Last week, Semester 60 embarked on four-day wilderness trips. Broken into five groups, we spread across central and northern Maine as well as to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. My group, consisting of five other students and two group leaders, headed to Haskell Hut in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. We drove four hours into Northern Maine, parked the van, loaded all of our gear and food into sleds, and set out on cross country skis. It was a perfect day: warm sun, lightly groomed ski trails and an unbelievably clear sky. After a few hours of skiing, the eight of us arrived at our hut. Perched on a small hill, Haskell Hut overlooks a wide bend in the Penobscot River. A nearby stream had areas that were completely frozen over and flowing currents. In the mornings, we would often see river otters playing together on the edge of the ice.
When we arrived at Haskell Hut, we unloaded our bags and sleds, put away our skis, and got settled. Our first major task was to “harvest” water. Without being able to depend on running water, it was our job to trek down to the river and collect it ourselves. Armed with plastic buckets, emergency ropes, and an ice pick that was larger than me, we made our way to the river. Greg Shute, one of our leaders, taught us how to break through the ice to reach water. We slowly chipped away at the frozen surface, but we didn’t reach water. Ten minutes and a pile of ice later, we decided to try again farther out in the river. Once again we broke away at the ice without ever reaching water. We joked around, laughing about what would happen if we couldn’t find water to drink, hatching a dangerous plan to send someone out into the flowing water with a bucket to scoop up water to bring back. We moved to a new spot hoping that the third time would, indeed, be the charm. We passed around the ice pick, each of us getting a chance to access the water we knew was flowing underneath our feet. The sun was setting over the mountain range, and as the sky darkened, we noticed the lenticular clouds forming above us, shaped like saucers. The moon was bright, just two nights away from being full.
Finally, after a lot of hard work and almost a foot and a half ice, we broke through the final, frozen layer and water bubbled up to the surface. Despite it being slightly yellow, we were assured that it was safe, and spooned what we called “our organic, free-range water” into big buckets. We carried them back up to our hut where we boiled the water to drink. We spent the next four days together, sharing responsibilities both in the hut and on the trail, seeing beautiful sights everywhere we went, cooking, sharing meals and laughing together. Each day had its highlights, but I don’t think that I will ever forget the joy I felt the moment we finally broke through the ice.
Tamar, Moses Brown School, Riverside, RI
Check out more photos from this spring’s wilderness trips on our flickr page!