Last Chance to Register for Summer Programs! We have a few spots open for all ages: LEARN MORE

2023 Arctic to Atlantic Winter Semester Blog #3

It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from us, and a lot has happened! We teamed up with the legendary Chris Knapp to embark on our very first expedition to the not-so-snowy Green Mountains. As one of the map queens, I can say that our itinerary strayed far from our original plan, but, starting at Somerset Reservoir, we traveled a total of 138.3 km!

Map queen, Lilah, and Matias crossing Somerset.

The average day on the trail began with Chris singing us  awake. Sometimes, though, this wasn’t enough. A couple different solutions were tested, including Chris becoming a caterpillar and rolling over all of us, and at a certain point we resorted to picking up folks and putting them outside.

Ely, who may have benefited from aforementioned various wake-up solutions,  enjoying the snow.

Once everyone’s up, we pack up our personal gear and go to sit spots. This became a time many of us cherished, as it’s one of the few times we get to be alone. Afterwards, comes breakfast and very often a morning poop following that. Finally, we finish packing up camp and making bunny homes with the boughs.

Harvesting boughs, for the floor of the winter tent.

Upon packing up the tent, the boughs are returned to the woods (“bunny homes”).

Then we head off for the day. We ski, munch on day food from our squirrel bags, and learn about what surrounds us. Finally, we  arrive at our home for the night.

Bria, Chris, Isaac, and Laura at camp.

Cole snacking from the squirrel bag on trail.

Setting up camp is definitely a process, but we are getting more efficient at it. We harvest poles and process firewood, set up the tent, and make dinner on the firescreen. It’s always a happy moment once camp’s made. It means we can take off our ski boots and go into the warm tent.

Chris noodling with the stove pipe outside of the Winter Tent.

Ian and Bria laundering on the trail. Hygiene and staying clean on expedition is the most important factor to staying healthy. One of the many routines at camp.

Here is one place where styles and habits differ: The savvy semester students take their ski boots off outside and strut barefoot into the tent. The less savvy semester students take their boots off later in the tent and learn the hard way about keeping their feet happy and healthy. 

Ely boiling water on the fire screen on a not-so-snowy day on the Catamount Trail.

In our warm tent, we journal about the day and then eat! Dinner’s usually always great. After dinner, there’s some prep for the next day, evening meeting and then bed time! 

-Bria & Lilah

Matias, repairing his ski, again.

2/15 – Flowage W of Catamount Trail
Expedition Day 3
Temp: low 40’s
Precip: light sprinkling in the early morning
Sky: cumulus AM, clear midday and PM
Wind: warm, south

Live-over day! A big chunk of the day was devoted to fire solos. Everyone picked a direction and headed out to cook a bit of summer sausage. Bria almost made it to Stratton Pond, maybe 3 km away, and everyone saw some moose signs. I headed North on an old trail out of our bog but didn’t go very far because of downed trees. But I still made a pretty good fire nest. The quiet felt so soothing.

Cole and Lilah warming up in a shelter they made.

The snow is harder, and can be so frustrating to move in. But knowing that I can be warm is comforting. Chris read us a passage on identity related to a place this morning. It was moving, and felt truthful in many ways.

Matias trekking through the bush.

We belong to places. Right now, this spruce swamp feels welcoming. It cradles us with tall trunks on either sides with water and wonder for the open space. This place has sat here for years – it feels like a friend inviting us to sit down with it’s gifts.

It’s been so long, let us be together awhile.
– Laura

Rebecca, Lilah and Ian at camp.

After a few rainy camps, we came to the dreaded Gregory Swamp where we said farewell to Rebecca and where Ian conked his head. This camp was soon christened “Concussion Camp.” We skied for two more before until Ian was, regretfully, pulled off the trip. It was also Sir Nicholas’s birthday, and it snowed!

Lilah enjoying the snow.

That’s when our trip changed notes fully. We missed Ian dreadfully, but on a brighter note, we were able to go a whole day without taking off our skis!

Chris and Laura consulting the map discussing routes.

2/25 – Okemo Basin to VTrans District 3 Garage
Expedition Day 13 – 4km
Temp: negatives warming to high 20’s
Precip: flurries in the evening
Sky: Altostratus moving in throughout the day
Wind: Southeast, very light, not noticeable

I was cozy all night even though it dropped down to negative 10 ish, so that was a good feeling. In the morning we sat in our sit spots, and I was alone in the silence of the fresh cold snow fall. I’ve come to really appreciate the alone time. It was just a really special time. Okemo basin was our most beautiful campsite yet. Here, Chris taught us how to build snow shelters, but sadly we said goodbye to another member of the group as Isaac departed the expedition.

Isaac harvesting wood at camp.

Fully charged up by the gorgeous live-over, we were ready to make the climb up to the summit of Okemo. We skied up the backside of Ludlow Mountain or Okemo Ski Resort. Once we hit the groomed ski trails our scales weren’t enough so we had to herringbone for so long. I fell twice and my arms and legs burned.

Semester, in the heart of expedition travel, checking out the resort map.

At the top there were so many people. It was jarring. We took our packs off and skied down half the mountain twice. We even rode a lift! It was weird being moved so fast and high by something other than our own bodies. We spent the day dropping knees and tearing it up tele style on Okemo. After all that sick shredding, we were super tired. Tonight we’re staying right next to a plow truck garage. Lots of beeping and sounds. It’ll be an interesting night of sleep.- Bria & Lilah

A tableau of juxtaposition, as the expedition route crosses a ski resort.

Thankfully, the woods behind the VTrans district Ludlow municipal garage showed their true potential and we were grateful for good sleep, because day 14 (our last day) was our biggest day yet. We skied 32.6 km to Farm and Wilderness where we met Jo and Alex and where we reunited with Ian. Now we’re preparing or our White Mountains Leg. -Lilah

The Bush Is
The bush is a story. It unfolds new pages with each glance. There is an almost forgotten treasure, hidden in plain sight. It’s the marvel that we once lived here, died here, learned how to be comfortable here. The bush is like a sprawling saga of characters: the trickling rain in spring here, the creeping cranberries there.

It’s a story weathered by many years, so much that some places are cracked, burned, or ripped out. Much of it is forgotten, but it’s always changing, showing a fresh face to the fields. It’s a place that rewards curiosity, brings riddles, and humbles you. How amazing it is to be even an inkblot moving through those leaves.

How amazing that once you begin to listen, you are a part of everything.

– Laura

Cole, Laura and Lilah.

I am Learning
I’m learning to live with the children of Mother Earth.
I’m learning about the trees. Their different characteristics and personalities. How to help them to strive, while using what we feel we need.
I’m learning about fire. How she wants to burn. How to process wood for her.
I am learning how to be warm in the cold. How to not sweat but not be cold either.
I’m learning how to eat and appreciate the food.
I’m learning to appreciate life and feel fulfilled by the simple needs of survival.
I’m learning to live without all the stuff.
I’m learning to use the tools we have to create what we need.
– Bria

Bria at home on the trail.

From a Tree’s Perspective
I am the Hemlock. Tall, I sway in the wind, stretching out in every direction. I reach out searching for my friend the sun, surrounded by friends with whom I live out my days. I am the Hemlock. 

Today I was joined by a group of short strangers, not tied to this world. They drifted in from the lake, clad with big backs and long feet. They quickly made home on my brother, the marsh ice. They gathered my fallen and gave burials to them for heat. They plucked my lowest arms, leaving enough to still grow back. I am grateful to help. They currently reside in a hut they brought. I wonder what they think about.
– Ian

Ian splitting firewood.