A Walk in the Park

by: Eliza Luden &Natalie Pontikes

Our watch alarms beeped at 5:00 a.m. Despite the complete darkness and early wake-up call, the seven of us rose from our tents alert and ready to tackle what had to be done that morning before we departed from camp. Headlights lit and WhisperLite stoves a-blazin,’ we sat silently, mentally preparing for our ascent of the Santanoni Mountains while also firing up some cheesy bagels. Risking a ruined breakfast and a burnt fry-bake pan, we put faith in our Assistant Directors’ advice and fried our bagels cheese side down in a big glob of butter. “Trust me, guys,” Kim said. “It works. Leave it face down and longer than you think.” Advice from Will and Kim regarding backcountry tips is seemingly endless, and we Arcadians frequently express gratitude for their experience and help, especially when it comes to aiding our camp cooking.

With bellies full of deliciously prepared fats and carbs, and our hearts full of excitement for the first three High Peak summits of the trip, Jordan, Ryan, Ned, Anna, and Natalie took off down the trail as the sun began to rise. An under-the-weather Emily poked her head out of the tent and exclaimed, “Hey guys, your moms called…they said to send it!” Emily’s positivity remained with us as we began the climb up Mount Santanoni.

This morning marked the second day of the week-long High Peaks backpacking trip that we Arcadians were lucky enough to experience. While one crew, led by Will, tackled the Santanoni Range, a second crew, including Raina, Michael, Meredith, and Eliza, began their journey in the Seward Range. The plan was for each group to hike the same general path in opposite directions, ending at each other’s vehicles. The High Peaks trip is an extension of Will and Kim’s Modern Outdoor Recreation Ethics class (aka, M.O.R.E.). As groups, we planned our routes, food rations and meals, and the lessons necessary for a smooth trip.

As our knowledge of Adirondack ecology, land use, and culture grows, we have begun to draw connections between everything we learn and experience. While hiking the High Peaks, we paid tribute to our Ecology class by identifying trees and ferns along the way, even getting into a heated spruce debate at one point. “C’mon guys,” a knowledgeable Anna chimed in. “We know it’s a black spruce because we are in swampy standing water!” Later on, the terrain provided an excellent opportunity to test our knowledge of soil types, elevations, and successional periods. In regards to our Land Use class, Jordan taught a follow-up lesson on local mines by taking her group to Tahawus mine, a large abandoned structure near the trailhead.

The frequent overlapping interconnectedness of our course materials has begun to ingrain a deep sense of place and meaning in us Arcadians; indeed, the Adirondacks are growing more and more appealing and unique.

The trip also succeeded in creating deeper bonds and friendships between Arcadians as well. The High Peaks threw tests of teamwork and attitude in our way, especially when Hurricane Florence’s lingering weather hit the North Country. On the second-to-last morning, Meredith, Raina, and Eliza woke up to rain spilling through the roof of their lean-to. The whole group woke up to pitch in some help by patching the hole in the roof, throwing tent flies in a frenzy to do so. The teamwork and comradery continued back at Arcadia when both groups reconvened along with Marly and Nicole, who had spent time volunteering at the St. Lawrence University Sustainability Farm. Late Monday night, the real demonstration of comradery occurred when the whole group sat at the kitchen table and crowded around a single copy of a Shrek script and screenplay. Led by Ned, our group’s Shrek connoisseur, the twelve of us conducted a Yankee swap to choose roles for the upcoming table reading of our favorite Dreamworks production. Somehow we all landed very fitting character roles, speaking to the chemistry and supportive dynamic of the group. We are all overflowing with excitement in anticipation of Friday night’s reading and still buzzing with energy from the backpacking trip.