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2024 Full Circle Winter Semester Blog #2

Leaving one home…

Forest Conversations
By Lily

A song to begin. One from the home I
left behind and one taught by a family
newly found. A song to the grove that
offers many gifts in boughs and lessons.
They wear a different face in the bright day.

“Good morning, grandmother birch! You
must have stood here awhile, watching
the grove grow. Long enough to feel the
 cracks in your back and feed the partridges,
Though luckily not the beaver.
But how did you decide on this spot
where you stand? How did you know
where to root your life, your view of the world?

“The wind carried me here, where I
ought to be.”

And back to the grove of gifts who held
my dreams in their soft arms last night,
will you hear all I haven’t said? Patiently
listen to my wandering thoughts, needs and
questions of this journey that I thought
were mine alone to bear. Until questions
turn to answers and clear a path for me to
follow, lighter of heart and spirit.

The swampy fir and the scarred beech stand
together at water’s edge. “How long have you been

Emptiness. Crowding young things. But nothing before
that clearing of land.

And a time simply standing alongside the
blighted beech, feeling the pits and hollows of stubborness.

Silence here, where the chickadees make themselves
heard over whispering firs, wind filled with certainty,
and the shuffle of a few remaining beech leaves. 

No words needed, held by the bright winter morning
Among the great limbs of friends and elders.

Our trusted navigators, Lily and Arnett

Greetings from Crawford Notch, New Hampshire! It’s been a long (and yet also super quick) three weeks on the winter trail, traveling along hiking trails, snowmobile trails, roadsides, and doing plenty of bushwhacking too! 

We left Kroka smiling, clean, and with blessedly unbruised hips. After a hard first day crossing frozen Lake Warren and traveling on snowmobile trails, we made camp in a beautiful ravine near Alstead. Challenge struck early: after less than a day of travel, a few people’s ski skins had already started to peel, slowing them down enormously. This didn’t prove to be a big deal yet, however, because there was so little snow that we were barely able to ski anyway. 

On day two, we traveled to Bellows Falls, VT, where we planned to take the train to Hanover, NH. There we would hop on the Appalachian Trail. However, a few miles from the train station, we received word that our train had been postponed until the next day due to bad weather. Many of us were curious as to where we would be able to camp in the post-industrial town of Bellows Falls –but fortunately the Basin Farm community extended a hand and hosted us on their farm.

Photo credit: Russell, with his film camera!

The next morning we attended their community meeting and breakfast. We then spent the rest of morning touring and helping out on the farm. We learned that they are a religious community, dedicated to living simply with one another and the land. Their views and practices prompted deep discussion within our own group about how we live by what we value.

Russell and Grandmother Fire

The warmth and hospitality they demonstrated has stuck with us–they gifted us with a beautiful riverside campsite, served us as much delicious food as we could eat (their homemade spelt bread was a particular highlight with the group), and shared a huge amount of kindness. As afternoon rolled around, we hiked the short distance to the train station. 

For some, the train was a new and exotic experience–Miriam roamed the cars and toured the bathrooms in awe. Ben H and Max found a half-eaten ham sandwich left on a seat… Others spent the ride detangling hair suffering from severe hat head, journaling, and more.

Between train and wilderness, Arnett and Ben H pound pavement for a stretch

Once off the train, we set up camp and started on the AT the next day. With our train ride out of the way, it finally felt like we were setting out on the journey in earnest. 

Just like at basecamp, routine is key on trail. We wake at 5:30, cook and eat breakfast, and then quickly begin camp take-down. We wrestle the tent into its bag, stow extra firewood, and try to leave our site looking untouched. We generally get moving around 9:00 to the bellows of “POB!!” (Packs on Backs).

On days when we’re unsure whether to put on skis or walking boots, the abbreviations get more complex: for instance, on a day when we start with a very short road walk with a long snowmobile trail section immediately after, a navigator might yell for “SBOF, SOP, and POB!”–Ski Boots on Feet, Skis on Packs, and Packs on Backs! 

And while we’re talking abbreviations…________________________________________________________________


While traveling we’ve created the FIVE Ps! These terms ring incessantly throughout the forest wherever we go…

POB– Packs On Backs!
PUHA– Pick Up and Haul A**!
PMA– Positive Mental Attitude
PSB– Pick Some Bows!
PSF– Process Some Firewood!

Log yard

In addition to these abbreviations, many scales have been created to check in on each other’s various states and conditions:

GH (Grissett-Holcomb) Scale – this scale runs from 1 to 5, and measures how close you are to tears: 1 being no chance of crying, and 5 being actively crying/less than 5 minutes away. The group average hovers around a steady 2 –not too bad!

HHH (Haupt-Holcomb Homesickness) Scale – this scale runs from 32 to 92 (just for fun). The title is pretty self explanatory. 

Aria, Una, Ben S & Miriam running down Moosilauke with high purple PMA

PMA Scale – this scale runs through the rainbow from red to purple (again, just for fun) – red being the most horrible Positive Mental Attitude imaginable, and purple being the best imaginable. 

BS (Boyle-Saunders) scale– this scale denotes levels of sketchiness. It runs from 1 to 10: 1 being you could do it in your sleep; 5 = needing to take your sunglasses off in order to survive; 10 = no chance of survival. The highest we’ve made it on the scale so far is a 7, when we encountered our first “bush bridge.” Consisting of just a few small tree trunks and constructed by Chris in a matter of minutes, it allowed us to cross a swollen creek.

Arnett & Hope traversing some “sketchy” terrain


Our days on trail are long and hard, and people’s placement on the various scales listed above wax and wane dramatically throughout the day. A major contributing factor to this is pack weight — sometimes we have our skis on our feet, but often we have to carry them, which adds a lot of weight! Additionally, we only carry a week or so of food at a time before getting resupplied with food drops along roads. This means that at the end of the week, our packs are pleasantly light, but almost double in weight once we each pick up a few food bags! 

Twig quiz!

One thing missing from our daily routine is lunch – -it’s just super inefficient to stop and cook a whole lunch, and we’d get too cold standing around for so long! Instead of getting a traditional lunch, every morning each person gets a bag of “day food” –trail mix, beef jerky, dried fruit, cheese, butter, and other delectable treats. We snack on these bags throughout the day (that is, if you have the self restraint to make your bag last the whole day), and already a complex trading market has formed. 

Baker River

Around 5:00, we start looking for a good spot to make camp — ideally it should have ample flat open space for the tent and a nice ring of small trees around the open space for lines, plentiful conifers for laying bough floors, good firewood, and running water (although often we melt snow). As soon as we settle on a location, everyone springs into action: packs come off and get leaned against trees, all group gear comes out of packs and is placed by a designated “gear tree,” and we form a circle to designate tasks.

Kissing Moosilauke goodbye

Three people set the tent, which includes harvesting a couple small trees for tent poles, as well as setting up a small titanium wood stove which Max carries on his back instead of a normal backpack! Three more people gather boughs, with which we lay a floor in the tent –fir is preferable, but hemlock and spruce will do.

Two people make a fire and cook dinner (generally a grain and legume), and the remaining four collect and process a few small trees into firewood. After everything is done, we gather in the tent for journal time, dinner, and evening meeting before crawling into our sleeping bags, soon to do it all over again. 

Cole, Addie & Russell plod along

Typically we travel for two days, before “Living Over” for a day at the camp we set up the night before. These rest days are called “live-overs” for a reason — we are able to actually live a little bit! We do sponge or stream baths, hand wash socks and underwear, cook a hot lunch, nap, and have academic time –we just wrapped up a small unit learning some hyper-local history of logging and tourism in 1800’s New Hampshire. This time is always greatly appreciated, and the balance of go, go, go on travel days with resting makes this lifestyle much more sustainable, rather than just wearing ourselves out.

Class with Chris during a liveover



Happy 16th Birthday Aria! (Feb 16th)

Happy 17th Birthday Addie! (Feb 22nd)

Happy 19th Birthday Thomas! (March 3rd)

Happy 17th Birthday Russell! (March 7th)


Ode to the Winter Tent
By Miriam

Scribe’s note: For the first week and a half of expedition the group slept in two green nylon tents. We quickly realized that the tents had many shortcomings and the decision was made to switch to the faithful semester tent of egyptian cotton. Miriam was quite happy about this change…

Off-white winter tent machine-made in 2021
I like to pretend you were hand sewn in the early months of 1901
Er som’in
Your intricate design lifts my spirits high
Though many a knot I do have to tie
Yeah, that’s a’ight
When I’m held within your walls
I’m never alone
Whichever place we are
It’s my one and only home
That ugly, puny green tent could never compare
I can’t even classify it as a winter tent
That wouldn’t be fair
When I been out in the bush
Hiking all the day long
I can’t wait to huddle up in you
Sing me a good dinner song
After the conference of the eve has been dismissed
With fatigue my head does sag
I wake up 1am sharp to find your tent wall just has seeped its way into my bag
And though this situation causes my soul pain
And I really wish you could do better
If I were sleeping outside in the snow or the rain
There’s an 80% chance I would be wetter
Overall, my dear tent
You’re a pretty good gal
My love for you cannot be counted
In the morn I bid ado for 12.2 hours
And onto Cole’s back you are mounted 

Not THE Winter Tent


Land Perspective Poem
By Cole

They came from the south
They came all clad in red
And spread a sort of dread through my roots
For I greatly fear they may come near
And harvest me in a trice

They came near for but a moment
And left me with a scar, kissed the wound
Then scuttled away back to their boggy camp

I missed the stove but I quickly dove
Into a night of listening
To their ghostly howls and churning bowels
No hour passed without a blow

I swear if there was lightning in the air
It’d go up like a pine
Now life round here is often queer and sometimes even fine
But 12 kasha heads all clad in red
Is the struggle you might find.


After a much needed, three day layover spent resting and preparing for leg two of expedition at the AMC Highland Center Bunkhouse, we are ready to head back on trail! We’ll check back in a few weeks, a hundred miles further northeast…

Until then,
Your scribes,

Russell and Aria

The whole group on East Pond, beneath Scar Ridge: Chris Knapp, Ben H, Ben S, Thomas, Cole, Una, Aria, Addie, Miriam, Russell, Arnett, Lily, Max and Hope (and Sam who took the photo)