Rubbernecking the Neck

Chewonki is great for many reasons. What other school gives you the opportunity to milk a cow before breakfast, dissect a roadkill porcupine before lunch, and weave a scarf before dinner?

However, as we near the last weeks here and I’m looking back on my experience here, I’m realizing that my favorite aspect of Chewonki hasn’t been the farm, or the science, or even the fiber arts. It’s been exploring the Neck and watching it change with the seasons.

Our early days were defined by snow and ice. On the day that we got here, the ground was frozen solid and everywhere that hadn’t been shoveled was covered in four inches of snow. The first time that I signed up for weekend farm chores, we walked the half-mile to the barn in literal snowshoes. A half an hour later, when we walked back, our tracks – and the trail – had been obliterated by the blizzard. 

Phenology is one of the main ways that we are required to get out on the Neck. Every week, we trek out to our designated spots and spend an hour observing the natural phenomena through various lenses. Here’s the trick: my spot is a mile away from campus, and in three feet of snow, traversing that distance on foot takes a while. Luckily, Chewonki provided us with a barn full of snowshoes and cross-country skis, and that’s how I got out to my spot for the first few weeks. Skiing through the woods is a magical experience, and I even ran into a few friends along the way.

Like many people, I also go out for runs on the Neck. In the beginning, the trails were too icy, and we all went out on the road. As it warmed up, I started to run on the nature trails. I like trail running a lot more than road running, and I really got to know the Neck better – until I started running on it, I’d only been to the parts of the nature trail up to my phenology spot. 

The other main way that I explored the Neck was as a part of my final project for Natural History and Ecology of the Maine Coast. We all had to do a project, but they were 100% our choice – and as a result, no two ended up being the same. I was looking for lichens in the intertidal region, so I spent a lot of time poking rocks with a screwdriver. I looked all over, and as a result, I spent a while exploring the various bits and pieces of coast.

Students in our semester also organized several “walkjars,” where we’d be given partners to go for a walk with. These took me everywhere from climbing the crags at the heart of the neck to looking at the moon from the waterfront. 

I’m by no means an expert on the Neck, and there are still places that I haven’t been – for example, Ideal and Pinky Points. But I’ve had a ton of fun exploring the Neck, whether it was for a project or just for fun – and I’ll always remember the places that I found, went, and wandered.

Kiran Mahurkar, Sidwell Friends School, Washington DC

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