I want to share an overview and a couple highlights from my recent trip with the Kroka Vermont Semester (VSP). This is the second year I have helped lead the students through the final two week leg of their 4+ month expedition around Vermont. You can learn more about their entire trip from the students themselves at: http://krokavermontsemester2016.blogspot.com/. For me these two weeks are an amazing gift; a chance to unplug and focus my energy on these wonderful young people.
Before starting with the VSP students, I spent four days riding with a local charter school, MC2. I’ll share more about my time with them later. My time with the semester students lasted 12 days. Our trip started in Whitehall, NY and took the “scenic” route back to Kroka. I don’t have an accurate measure of the distance we traveled but I’d estimate it was between 200-250 miles. Along the way we had a caving and a rock climbing day. We moved camp almost every day; there were only two times we camped in the same place for two nights. We visited and volunteered at three amazing farms and one orchard. We ate ice cream four times…so spoiled.
Our route was primarily on bike paths and dirt roads, with some singletrack, and a few busy pavement sections. We rode in the foothills of the Adirondacks, over the Taconics and Green Mountains, and up from the Connecticut River Valley to Kroka. We were also in three watersheds, the Hudson, Delaware, and Connecticut. My favorite day of riding was coming down from Mt. Tabor and riding along the West River Trail.
The students did better than I expected on technical terrain, and I was really proud of the skills they gained as the route became more challenging. It’s very satisfying when you see someone developing a skill and you are able to give them a tip or technique and then see it applied successfully; that’s what really calls me to this work.
Climbing and Caving
Our climbing and caving days were a great change of pace from biking. They provided challenge, team building, and the opportunity to conquer our fears. The cave in particular was an amazing sensory experience; a chance to experience pure darkness and connect deeply with the earth.
We visited Someday Farm in Dorset, Fairwinds Farm and Wild Carrot CSA in Brattleboro, Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, and the Basin Farm Community in Bellows Falls.
Our farm visits were another major part of the learning on this leg. We studied our food, where does it come from, how is it made, and more importantly how does that affect the planet and ourselves. We met people who have a deep love for providing healthy food to their communities and being stewards of the land. I think we may have inspired a few homesteaders, several gardeners, and all of us will walk through the grocery store with different lenses now.
While at the farms we had a chance to start giving back. We planted 1,500 strawberry plants, painted 2,000+ apple trees to prevent cracking in the winter, weeded a large raspberry patch, and helped clear two acres of new pasture. It was good and fulfilling work for all, and meant a great deal to the farms.
I don’t want to forget to mention my days with MC2. First, MC2 is really MC Squared (MC^2) but MC2 is easy to type. MC2 stands for Making Community Connections. They are a charter school in Keene that is focused on an applied education model. Their students have more ownership over what they learn, and are able to do real work at local businesses. Five of their students went on a mini-expedition that was the reverse of the last two legs of the Kroka VSP. It was great to ride with them for a few days and see how even a small dose of nature can be a really powerful experience.
I’m just happy; I can’t wait till I get back in the woods with students and bikes again. Also, my body feels incredibly healthy; it’s amazing what riding your bike every day and eating simpler meals will do. We’ll see if I can keep the temptations of the front country from spoiling my good form.
There are a few more photos of the trip on my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/grahamcycles/albums/72157666523407594