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An Icy Winter Adventure

February 9th, 2018

As you know the caving expedition was postponed due to weather restrictions but enthusiasm is high to re-schedule. 

Reflecting on the alternative UE expedition brings me to the satisfying conclusion that the UE class is evolving in a way we can all be proud!   UE embarked on an exploration of Humaston Brook which flows into Northfield Pond. 

The first thing we noticed was the gorgeous and brilliant sun light shining through and reflecting off the ice-covered branches, leaves, lichens and moss!  Within minutes students were discovering leaf prints made of ice that revealed the detail of veins and shape perfectly.  Children handled them with the wonder of precious gems whose physical life was short but the memory long. 

We hiked along our well-maintained path to the canoe launch and witnessed how beavers have remained active throughout the winter.  They saw several young trees that clearly have been cut down within the last month as sap from the stumps was still running – yet frozen – looking as though an artist had coated them with shellac.

As the group hiked further they noticed where the beavers have cleared a few pathways from the forest (where they harvest tree branches for food and construction) to the pond.   We soon came upon an old hunter’s campsite with a creative stone windbreak where we embraced the challenge of kindling a fire – in spite of the ice-covered firewood.  The success of the fire was ensured by Katherine’s careful collection of dried Hemlock twigs and Kate’s discovery of some dry pine that could be cracked – revealing the dry inner wood.  While this was being done, students collected and carved branches to be used to roast hot dogs.  As you can imagine, roasting a hot dog in winter while overlooking a beautiful marsh, boasting of cattails shimmering in ice covered sunlight was the kind of moment that feeds the soul as well as the belly!

The camp site is made near a high glacial erratic that provided its own sense of adventure because the students found the remains of an old cable that some-one, long ago erected we believe to transport their gear across the stream to the camp site.

After lunch we hiked further up Humaston Brook which started with a 100 yard crawl through the thick Mountain Laurel.  Being kid-size was clearly to their advantage!  The staff did the best we could to keep up.  Traveling alongside the brook students who were part of the adventure camp last summer remembered taking a dip in various pools.

The hike culminated in a small gorge where the kids were enthralled with exploring every nook and cranny they could fit into, all the while crossing the stream on icy logs and rocks.  What was impressive to the staff was how the students embraced the true sense of adventure by putting up with wet hands, a few wet feet and the risk of getting even more wet!   By then they were clearly in a “team mode” – helping one another ford the stream, climb steep banks, crawl across logs and investigate the gorge.

All this adventure, of course, occurred only a mile from school! 

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