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Cambridge, MA, 02140
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STORIES

JULY - ADVANCED BACKPACKING

Jennifer Gordon

3 days in the woods?  With no showers?  And no real toilets?  Some kids (and let’s face it, some adults) would run screaming in the other direction when faced with a proposition like that.  Not our Adventure Club kids!  After going through a year of trips, 4 students were nominated for and joined us on our Advanced Backpacking trip : Karon (our very first returning graduate), Jazlyn, Joshua, and Sebastian. 

These 4 students arrived early on Thursday morning and were ready to go!  Ms. Juengst (that’s Ms. Hanagriff’s married name!) got all the students checked in and packed up while Ms. Gordon and Mr. Best went to pick up the van.  We got all our gear into our giant backpacks and put everything we’d need for the trip in the van.  Only, there was one problem…Sebastian’s boots didn’t fit.  On a regular hiking day, this wouldn’t matter, but for Mt. Cardigan, we knew that he’d need something more sturdy and waterproof.  A quick call to Ian at YOP gave us an answer : we stopped off at another YOP gear shed at Harold Parker State Forest and grabbed a pair of boots that fit! 

 

And then we were on our way!  Once we arrived at Cardigan Lodge, we loaded our gear into wheelbarrows and headed up to our campsite.  We were in a very secluded area this year and our site came with some perks : our own privy (outhouse) and a potable water spigot!  After a quick lunch, we started putting up our tents.  Ms. Juengst and Ms. Gordon were VERY proud to have finally mastered the Tautline Hitch knot!  Camp was set up relatively quickly and we set out for a hike to Welton Falls.  Sebastian took the lead, keeping an eye on blazes and trail signs.  We checked the map a few times to verify where we were.  Welton Falls was, as usual, gorgeous.  We loved getting a chance to stick our feet in the water before heading back to camp for dinner.  On our way, Ms. Juengst spotted a baby bear!  Thankfully it went across the river in the opposite direction!

Chef Best started in on dinner : burrito bowls!  The rest of the crew got ready for the evening (we like to dress in our next day’s clothes so that we’re ready in the morning).  We packed all our extra food and toiletries into the Bear Box (keeping anything that smells unnatural in nature safe and away from us).  Dinner was delicious!  We love when Chef Best cooks.  Ms. Juengst and Ms. Gordon did the dishes while Mr. Best and the kids got a fire going.  It was nice to be able to sit around a campfire while we did a debrief activity called “ABC News”.  Once everyone had shared, we did a quick privy trip and then brushed teeth and it was off to bed! 

We woke up early on Saturday to….rain (or sad cloud tears).  It had rained most of the night and much of the campsite was wet.  We started dismantling the tents and hanging them up so they could hopefully dry out.  The sun was starting to shine, so we were hopeful that the day would be a dry one.  Mr. Best started cooking breakfast while everyone else packed up and got ready for the day.  After our egg sandwiches, we trekked all of our gear back to the van.  We were lucky to have the opportunity to store much of our unnecessary gear there!  We divvied up group gear, made sure we had only what we needed, and we were ready to go! 

Day 2 is a big one on this trip!  Our 1st goal is to reach the High Cabin (a cabin on the side of Mt. Cardigan that’s about a half mile away from the summit).  Our 2nd goal is to reach the summit of the mountain.  We had some great landmarks to use as a way to break up the 2 mile hike to the cabin : the Croo Bridge, Grand Junction, and PJ Ledge.  Sebastian led for most of the way (trading off with Jazlyn, Joshua, and Karon a few times) keeping us going at a good pace.  We reached our last landmark (PJ Ledge) and knew that the cabin was just a little way up the Hurricane Gap trail!  Arriving at the cabin is such a great feeling : we know this will be our home for the evening and it’s so much fun picking out which bunk we want and exploring the whole place.  We lightened our packs and headed back down to the Ledge for lunch. 

Bellies full, it was time to tackle that last half mile : off to the summit we went!  Hiking to the summit of Mt. Cardigan is not easy : most of this last half mile is just bare granite slabs.  Cardigan is a “bald” mountain – after a fire in 1855 much of the top of the mountain was left bare.  Our group was ready to tackle it, though!  We reached the summit and whoa it was windy up there!  Everyone had their summit poses ready and we had some fun taking pictures before settling in to explore!  We found giant puddles, patches of grass, some cool rocks, and many places to relax.  Our students found a stick that was perfect for playing the stick game!  After a few rounds of that, we decided to play Hide and Seek for a bit (which, by the way, is NOT easy to do on top of a bald mountain!).  Before we knew it, it was time to head back down. 

Evening at the High Cabin is a busy time!  While Chef Best started making dinner, the rest of the group headed down to a small creek to filter water.  There is no potable water at the cabin, so our only source of hydration is the creek.  Mr. P let us borrow his water filter and everyone got a chance to try it out.  That thing worked our arm muscles!  Everyone’s water bottles were filled up relatively quickly and we were ready for dinner!  Chef Best had made us a chicken teriyaki stir-fry…and we loved it so much we had seconds and then licked the bowls clean!  We were losing daylight, so we all took turns getting into our clothes for the next day and then settled in for some debriefing.  Ms. Gordon had prepared a new debrief for us : Metaphor Cards.  We had a bunch of cards that had pictures on them and we used these pictures to describe how we felt about different things during the day.  All too soon it was time for bed. 

Day 3 came EARLY!  We had a 10 am appointment at the Audubon Society…which meant that we had to get up at 5 am!  Although that was super early, it was worth it.  We got to see the sunrise from the cabin!  We packed up, cleaned up the cabin, and headed down the trail.  We made great time hiking down and arrived right on time at Newfound Lake.  Today we were going to go canoeing!  We couldn’t have asked for a better canoe day : sunshine, calm water, nice breezes…it was perfect.  And to make it even more perfect : there was an eagle nesting in a tree close to the shore and we got to see it!  After checking out the eagle, we paddled to an area of the lake that was very shallow.  We looked for turtles and fish, explored the plant life, and discovered the really cool feeling silt at the bottom!  Some of us were enjoying the sunshine and the calm water so much that we fell asleep!  One of our favorite parts of our canoe trip on Newfound Lake is that we get to do something called a T-Rescue.  We jump out of our canoes, purposefully tipping them upside down, and then teach the students how to empty them of water and get everyone back in them.  After 3 days of not showering, jumping in that water is SO refreshing!  T-rescues are hard work, but they’re really fun.  While the t-rescues were happening, the eagle was flying around the lake.  It was so cool to watch. 

All too soon our time on the lake was done.  We returned our gear, changed into our dry clothes, had lunch, and then headed towards home.  Our group arrived at BBCPS, returned our borrowed gear and then parted ways.  These 3 days always go by so quickly – it’s such a wonderful trip for both the students and the chaperones. 

-Ms. Gordon