The Kroka Community School spent a week preparing for our final winter expedition before our much anticipated spring break. With everyone taking on Big Job preparation tasks for the expedition pre-trip work went smoothly. We each packed our personal clothing, our amazing food managers, Michael and Desmond, prepared food for all our meals, and our diligent gear managers, Miriam and Max, distributed winter gear among everyone. We had to pack light in order to travel efficiently on our long days. After we were all ready, and had a sub par night’s rest, we left in the early morning darkness for our drive to Vermont.
We arrived at the head of the Catamount trail by daybreak and started our journey. We followed the trail alongside a flowing river, and turned off to follow an old railway bed for a while. Due to the high sun and massive amount of snowmelt, the rivers were raging. With water levels high, the crossing points were flooded with water and we had to find another way across. We found a place to establish a pulley system to get our backpacks and gear across the 30- foot-wide river, and Rebecca helped each of us cross. We all helped each other in one way or another, whether it was loading backpacks onto the pulley system, or giving each other motivation to bravely step into the icy river; we worked together to get everyone and everything across safely. The water was very cold and our feet felt frozen on the other side. We set up camp above the river bank and warmed up together around the wood stove.
Our second day began by rejoining the Catamount trail for four miles leading to Somerset Reservoir. We picked up our first food resupply and circled up for a meeting about ice safety. With warming weather and 60-degree days, we talked about hazards that we might come across, and learned rescue techniques. Dropping down from the shore onto the ice, our feet found new ground. The reservoir was vast and beautiful with bright sun shining above us. Our shadows in front of us showed our packs to be full and amounting to half the size of our bodies! It felt almost like summer.
After our longest day of hiking yet, we arrived at our camp: a frozen, open marsh with forested edges. It was not just any ordinary camp, but a camp our Winter Semester siblings had stayed at before and generously left us behind gifts. Below a fallen tree, in a cave of the earth, we found spruce bows, tent poles, and two days worth of firewood! All we had to do was set up our tent and rest. Sadie, our Camp Manager, laid many bows as a plush carpet, and Tyler, our Energy Manager, assembled and stoked the stove. Soon the tent was warm, cozy, and felt like home.
After a long slumber, we woke up and greeted the day with joy, easing into our sunny live-over day. Our morning was spent in the wide open snow field, taking time to listen to the land, lay in the snow, and sit in peace by ourselves. Here are some student poems from this time:
As the snow melts molding into spring,
It leaves life and joy turning the earth green.
The trees awaken, the sun is remembered
Leaving winter behind sending it to snooze.
The sky is clear,
The air is dry.
Spring is arriving,
Winter is going.
I am seeing the lake with its shiny gleam
The sky is blue, the mountains green.
We are like specs, walking silently across the ice.
The trees still, the water flowing
My mind clogged, my arms still rowing.
Oh sun, oh sun
I love the way you set and rise
Your color so bright and bold it makes me want to yell,
Oh gracious sun, I say thank you for your warmth
dark blue sky.
birds on the fly.
Bright hot sun,
warm as a summer day.
The only thing is,
I wish the snow fleas would go away!
The rest of our live-over day unfolded: bathing in the chilly stream, washing our clothes, and adventuring in small groups to complete a navigational exercise. Each group was assigned an island on Somerset reservoir to draw and detail out the birds-eye-view of. Our day ended with star-gazing and a lesson on the constellations.
The following days alternated between post-holing, bush-wacking, and more post-holing. We made our way around the base of Stratton Mountain, guided by our great navigators Ali and Zach. When we weren’t post-holing into snow thigh-deep during the days, we filled our afternoons with camp set up, crafting spoons and carving rings, and one afternoon a group hiked Stratton Mountain. Masai, Wilcca, Zach, Miriam, Tyler, and Michael all ventured up through a deep mist to the fire tower atop Stratton Mountain. The dense clouds cleared just enough to get views of where we had hiked in the earlier days of our trip!
After five days of sunshine, spring rains came through on our last evening. We awoke to a misty morning, the sun peeking out from the spruce trees, and we strapped on our snowshoes one last time to hike out to the van and head home.
Overall, we grew as a community this expedition and began to really understand the responsibility of our Big Jobs. This journey challenged us not only physically but mentally, in a way that brought us together as one. Having our expedition begin on the Spring Equinox let us witness changes in Mother Nature; as we moved between snow and sun we truly lived into the blooming spring.