Today the instructors and coleaders are still doing a lot of teaching. Yesterday they introduced the essential basics, which include the proper form for picking up a pack, how to hike as a group, how to get gorp* from a bag without sharing germs, how to stay hydrated, how to take care of feet hiking in boots that may not be fully broken in, and tips for staying comfortable in a sleeping bag. Today they will do more work on those topics, and also on working together in a group. Tonight they will focus more on increasing the sophomores’ skills in a camp kitchen, as soon the sophomores will be taking turns cooking meals for the others. I’ll write more about meals later in the trip. They will also revisit their intentions for the trip in the nightly debrief.
A parent has asked me if I can post the sophomores’ locations within Henry Coe State Park so that you can follow along at home. Each crew follows a different predetermined route, so I do know where they are. The staff has discussed whether I should share their routes in the past, and has decided that I should not. Their concern is for the privacy and safety of the hikers. They would rather not have one of their friends be able to hike in an pull a prank on a crew, for instance. You can learn a bit more about Henry Coe State Park at the Pine Ridge Association website.
I use this forecast for Henry Coe. They predict up to half an inch of rain today, and then clear weather for the foreseeable future. Personally, I hope that they get a lot of rain or even snow later in the trip. Did you do a double-take? I know it sounds odd, but our experience shows that inclement weather can help the sophomores practice and cement their skills in an environment where it really matters. The Instructors are all teachers first, and love to give students a chance to become masters of their subjects. I’ve included pictures of weather from previous Expeditions below.
A Note About My Communication With the Crews
Please note that although the crews carry satellite phones, the phones are rather limited. They have a short battery life and they require a line-of-sight connection to a satellite to function at all, meaning that a phone in a deep canyon can be used for only a few seconds at a time before its satellite passes out of reach. Instructors use the phones to contact me only when they need to, and only for very brief communications that sound more like radio communication than phone calls. A typical one would have the Instructor starting by saying “This is McCormick doing well at Mississippi Lake, do you have news for us?” and me finishing by giving a brief weather report before they sign off. Of course, if there is some sort of emergency, the call might be meatier, but if all goes well I will hear nothing from the crews aside from their location and an indication that all is well. It is frustrating to have to wait until the end of the trip to hear their stories, but I just repeat the mantra “no news is good news!”
The limits on our communication also mean that my Day 1 post was likely the last in which I’ll be able to use photos from the 2022 Expo until I see the hikers in person. They simply don’t have a way to get photos of this year’s Expo to me until they are back at school. Until then I’ll have to use pictures from previous years for the rest of my posts until the hikers return from the woods.
My posts here will give you an idea of what experiences the hikers are having, but without the details that we all crave. In the modern, highly-connected world this is not easy! This Expedition poses a challenge not only to the hikers, but to those of us who love them. We all wonder: is my daughter still afraid of the hiking as she was before the trip? is my son finding ways to avoid poison oak? did my sister sleep well last night? is my student making new friends? We will have to wait until after the end of the trip for the answers to these stories. And again, in the meantime, we remember that no news is good news.
*Gorp is a trail mix snack, an acronym for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. We augment our mix with a number of other snack foods in addition to raisins and peanuts. Also, crews in which one member has an allergy to raisins or peanuts, or to gluten, will have gorp that does not include those items.