We clicked into our skis with huge packs on our backs. Our sleds were filled with massive barrels of food hitched behind us, and we were on our way. It was day one of wilderness trips, and as I looked around, each person seemed to waver on their feet, unable to balance with the unfamiliar weight of the pack on their back. Ready to take on the challenge, we began our ski from the flat open field of the airport towards the dense trees that lay just over the bridge. The sign read 3.3 miles to Poplar Hut, and I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s not far at all”.
It was almost everyone’s first day ever on cross country skis, and on top of that, we had to carry massive packs and drag four heavy sleds between the eleven of us. I had assumed we would be on our way quickly due to the fact that we were on skis. My only previous skiing experience had been downhill skiing, therefore I associated skiing with being fast. I was very wrong.
We started out across the field at a snail’s pace. We were moving almost slower than if we had been walking. Every 500 yards or so someone would fall. You would think it would not be such a process to stand back up, but with a heavy backpack on, it was a huge struggle. Five to seven minutes would pass while a few people would help whoever fell as their heavy packs offset their center of gravity and seemed to force them back towards the ground.
Many hours later, we reached the last hill up to Poplar Hut. You could feel the excitement build as more of the hut came into view. As we crested that last peak there was a collective sigh of relief, and we let our heavy packs fall to the ground. We had made it, even after feeling convinced that we wouldn’t. There was no moment in that day better than reaching that hut.
What we hadn’t realized was that, along the way, we had grown immensely. Not only did we learn how to persevere and be strong, but we slowly became better skiers. Each hour that passed led to fewer and fewer falls. By the time we reached our final half-mile, we were moving twice as fast as we were in the beginning. A group that had never skied before transformed into a team who worked together to motivate each other and do more than we believed we could.
In the days that followed, we continued to improve and grow closer to each other. On the third day, we skied 7.8 miles from Poplar Hut to Stratton Hut. If you had asked any of us on that first day if we thought 7.8 was possible, almost every person would have told you “absolutely not.” But we made it. Not only did we reach the top of the very last hill, we did it together, and we did it faster than we had ever skied before.
Driving home from the trip, I looked around the bus at the group of people who I had grown to love and support. Thinking of returning to Chewonki did not even feel real. We went through so much together in those few days; they had become my Poplar family. From snowball fights and crazy sledding, to climbing the steepest of hills, we worked together and became great friends.
Haley Morland, Triton Regional High School, Rowley, MA