Right now I sit facing the window of the library. It is snowing fairly heavily and, if I stare at it long enough, I become mesmerized by the snow cutting diagonally across the sky. Yesterday everyone got back from wilderness trips. I was on Umbagog One, and, before I overwhelm everyone with details, I want to say that it was one of the best experiences of my life. The camping and beauty alone would have been amazing, but to be able to share it with such a great group of people made it all the more personal and special. No one else hiking on that trail will ever have the same experience as Umbagog One 2008.
There are so many different experiences I could describe. I could write about the itinerary or meal plan or hiking. But in order for anyone to begin to understand the amazing amount of thought that went into every decision, I am deciding to write about only event: the morning of our last day.
By Thursday night, our last night, everyone basically knew what had to be done the next morning. We stumbled off to bed and attempted to set up sleeping bags as quickly as possible without burning our garbage bags against the wood stove or getting snow in our pajamas. I threw my hot nalgene bottle into the bottom of my sleeping bag with my “sacred socks” (the pair that lives in my sleeping bag and never gets wet), and I smiled at the idea of having warm toes throughout the night. Within five minutes I was fast asleep.
At about two in the morning I woke up from the cold. Even with my two sleeping bags on, I was still shivering. Following the instructions of our fearless leader, I began to do crunches to warm myself up. I would crunch for approximately 10 minutes and then sleep for 5. This pattern continued throughout the night. However, while this process sounds like torture, I was actually extremely content at this point. Perhaps all the sweat and grease in my hair somehow affected my brain, but all I could think about is how few people get this experience. I could say that I was doing crunches at 2:30 in the morning to stay warm. Few people are so lucky.
Once my abdominal muscles were sufficiently sore (at about 6:00 in the morning) and the fires were started, we all stumbled out of our sleeping bags and into the fresh air. By this time I knew that it was -30ºF outside. However, I was not cursing the freezing air or shivering to myself (my water drinking and layering kept me warm). My first thought when I stepped out of the tent was how crisp the air smelt. My second was of the beauty of the landscape. It is indescribable.
The group then proceeded to dismantle camp, have breakfast, and go for multiple jogs to stay warm. Soon all the sleds were hooked up, and, with me humming to myself to pass the time, we began our 2 mile trek to the van.
While I sometimes have a wave of guilt that I didn’t take any pictures, I am comforted slightly by the fact that no one can describe the beauty of my trip. People can come close; I’m sure that authors and artists have tried. But nothing can make you breath that air or see those towering mountains in front of you. Multiple times I made the people around me stop what they were doing to look at the landscape. At sunset on Thursday night, as the mountains turned pink, the sky turned purple, and the trees stayed green, I remember looking at my wood-sawing partner and asking, “When do you see this?” She shook her head and we came to the same silent conclusion: once in a lifetime.
-Hannah Martin, Yarmouth, ME