and trace our knife designs onto blocks of wood, and shape them with a rasp; how to cut the excess off the tang of a blade and to epoxy it into the wooden handle. Over the next few days we would work tirelessly on this special project: grinding, drilling, sawing, gluing, scraping, sanding, wood-burning… needless to say, it was quite the task, and we even made beautiful leather sheaths to contain our sharp blades. Later in the week we gathered in a circle and presented our knife to the friend for whom it was made, along with a poem or a few heartfelt (and occasionally funny) words and well-wishes. It was a fun and beautiful ceremony, and we were each so happy with the incredibly unique and special knife that was gifted to us by a friend. I know we will all cherish them forever, and are very grateful to Samuel for his time and patience in teaching us this craft.

We are a group of talented craftspeople!

Sylvan presents James with his knife in a special ceremony

One day, after skiing, we all came in worn out and hungry – ready for a big meal. Upon arrival at the farmhouse, we were told that there had been a terrible mistake: there wasn’t enough lunch for all of us, so we would have to race sleds down the hill to determine who would have a full belly and who would go hungry for the rest of the afternoon. We all burst out of the doors in what must have been a whirlwind of blue Kroka jackets and puffy coats, and quickly piled into two big sleds. What a blast! We were off, speeding down the hill very nearly out of control, with big bright smiles on our faces. As it turns out, there was food enough for everyone after all, so we stumbled inside laughing and sat down to a lovely, filling meal.

As we travel further into our time here at Kroka, we find ourselves incredibly busy with what we call Big Jobs. For the duration of the semester, each student is given a unique responsibility that is essential to keeping the group operating smoothly while on expedition. These tasks require the utmost time, focus, and dedication from each of us, and they will be a primary theme in our lives until we return in June. It is now my great honor to present to you our incredible semester students and their Kroka superpower!

Katie, Food manager: in charge of all our meals and keeping us well-fed throughout our expedition with nourishing and delicious food. Seconds? Yes, please!

Henry, Food manager: provides us with plenty of yummy snacks on the go, so we don’t bite each other’s heads off before we set up camp at the end of the day. 

Will, Firewood and Medic: when one of us gets a blister roughly the size and shape of Hawai’i, we know we can count on him to patch things up. He’s also in charge of our firewood, so that our stove is well-stocked to keep us toasty warm at night. 

Faith, Scribe and van and trailer manager: see above, plus I keep the van clean and organized, make sure the spare tire has air, check the oil, and maintain and improve our cargo trailer.

Evan, Kitchen and Hygiene manager: in charge of the camp kitchen. When cooking, organization and cleanliness is key, so this is an important task. He is also in charge of all things hygiene, including the toilet, and helps out on the farm when in base camp.

Lael and James, Travellers (skis, boats, and bikes): Skis, boats, bikes: that’s what these two are all about. Their job is to look after all the gear that moves. Heck, they are even in charge of a snowmobile, so they get to lord that over us!

Lissa, Sewing and Repair manager: sewing, patching magician who fixes our broken, ripped, torn, busted, frayed, or melted gear. We certainly give her plenty to do around here!

Rose, Camp and Gear manager: in charge of all the gear that stays put (except snowshoes). Setting up the tent at night is her job, as well as making sure the rest of us aren’t too messy with our gear. We’ll do our best!

Theo, Logistics manager: in charge of arranging our layovers and resupplies, and making sure we don’t waste all our money on sriracha sauce. Because that’s your job as a parent: if you want your child to grow up big and strong, and develop a sophisticated palate, send your child sriracha. Bulk size preferred.

Aria, Water and Laundry manager: is the Kroka goddess of water. Everything water is her responsibility: calculating the amount we’ll need, melting snow, heating it up for a pack of thirsty tea enthusiasts, etc. She also has the grand duty of washing all our dirty laundry. 

Sylvan, Energy manager: Let there be light! He’s the person who keeps our stove going and our headlamps well-charged. When darkness sets in, we know we can count on him to brighten things up.

Teo, Navigator: the one who will be making sure we end up where we want to go, and who will have to endure us asking him every kid’s favorite questions: “are we there yet?” and “which way to Canada?” 

Lissa sewing away

You can look forward to another update in a couple of short weeks, as we’re putting the finishing touches on our rations, gear, and route, and getting ready to depart on skis, headed for the border!  Until then, we hope you enjoy some winter sports and crafts of your own.