Thursday, July 14, 2016

Final Post: Basecamp and Onwards

Our last two weeks at basecamp have gone by in a flash. As soon as we arrived home, we sprung into action unpacking and setting up camp for our stay. Our camp was tucked into a little nook in the woods across a brook. The first week at basecamp was spent doing our Independent Student Projects. We were all paired up to work on different projects around the farm for the week to delve deeper into a thing that we care about.

Independent Student Projects

Tanner and Sam
Building a solar dehydrator for the Kroka farm barn
Adam and Julian
Timber framing a porch at Rogers Road
Kendal and Savannah
Program teaching assistants at Kroka
Finn and Sebi
Designing and building a composting system for Perkins Elementary School
Claudia and Caleb
Trail work and mapping
Bea and Rory
Farming at Kroka
Apprenticing at Orchard Hill Bakery

            We finished our project on Saturday and presented to the rest of the group on our learning.

            The last week has been filled with last academics, working on our performance, and helping out on the farm. Though our final week is coming to a close, it has hardly registered that we are going home. As we begin to say our farewells to this community that has become our family, we see what our teachers have been teaching us all along: the importance of our community.

We will always have this experience in our hearts and will carry what we have learned throughout our lives. It is time for us to go out into the world and share our story.

Blog #9: The Road Winds Home

            It’s the last leg of expedition and we have entered the realm of society. Society is a wakeup call, a reminder of what lies ahead of us. Biking has been our transition leg, and we are grateful for it. Though there is anticipation of returning from the woods, it was an adventure to see the external world once again.

I wish you could see the sunrise, sleepy one—
While you rest it crests through mountain haze
And rises into the blue sky.

I want you, slumbering soul,
To smell the brisk morning air;
It waits to invigorate your being to welcome you to today.

~Sebi Crocetti

Our views of travel have been transformed: the fierce bite of skiing, the rhythmic moving of hiking, the soft breezes of paddling, the blaring sun of rowing, and now the screaming wind of biking. It is as if we have attached wings and flown all the way home.

I can’t stop smiling:

As I speed downhill,
The wind in my face,
I realize that my cheeks ache from grinning so widely.

On flat stretches as we fly by with such ease,
I smile and imagine
how long these distances took us on foot months ago.

Even on uphills I smile,
At the determination within me to reach the top,
And at the satisfaction of getting there.

~Kendal Pittman

            We have spent the past thirteen days biking home. Though we could have made it in a much shorter amount of time, we took the scenic route filled with adventures along the way. On our second day of travel we stopped and took off our gear to explore our first single track! The ride was a jungle of spring; green leaves and grass surrounded us as rivulets streamed down from above and the sun beat down on our backs. This was our first time on trails together, exploring the world on our glorious bikes. There were definitely a lot of adjustments to be made and lessons to be learned:

Example of a Daily Log:
19-mile bike ride today, plus an additional 6-mile single track. There was 4 miles of steep uphill. Going down the mountain was very fun and got us quickly to the single track. We then unloaded our bikes and went on single track. Afterwards we went to Dorset town and got lunch from the general store. They were very generous and gave us a free water gallon and let us full our water bottles up in the sink. Tanner popped a tire so some of us stayed behind while it were fixed. We had to replace it cause the patches were taking to long. The general store gave us Clementines! We bike 7 more miles to Someday Farms and had a tour/intro. They gave us 96 eggs! They are delicious.
~Adam Mekki

5 Tips for Beginner Mountain Bikers

1.     When pumping uphill, make sure to balance your weight between front and back to avoid spinning out of tipping back.
2.     Don’t just go from point A to point B- find good lines and ride them.
3.     Build momentum in higher gears before downshifting to climb a hill.
4.     Look where you are going, not where you are.
5.     Shred the gnarr!
~Rory Wade

            Summer is here! We are the smelliest we have ever been. After a long while of swimming in the cold river and lakes to bathe, we have developed a certain stench of the woods: we smell of wonderful dirt and well-earned sweat.

            Throughout the winter and spring one theme tended to come me, especially at the beginning of a new leg. This theme manifested itself into the form of this song to the tune of “here comes the bride”:

“Here comes the stank,
All strong and rank,
There goes the clean,
Never to be seen!”

~Sam Trowbridge

Our smell and the weather have called the bugs to our camps. Here is a song about the horror of the infinite bugs:

Black flies, the world’s greatest pests
More vicious than all of the rest.

I’m trying to write
Yet I’m plagued by their bite,
So these insects from above I detest

~Caleb Kennedy

            Though the bugs are everywhere, the weather has brought good things too. The warmth is a haven and a newfound freedom. The days are so long that there are some nights when we are tucked in our sleeping bags before the last light of day has even said her farewell.
            Along with the changing of the weather we have had a major change in environment as well. After living in the woods for some time, it has been a definite transition to come back to the bustling world.  We have stepped back into the flow of things, however, and spent many days talking to various people and communities and visiting a variety of farms. We suddenly have access to things we never dreamed of in the winter, the most prominent one being food. We would go to local co-ops every few days and also got a lot of fresh food from the farms we visited. There was even a day in Londonderry when we stumbled on…

            The morning is warm and the sun is working hard to burn his way through the muggy haze. We bike down six miles from our camp on Mount Tabor to an IGA grocery store in Londonderry. As our food managers find and buy our food for the next few days, the rest of us lie on the grass, kick around a soccer ball, and explore the loading docks behind the store. A cardboard box is found there, full of foods just past their expiration dates. In this treasure chest are strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, basil, grapes, and one precious mango. We run into the store and inquire about the destiny of this box. We are told that it usually goes to pig farmers, but anyone is welcome to it. Suddenly, our already much-anticipated lunch becomes a feast.
~Hailey White

The first farm we visited was Someday Farm, a small organic farm located near Dorset, Vermont. There we did service, clearing a pasture and mulching a raspberry bed.
            Our visit to Someday Farm was a great experience. We got to learn from Scout, Maria, and Tree about their passion for the work they do. The food grown at Someday Farm provides healthy, organic good for their community. At the farm they have three houses where their various vegetables are grown. They also have two cows and hundreds of chickens. When we walked up to the chickens they puttered about our feet giving us questioning looks of, “food?” The farm was an inspiring place to learn about how we can be so connected to our food.

~Bea Bittenbender

            The next day we headed down on a long descent to go caving. We went in small groups into the cave, crawling through extremely small tunnels and wet squeezes to where we met back up in the big cavern. From there, we continued our explorations to the underground lake, waterfall, other secret passages, and a deep hole called the corkscrew. We all made it through despite getting stuck at times, and embraced the sun as we scrambled free.

Into the hole I go
Not exactly in the know
Of what this cave will show.

Down the marble I slide
In the darkness I confide
What is it I must find?

Through the mud I crawl
Why am I so tall?
It helps to be small.

Up a rock I climb
Not thinking of the time
And leaving my search behind.

~Finn Anderson

            The next day we met Roger Haydock, a geologist. He took us for a hike at Mt. Baker and taught us of the very rocks we were standing on. Soon after hearing about all the rocks of life, we went rock climbing! We went in pairs to explore the seemingly infinite climbing possibilities.

            Looking up at the rock, it seemed that many possible handholds and their bouldering potential looked promising. Instead of gripping rock, however, my hand loosened dirt and moss, which rolled down the rock and covered me. After multiple attempts in different areas, I had simply achieved coating the ground in more moss and so I reluctantly moved on to a less mossy boulder, eager to climb.

~Claudia Danford

            The second place we visited was Fair Winds Farm and Wild Carrot Farm, which share land to run a horsepower program while growing food. We spent a lot of time talking to Jay and Janet about their farm and how they function. They live a wonderful lifestyle and have many stories of how they came to work on a draft-horse farm. Our service work was planting strawberries and flowers with Caitlin and Jesse. It rained the whole morning; it was a light, warm sprinkle that made the world smell like the fresh dirt we were planting in.

            At Fair Winds Farm I talked with Jay, a farmer who works with draft horses. He was interested in working with horses as a young man because of their low impact on the earth and the general appeal of working with animals. He taught himself to farm in this way with a pair of old Amish-tramped horses that knew much more than he did and was very patient with him when he messed up. Now Jay is a very skilled driver who teaches workshops on draft horses to others who are inspired to farm in this manner. Despite it being less profitable and more challenging, they enjoy this method above the use of tractors.

~Julian Lindholm Fiske

            The last farm we visited was Basin Farms. They are an amazing community that run a farm together and rely on each other. Throughout the semester we have spent a lot of time understanding how a balanced community works. Basin Farms was a beautiful example of how important the people around us and in our lives are.

            Every member of a community has their own specific role. Each individual within the community must take ownership of his or her role to ensure that the community stays functional and healthy.
~Tanner Bogner

We were truly going home.

            The last full day of riding culminated with a woods trail full of mosquitos. It had reached about 90 degrees F during the heat of the day, and had cooled to a bearable ‘sweltering’. We then started climbing a hill on the trail. This hill might as well have been the ascent from the River Styx back to the world of the living. The mosquitos waited as ghosts, and the heat was completely real.

            This day was a wonderfully ice cream-filled last full day of expedition. We said farewell to the simple pleasures of trail life and prepared for the busy dance of basecamp. The next day we packed up and headed home.

We were back in this place that we had dreamed of for so long,
This place that was only a whisper of a memory.

But once we arrived the whisper became a loud voice
Belting our memories that flooded back to us.

We remembered how much had been different,
And yet so much was still the same.

We were coming home,
And we were glad to be back.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Blog #8: White Water Paddling & Rowing

River People

We are river people. We live and breathe and speak the river. Some days are spent in the snow and rain, our clothes soaked through and our minds in disbelief that they will ever dry. But the sun always comes and dries our clothes and skin, and we continue on.

We have spent the past eight days canoeing down the Clyde River, into Lake Memphremagog, over the border into Canada, down the Missisquoi River, and into Lake Champlain. Overall we covered 115 miles- our longest day being 23 miles and our shortest 10.

We learned a variety of different things on this leg of expedition, primarily: how to white water canoe. It was quite the adventure, and we definitely had some fateful flips going down the rapids. But the sun was out, and our clothes would soon dry and the next day would be filled with more rapids and flipping.

Though our days were long, we always found joy in what we were doing. The most popular canoe game was to put on our “battle helmets” (bailers, aka plastic milk jugs that are cut open to make bailers) and try to grab the canoe painter lines and tie each other to a tree along the way or drag one another off course.


We had such a lovely time on the river. There was so much to learn and take in, especially with the blooming of spring. I know I personally ended this first spring leg dreaming of more nights on the river.


Freedom is an incredibly special thing. It is rare and coveted, and I have been lucky enough to know what it is to be free for my entire life. Besides the occasional time-out or strongly enforced bedtime as a young child, I have no sense of what it is to lack freedom on a personal level. In some ways, freedom is a state of mind. If you let yourself become weighed down by the small things, let yourself succumb to the pressure around you, you can never be free.

There are so many people in the world who, from a western perspective, have no freedom at all. Sometimes this is true but we must also remember that freedom is an opinion and also a very personal thing. I think as long as your primal needs are met, and you truly believe it yourself, you can be free.
~Anonymous student

The transition from the river to the lake was a rainy one. After having our first rowing lesson, we rowed all but a mile to our camp still on the Missisquoi River. Our first full day of rowing was about 22 miles. Though overcast in the morning, the sun came out to welcome us at long last. On the third day we had a live-over for the first time in 10 days. We didn’t even realize how long we had been moving until we stopped and just breathed. We had a wonderful day of watercolor and exploration of Valcour Island. There is so much history that takes place on this great lake.  The Battle of Valcour took place at the Island, a fantastic battle of the British and the Americans in which the Americans lost after barley escaping the grasp of the British.

From the perspective of an American solder- 
Battle of Valcour  Island      October 11, 1776
Here we are, deep in the night, merely waiting for these rats to come out in the daylight. I’m here on watch, missing precious sleep for what? Their men are wounded, dead or weak. They are children, pitiful and inexperienced. In all honesty, they have no hope. I almost feel bad for their inferiority. All their lanterns are out and there is no sound to be heard. The poor guys are surely getting a good night's sleep before facing their inevitable demise.
Its been an hour of my watch now, and I’m getting mighty tired. The long day's battle is surely weighing on my sanity. I hear whispers that must just be the wind and soft splashes nearby which are many geese in the reeds. As I relieve myself over the gun whale, I could swear I see the moon glint off something in the water not far away. While my tired brain would have me thinking otherwise, it must be the shine of a bloated dead fish, floating past in the night, my watch is almost up and I hate to watch the poor man on next watch to sit for hours, driven half mad by the soft noises of this strange place.
~Anonymous Student

On our travels we were lucky enough to visit the Rock Point School and the farmers market near Burlington, VT. We had not seen that many people at once in a long time. We split into groups to get some food and learn the farmers' stories. After a delicious lunch of bread, cheese, lettuce, carrots and milk we headed to the school. There we met and ate dinner with the Rock Point students. We spent the evening doing various activities such as swimming in the cold lake, playing soccer, and watching Princess Bride--all very exiting. The next morning we said our farewells and headed into the wild wind. The biggest and tallest wave we encountered was 6 feet, but for the most part the waves were 3-5 ft. We spent much of the morning paddling seven miles to Shelburne Farms where we collapsed on the grass and gobbled down lunch. We had our next live-over there and spent the morning doing service work pulling garlic mustard. We spent the last bit of the day doing academics and enjoying the sunny, beautiful land.

From there we continued our way south where we visited the Maritime Museum. The museum has many rowboats built by students our age. The very boats we rowed with on the Lake were built by these students and we were fortunate to spend the afternoon eating lunch with them and visiting the  museum. Afterwards we headed across the lake to Barton Rock where we began our personal solos. Our solos began at night continued into the next day and night. The next morning we reconnected back together to continue our journey home.
A few days before reaching Whitehall we visited Fort Ticonderoga, a fort during the Revolutionary War that was taken from the British by Ethan Allan and the Green Mountain boys.  We spent a few hours exploring the beautiful exhibits and getting an idea of what life was like during that time.

We had such a lovely couple of weeks on this wondrous lake. There is so much history to be found and exploration to be had. Two weeks is hardly enough time but we made the best of it, experiencing the sun and the rain. We now say farewell to the lake and our lake guide, Laurel Iselin, and prepare for our final leg of our expedition, biking!

Bea smiles at the fire

Bea and Kendal


Claudia practices her standing solo paddling skills

Finn works on his academics along the river's shore

Finn and Sam

The semester team!

Hailey and Adam paddling

Julian practicing the standing paddle

Julian and Caleb


Paddling in the rain/snow

Rory portaging

Rory and Sebi

Savannah smiles

Sebi paddling hard

Tanner and Adam

Sebi, Rory, and Finn working on their water crossings
Rowing down Lake Champlain

Sunset on the Lake

Kendal, Caleb, and Tanner enjoying student performances