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Can you feel it? The air is humming with the crackling energy of anticipation. Nervous and hopeful chatter seems to spread like wildfire from person to person. You can nearly smell it in the air like a thunder cloud ready to burst. As our time here at Kroka basecamp nears it’s end, we find ourselves in the midst of the hustle and bustle of preparing for our three and a half month expedition. Food must be dehydrated, sorted, weighed and packed; gear needs organizing; and my fellow students seize every last opportunity to practice their ski skills. In short, no time is wasted on activities aside from getting ready for our next big adventure, and the closer we get to the day of departure, the more the excitement seems to build.

Expedition legs, by length in days

One of the ways we can prepare for expedition is by building strong foundations of teamwork, community, and connection to the natural world. We have embraced this idea by doing service at Pratt’s Rock, in nearby Alstead, where we helped cut out small trees below a rocky peak, so that the beautiful view from the top could be restored to reveal a rolling mountainous landscape for visitors to enjoy. We stamped snow with our boots, we hacked with our axes, and used our strength and dexterity to haul heavy pieces of wood down a slippery path. But more than that, we discovered new ways to work together and to improve our efficiency as a group. As we hacked and stamped and stumbled on with bigger and bolder loads, you could hear many cheerful sounds ringing out through the forest: the clank of axe meeting wood, the crunch of snow and ice underfoot, the positive words of encouragement from each student as they egged each other on, and many whoops of laughter. These all blended together creating a beautiful symphony of friends working together in harmony with nature, and by the end of our first morning there every one of our hearts was filled to the brim with the warm glow of giving back. It felt wonderful!

Typical “Kroka”: analog over digital, reused over new, and lot’s to do!

Another teamwork-inducing activity we completed was the Adventure Race! All of us were paired up with another student and each team was given a map and a route to follow, and we set out individually with five minutes in between each group. What a time we had, sprinting through the woods, looking for the checkpoints to mark on our maps, hearts pounding as we leaped across frozen streams, ears alert for the sound of another group’s footfalls behind us. It felt as if we had stepped into another world where wild children raced through long-forgotten forests on unknown adventures. And an adventure it certainly was! Some members even resorted to piracy, providing many of us with a minor delay when we had to chase them down for the writing utensils they swiped from us. Many of us returned with improved directional awareness and map reading skills, things that will undoubtedly come in handy on expedition. 

And the excitement continues! We have continued to ski nearly every day. One day, at Crotched Mountain, some of us discovered what it was like to half-sit, half-slide down a black diamond slope… while others were unfortunate enough to have one ski pop off and make a run for it all the way to the bottom. 

Aria, Lael, Teo, and Theo prepping the pizza dough

We made pizza at Orchard Hill, just down the road, while James and Katie played some tunes on guitar and fiddle. We have gotten the van stuck and had to push it out many times, resulting in compost up the exhaust pipe and many good laughs. We’ve enjoyed a blazing hot sauna with periodic dips into a frozen pond, or in some cases, periodic trips to make snow angels. 

Swimming hole, Kroka style

Evan, Aria, Faith, and Sylvan have been making a special pair of leather shoes for each student in the group, a task we are finding to be surprisingly satisfying. And, my personal favorite activity, we hauled the snowmobile up Kroka’s biggest hill after it broke down in the swamp. We tied ropes to it and around ourselves, and presto: we became the coolest sled dog team in all the land!

The real “Winter Semester Fitness Test”

With our time of departure nearing, we grow steadily busier and busier. Yet life continues pretty much as usual here, with chores, academics, big jobs, and of course, many unexpected adventures. We find ourselves working extra hard to accomplish everything that needs attention here at basecamp and in preparation for expedition, but the work is fulfilling and we know that once on trail, everything will be more than worth the effort. We can barely wait for that moment of freedom and utter exhilaration to come!

Rose and I, after an hour of shoveling snow. The sun was just coming up, and although you can’t tell by the way we’re dressed, the temperature was about 5 degrees