Saturday, January 28, 2012

Update 3

The Trail has been calling for us.

Our Semester has spent the last three weeks at Kroka’s Base Camp, preparing for our journey. The snow has melted yet again, but we can all feel skis on our feet and packs on our backs.

Also our experience here has been changing.

Before we were learning how much time there is in a day, and it was new and the days were very long.

Now we are learning how hard we can work. The days are still very long, but now they are not long enough. We know we are capable of so much, but we have to fit it into the days that we are given. It is hard work to do hard work.

My sense of time has been wildly shaken. It is like I am developing a sixth sense.

We have knit, sewn, chopped, sawed, stacked, cooked, dried, repaired, run, hiked, skied, packed, waxed, mapped, organized, lifted, carried, poured, listened, and shoveled for this.

We leave on February 1st!

I am very tired, but I still want to do every little and big thing that I can.

We are all very tired, but we are so excited to be here that it does not matter.

I want to talk to you about another person that we have met. His name is Charlie Strickland.

Charlie has lived here in Marlow for 86 years, longer than anyone else around. When we sat down in a circle around his living room, we were talking to more than just Charlie. We were talking to the town.

He told us about the fire of ’41; chasing after horses in the wide open pastures; the bus lines that never worked out; the summertime traveling medicine shows; basketball with his best friends; most the whole town skating every Sunday; and hedgehog hunting for 50 cents a porcupine when it seemed that it was a nickel for just about everything. He told us how Marlow used to have a tannery, a barbershop, three gas stations, a power plant along the dam, three stores and four eating places. The town only had three hundred people living in it, but traffic poured through Marlow and the little town was a big town.

Marlow isn’t really like that anymore. There are no more eating places here. Neighbors aren’t near quite like family. The traffic changed with the roads, but the community was changing either way.

As the world got larger and larger, the small town got smaller.

Charlie was smiling the entire time. There is still a community and he is still a part of it. He hasn’t let go of that wisdom. 

He helps with the public Sunday breakfasts that feed around a hundred a so, and participates in spaghetti suppers thrown to raise money for local families if tragedy strikes. Three generations of his family live nearby. Some have traveled far away, but they are not out of touch. Adam asked if Charlie had any advice for us, and I asked him how to find community. He seemed taken aback. I wonder what it must feel like to have so much behind you. You might still believe yourself a regular person, but with time you have become extraordinary. You have become a window, reservoir, and teacher.

Charlie told us to enjoy life and to stay busy. He told us to get involved in things. There are so many things for young people. They don’t sound like secrets, but they are very important and you could hear that from the way that he spoke. Those are simple truths that he has been living by. I’d be proud to live like that.

I wish that I had more time to write, but I do not have a lot of it. I wish you could see, hear, and do what I see, hear, and do, or that I could send out an emotion.

One of the most satisfying feelings in the world is arriving at a place that you have worked all day to get to. It is at its most satisfying when you are not driving or flying, you are moving there with your own body. That is one of the beautiful pieces to a Kroka expedition. We have not left on our expedition yet, but we have had a few days to practice. 

The first day was the hike down from the top of Pitcher Mountain back to Kroka’s Base Camp. 
Malcolm, the Navigator, took us back both by trails and bushwhacking. I wasn’t sure if I could imagine doing the same thing with skis and a heavy backpack on, which is what our expedition is going to be, but we got to try it out.

We were driven out to Baine Road with our skis and, once again, headed back to Kroka through the Grassy Brook Wilderness. Baine Road is much closer to Kroka than Pitcher Mountain, but that was good because it took some practice to move through the woods on our cross-country skis. It was incredible! You have to pay attention to the land is such a different way than you do when you are walking. It was like being back on the elementary school playground when you were just a little too small for it. You don’t really get to move like that anymore and I am so excited to be here for it.

At one point we were gliding one by one across a frozen river. At another we were weaving over, under, and around an undulating plane of tree trunks, rocks and high yellow grasses.

We also got to climb a boulder and ski back down! We were all side stepping up the shallower way, but then Josia and Michal pioneered the vertical wall. That became the preferred route, because it was so much cooler. I wasn’t quite cool enough to make it the steep way, but I managed one ski down and it was really fun. Lisl has some serious moves and she was showing us all up. Then she hit rock and fell in the big tumble-y way that most of us have experienced by now. I think that might be the only time I’m going to see her fall this entire semester!

Just yesterday we topped the rock at Duck Hole. We went downhill skiing at Granite Gorge, and although I was told they weren’t mountains, just big hills, even the bunny slope was very steep to me! I fell a lot and have a lot of work to do, but I was very impressed with all the others. Josia, Everett, Michal and Malcolm were especially awesome.  They skied down the steepest parts just like that! 

It was something else. You felt like you were on top of the world because the sky was the same color as the snow, and the world just dropped off in front of you and curved around the corner. I had never gone downhill skiing before.

We helped prepare Kroka’s Winter Camp for school groups with Hans and Leah.

Conor and Michal built the bathroom, and they could not help but explain that they had to improvise a whole lot every time they brought it up. I never got to see it, but I bet it was pretty interesting.

The rest of us either collected boughs or firewood. I went collecting boughs. Hans was telling us about how you have to have a conversation with the tree to make sure that both of your needs are balanced. He said that it is best to take from the bottom third, because those branches will soon be shadowed anyway. It reminded me of the Rule of Thirds. When taking from the wilderness, take only One Third: a Third for You, a Third for the Animals, and a Third to Come Back Again. I sang while collecting boughs and it was very calming to talk with the woods.

Nate came back to sing with us the other day. He brought in a pair of wooden skis that he had made and played the guitar. I’ve really been enjoying the songs here at Kroka.

I went down to the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord show me the way
Oh sisters let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
Oh brothers let’s go down,
Down to the river to pray

Our group is doing fantastic things. We stay very positive, even when it rains all the snow away and then seeps into our lodges. I think that if we keep that positivity, everything that we are looking for will fall into place.

I feel that the people here truly have my back. When I needed ski pants because mine have not yet arrived, I had several different people coming up to me to say that they could give me their rain pants or ask their parents to bring an extra pair. I can’t thank them enough. It’s only been three weeks and all we’ve got is time to grow.

I’ve got this everlasting light
It’s shining like the stars
And the more that I give
The more that I’ve got to give
It’s the way that I live
And it’s what I’m living for.


  1. Wow! You all are looking ready to go. I'm sure you feel like you could still do many more last things before the Feb. 1st take-off. The family visits will probably give you food for thought and mind pictures for the days ahead. Glad everyone is staying healthy. We send aloha from the islands! You're looking great, Everett!

  2. Deano the Ski Manager... never thought the day would come. Have a blast in the woods, and if you get lost and end up in Colorado, stop by CC. You're the man.