Catrina Lindgren ’04
- How to be Hardcore
Shara Feld ’07
Catrina Lindgren ’04
- En Mehico, You Can Do Anything
Scott Andrews ’07
- Ledyard Annual Report
Molly Malone ’05
- Landscape with farmhouse
Nick Fleming ’08
Nick Fleming ’08
- Wind on the Mountain
Nick Fleming ’08
- The Source of the Senqu
Andrew Hoffman ’05
- An ode to the thru hiker who wouldn’t leave
Shara Feld ’07
Lauren Smith ’08
- Cycling Club Annual Report
Amy Wallace ’04
- No Mad Existence
Barry Hashimoto ’05
- DMC Annual Report
Luke Evans ’05
- 50 Miles of Fun
Catrina Lindgren ’04
- Dartmouth Organic Farm Annual Report
Catrina Lindgren ’04
- For my father, pursuer of mountains, before he goes.
Jennifer Goransson ’05
- River Rat
Whitney MacFadyen ’07
- Thursday Rolling Practice
Sarah Hughes ’07
- Dartmouth Northern Club (DNC)
Zack Strong ’05
- If You Don’t Tuck…
Caitlin Roberts ’08
- Hermit Crabs
Kelly Swartz ’05
- Outdoor Tip
Catrina Lindgren ’04
Zack Strong ’05
Anna Swanson ’07
Scott Andrews ’07
Luke Evans ’05
Shara Feld ’07
Nick Fleming ’07
Jennifer Goransson ’05
Barry Hashimoto ’05
Andrew Hoffman ’05
Sarah Hughes ’07
Whitney MacFadyen ’ 07
Molly Malone ’05
Caitlin Roberts ’08
Lauren Smith ’08
Zack Strong ’05
Sara Cavin ’04
Pamella Collins ’07
Andrew Flynn ’07
Robert Hallenbeck ’01
Sara Hellmuth ’05
Andrew Hoffman ’05
Catrina Lindgren ’04
Melissa Lynch ’06
Whitney MacFadyen ’07
Kristin Podolak ’01
Anne Raymond ’06
J. Deane Somerville III ’05
Zack Strong ’05
A semi-periodic publication by the Dartmouth Outing Club of trip and expedition reports, essays, poetry, artwork and photography.
VOX Crew 2004 out to raid Freshman Trips on Franconia Ridge (photo: Anne Raymond ’06)
When asked why they came to Dartmouth, many students will talk about the famed education or the prestige of the college. However, along with these excellent motives, a large number of people will include the DOC as one of the main reasons they chose Dartmouth. For these students, their attraction to the DOC is rooted in their spirit of adventure and love of the natural environment. The DOC offers students a vehicle for connecting with people in the setting they love most: the outdoors. While they are kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, farming, or involving themselves in a myriad of other outside activities, they are fulfilling another side of their education that is just as important as academics. They will leave enriched, inspired, and strengthened — token attributes of a Dartmouth and DOC alums.
The long-standing veneration and popularity of the DOC is a tribute to the quality and nature of the students which Dartmouth attracts. There is an inherent spirit of adventure in all the people who have chosen to be involved in DOC. They imbue the DOC with their spirit and keep the force alive for the next great group of adventurers. Woodsmoke exists to share this spirit of adventure and the energy that is the lifeblood of the DOC. It is like a little piece of gospel that reaches out to adventurers all over, so we can express what the outdoors means to us, and all share a collective and individual amen.
How to be Hardcore
I was on a mission to be hardcore. Now, the truly hardcore stage great expeditions to remote corners of the earth where, should they break a limb, they will have to crawl out while buzzards and fleas slowly gnaw their flesh. I only had three days off from working at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, so my expedition had to be a little tamer. Hiking from Hanover to the Lodge (54 miles, 2 days and one morning—until 10 am) looked good. With an appropriate swagger, this could be an Expedition.
The first step to being hardcore is to be as casual as possible about your mission. Throw some clothes together. Go to a Bread and Puppets show instead of buying your food the night before. Get some light reading. Such as the ORC. Sleep in late the morning of your 24 mile day.
The crucial part about being hardcore is the type of food you bring. Nothing says “weekend warrior” like a three-course dehydrated dinner. No. That will simply not do. Actually, it’s best if you just leave the stove behind. It’s extra weight, and you do want to save room for useful miscellanea, such as the ORC. Peanut butter. Peanut butter is essential to any true expedition. It’s what you eat if you are truly one with the outdoors. It screams “I don’t have a job so I can spend my life on the trail”. Even if you’re not actually going to eat it, you should bring peanut butter. Chocolate is allowed. A bag of chocolate is like a bag of trail mix that you have just gone through beforehand to pick out the only parts you will eat. Pita is okay too. And that’s enough. Variety is distinctly wussy.
Once you have put together the necessities, you should hike at a casual “I’m so in control of my life” pace. Long rest stops at shelters are a good idea. This allows you to appreciate the scenery and become one with the wild. Also, at some point your water should start to run low. Preferably you will kill one nalgene, and be close to dry on another, when you begin to wonder if you will ever cross a stream. Cross a stream, but only when you have about 2 ounces left on a hot, humid day.
If you have planned everything correctly, you will begin climbing the final mountain to your campsite as it starts getting dark. A third of the way up the mountain, it should be very dark. Your headlamp batteries should die. Claw your way uphill onward, into a growing wind and cold. When less than a mile from the top of the mountain you should realize you’re really tired, give up, and unroll your sleeping bag in the only body length flat spot in the trail. Hang your food on a tree branch above your head, as you vaguely recall the warning at the base of the trail “not to shoot the radio collared bears”. Snuggle into your sleeping bag, next to a nicely slanted rock that will funnel any precipitation down the trail directly onto your face. Listen to howling wind whipping tree branches into the mountain…all…night…long…
When you wake up the next morning feeling not so much refreshed but relieved that it’s light out (and 5 am) so you can start hiking again relish in the fact that you slept quite literally “on the trail”. Also relish in your pita and chocolate chips which have now been sampled by a small fleet of squirrels.
This day should be preferably the exact opposite of the day before, weather-wise. Where the day before was hot, and lacked water, this day it should begin to rain. And then begin pouring. Not just a friendly drizzle, but the type of rain that soaks right through your Gore-Tex; rivulets of water running down your nose, plastering your hair to your head. This is becoming hardcore.
Now you will be faced with a difficult question. You reach a road. As you stand on the side of the road and glance side to side an illegitimate thought slowly forms in your mind. It’s cold, it’s wet, and you could just extend your thumb… You ponder the cars going by, and your slightly numb thumb inches outward…
And then you cross the road, forge onward through the mud squishing into your shoes, taking your rest stops at the only spots of ground that are at least not puddles. Arriving in your destination for the second night you should be soaked through, peel off your wet layers, munch down on some pita, chocolate, and peanut butter (which, although hardcore, grows old very fast) and hop into your sleeping bag at 7 pm to fall fast asleep.
The next morning trudge glorious into the Moosilauke Ravine lodge, ready to start cooking dinner for 80 in an hour… Just a hypothetical scenario…
With a splash (laugh) and a ROAR I am in the water
Then silence until I break the top,
Gasping but still (so) alive.
Swimming is like
(that is allowed)
Shedding gravity like a wet blanket and emerging (immersing)
Clean and free of the weight that holds us down each day in life
While we take no notice of it.
A Baptism, a Rebirth
I tuck my head and swim out to the middle of the lake and
Head back, chest arched,
Exposing soul to sky as the
Water holds me up
My breath catching at the end of each inhalation (elation)
A poignant reminder of every powerful emotion that has
Submerged and flooded me, and left me
Breathless and vulnerable and full.
Face turned up to clear blue sky, reflecting back
My (finally) clear quiet mind
A call and response that deepens in affinity (infinity) with each
Until I imagine I can see (feel) the whole sky
Reflected in this body of water.
Then, swim back to shore until I find my feet again
And out onto to land, solid once more but still weightless.
A rocky shore in Alaska (photo: Whitney MacFadyen ’07)
En Mehico, You Can Do Anything
As the chill of winter descended on Hanover in December of 2004 and hundreds of Dartmouth students flocked to the library to study for exams, we were faced with a dilemma. We were done with exams, but the rivers of Vermont and New Hampshire were running low and icing over. And it was cold. Very cold. So we did what any other kayaking bums with lots of endowment money at their disposal would do in our situation: we went to Mexico.
Armed with a misguided sense of confidence and a genuine confirmation number for our rental car, Nicole Mansfield, Spencer Lawley, Mike Holliday, Mags “Pontiac” Dale, and myself traveled south of the border to seek adventure and cheap alcohol. We found a lot of both.
We spent our first week in the Valles region staying in a hut situated ten feet from the takeout of the Cascados Micos, a short run with seven waterfalls ranging from ten to thirty feet. In the first three days all of us at least tripled our career waterfall totals and had ample opportunity to practice our “freewheels.” We also had the experience of seeing the famed “El Salto Falls,” which is actually named after a waterfall on the Wells River in Vermont. As the trip progressed, we made our way into the Veracruz Region, ending our trip with an unforgettable run of the Alsaseca. This run of just over a mile contains fifty drops, eighteen of them over ten feet. It surpasses even the more well-known Santa Maria and Alto Filo in terms of sweetness.
“Sweet” is probably the best word to describe whitewater kayaking in Mexico. The drytop was left behind as many of us opted for the freedom of “man-boating.” The waterfalls were big and easy (insert your-mom joke), the water was warm, and the scenery incomparable. The cultural experience was also unbelievable. We ran into one other American and a group of Canadians in our two weeks in Mexico. As a wise man once told me, if you’ve never had to negotiate the price of a room at a motel/house of ill repute because they never rent rooms for more than three hours, then you probably didn’t go to the part of Mexico that we did. Our trip was about more than whitewater kayaking. It was about experiencing a totally different culture, a culture in which people would go out of their way to help us and then refuse payment for their services. It was about getting a group of friends together and spending two weeks free of all responsibilities. It was about Mike discovering that a liter of Mezcal only costs 16 pesos (about $1.50 US).
Everyone should go to Mexico. Nobody should go to Cancun or Tijuana. Mexico has some of the best kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, and outdoor activities in general in the world, and I for one do not consider body shots of tequila an outdoor activity. If you do choose to visit Mexico, though, take the advice of some guy in the supermarket: “You guys are eating tortas? You’re gonna get sick.” We got sick.
Ledyard Annual Report
Ledyard kicked off Spring 2004 with the traditional Spring Trip to North Carolina, led by Sam Damon ’04. Upon their return to Hanover, Ledyardites rejoiced in the snowmelt, and also helped run the Mascoma Slalom. Creeking season got off to a great start with the Wells River Rumble and Downtown Smackdown, two new local extreme races with many Ledyard competitors. The business opened up with the annual Opening Day party and barbeque, and canoe rental enthusiasts turned out en masse. Prior to graduation, Trip to the Sea traveled from Hanover to Old Saybrook, CT, and celebrated at the end with a generous dinner party courteous of Ledyard alums.
Summer 2004 was the time for the ’06s to shine. Sophomore Trips provided ’06s with another Trips opportunity. Canoe trips enjoyed Gilman Island, while kayakers went to Hartlands. Sophomores from the Source happened in August, with a slightly shortened route traveling from somewhere in northern New Hampshire back to the club in Hanover. In DKAF news, Eben Sargent, Chris Polashenski, and Brad Marden, traveled to Saskatchewan for a long-distance whitewater canoeing trip.
Ledyard helped out with DOC Trips by organizing logistics for trips in the Second College Grant. Canoe Trips traveled down the Magalloway, into Lake Umbagog, and finished on the Androscoggin. When they weren’t working, Grant Crew members boated the Dead Diamond Gorge and the Magalloway River.
Returning to campus, Ledyard welcomed new members with a free feed at the club. The biggest mileage trip of the term was the pilgrimage to the Gauley River in West Virginia for the notorious GauleyFest. Participants boated the Upper and Lower sections of the famous Gauley River, and got their last taste of big water for a long time. The next big road trip took everyone to the Bottom Moose River in New York, for the annual MooseFest, and dropping temperatures reminded everyone that boating season was winding down. Lack of rainfall limited most boating opportunities for the fall, unfortunately.
Thanks to the generosity of alumnus Davis Kirby, Ledyard members have the opportunity to design unique boating adventures that take them around the country and the world with the DKAF grant. The DKAF grant recipients greeted the end of Fall Term with enthusiasm. Ben Burke traveled to Australia and New Zealand and did a multi-day kayak trip on the Whanganui River. Mike Holliday, Nicole Mansfield, Scott Andrew, Spencer Lawley, and Magdalena Dale went to Mexico for three weeks and kayaked multiple rivers. Alex Steinberg visited his parents in Uganda, and managed to hit up the White Nile while he was there.
Winter Term started off with some unexpectedly warm weather, and one creeking trip made it to the Wells River before ice took over. Pool sessions and IM hockey were therefore the primary activities for kayakers. Boaters counted down the days until Spring Trip ’05 allowed them to escape south for the love of their kayaks.
The Source of the Senqu
The water runs clear and plentiful at the headwaters of the Senqu River, before it pours westward down from the Lesothan Highlands. Over 10,000 feet above sea level, the source is potable and available to anyone straight from the stream bed. No filters, chemicals, or dams trap and clean it—no tunnels lock it up to transport it.
It takes a full day of hiking just to reach the top of the Drakensberg Escarpment, starting in the morning around 5000 feet and backpacking up the green valleys. Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) Parks Service maintains the trails on the South African side of the Escarpment, and my friend and I climbed steadily along their well-traveled paths towards Sentinel Peak, our goal for the first day of a five-day backpacking trip. It rose in the distance, the angle to its summit growing steeper as we approached. We crossed and recrossed Tugela Stream to reach it, hiking against its flow as it fell from the Escarpment and flowed out the widening valley into KZN, South Africa. The sun was a bit past directly overhead when an Afrikaner man halted us at one of our crossings. We followed his pointed finger until we spotted it—a coiled puff adder. It was sunning on the rocks just to the right of the path. His sand-colored, striped body blended into the tan rocks of the bed. I would not have seen him. We did not refill our bottles and approached water crossings with respect from then on.
In southern Africa, water is a commodity in a way coastal and Midwestern Americans find hard to understand. The region’s rivers are its rare veins, dispensing food, electricity, and water to millions. Few bisect the region, and only four flow year-round in South Africa and Lesotho combined, an area almost twice the size of Texas. Georgia, slightly less than a quarter the size, draws from fourteen rivers. Water, then, carries immense weight and has the potential to carve out both cooperation and deep schisms between countries and peoples.
My water constituted a small percentage of the 60+ pound pack I carried that first day. With each forward step, the pack pushed me down into the ground, and of their own volition my legs would have been willing accomplices. The extra weight on my back leaned me forward slightly, so I hardly glanced upwards along the path as it grew steadily more vertical. If I had, I might have turned back when I first saw the chain ladder in the distance, a sort of black ivy clinging to the rock face. Cliff and I laughed nervously at the sight when we finally spotted it—a series of metal rungs ascending over one hundred feet straight up over bare rock, then curving out of sight to who knew where. We stared at the rungs for a minute, unsure how to tackle them in our packs and clunky boots. Wiping the sweat from my palms, I began—one foot, one hand, other foot, other hand, periodically drying my palms for better grip. With each drop of sweat that rolled off the end of my nose, I imagined myself lightening for the second chain ladder that lay a quarter mile ahead.
Two hours later, Cliff and I set foot on top of the Drakensberg Escarpment. We doffed our packs and let them fall onto the thick, green grass that covered the ground along the plateau top of the Escarpment, then rolled our shoulders back and forward and stretched our arms down to touch the green stems. Before long, we had to pull out our rain jackets to cut the stiff wind coming over the lip. Walking to the left, we could see the Tugela Stream flowing over the cliff, and our eyes widened to try to take in what lay before us. Looking out, the cliff fell for hundreds of dizzying feet, and the water ricocheted and splintered off the rock in virtual freefall before running out along the path we had hiked earlier, merging with other streams from the valley as it flowed out and down. The valley itself flattened out in the distance, and the enlarged stream fed green rolling plains running from along the horizon, dotted with lodges and traced by serpentine brown roads, before it all faded into the deep blue of the sky.
We understood then, in a way we had never gleaned from textbooks, why the Basotho people fought tooth and nail to hold and protect this land. They survived the might of Shaka Zulu in the early 19th century and defeated both the British and the Boers in the 1850s. But they had to give ground in subsequent wars until Basotholand (later renamed Lesotho) became a British Protectorate in 1868.
Encapsulated inside of South Africa, it maintains political independence but has grown economically dependent on the much larger and more powerful South Africa. The rock wall of the Escarpment carves the eastern border between the two countries. Over 49% of Lesothans live below the poverty line, and Lesotho contains few conventionally valuable natural resources. In the past, most Lesothan revenue has stemmed from men mining or farming in South Africa and sending remittance pay home. Recently, however, South Africa has negotiated with Lesotho for rights to perhaps its most valuable natural resource—water.
As Cliff and I stood by the water plummeting eastward off the Escarpment, gusts rising up the face buffeted us. I worried that a strong wind would come from the west and throw me off the cliff, but the winds blow east to west across the subcontinent, from the Pacific Ocean over the Drakensbergs and clear across South Africa and Namibia to the Atlantic. Most of the streams we saw after the Tugela would follow the same path. Looking out, the westward wind began to blow pinpricks of rain into our faces. Retreating from the edge, we grabbed our packs and headed for the first and only shelter on our five-day trip. The wind blew the steadily increasing rain sideways into our packs and the hoods of our jackets as we tried to keep from tripping on the short, thick grasses. Once safely inside, we listened to the drops pelt the metal roof and sides of the hut. I could visualize the winds picking up moisture over the Pacific Ocean, carrying it to the Escarpment, racing up the vertical walls we had climbed only moments before, then losing energy and dumping the rainfall across the verdant slopes. The green, lush plateau we had just run across was the result—and the reason for South Africa’s interest in Lesotho.
South Africa and Lesotho signed the Lesotho Water Highlands Water Project (LHWP) in 1986, committing the two countries to damming and pipelines in Lesotho to supply water to South Africa’s economic powerhouse, Gauteng Province. Gauteng houses both Pretoria, South Africa’s capitol, and Johannesburg, its largest city and home to most of its gold mines. Under the contract, monthly water revenues for Lesotho in 2002 came to US $1,405,679, a small sum for the volume of water that South Africa was extracting. Lesothans and members of the international community have challenged the Project on the grounds that the apartheid government coerced Lesotho into the project and that the revenue only reaches Lesotho’s elite. The dams and tunnels continue, however, clinging to the steep mountainsides and transporting the Senqu and other clear, clean streams hundreds of miles by pipeline to thirsty Gauteng.
Cliff and I hugged the Escarpment as we hiked southwards towards Cathedral Peak, our exit point, crossing the headwaters of the Senqu River and others as we traversed the green hills. To the west, construction crews were busy damming up the Senqu and building pipelines to transfer its flow, but we saw no sign at the headwaters. In fact, we saw virtually no signs of humans—just territorial baboons and fleet klipspringer, a small antelope. Very few people each year hike the five-day trail from Sentinel Peak to Cathedral—we were two people out of a projected 100 or so total hikers for the year.
We had trouble keeping bearings in the pathless landscape, and distances deceived us because we could see as far as our eyes allowed. A mile looked like a short walk in what seemed to be infinite rolling hills. On the third day, we unknowingly veered eastwards. We could see the Escarpment the entire time, the line so different from a normal horizon because it was not a hazy meeting of land and sky but a sharp end to the plateau and a beginning to endless sky—it could have been the edge of the world. We hiked three or four miles too far inland and only realized our mistake when the clanging of sheep bells drifted to us over the wind. Rounding the top of a hill, we saw smoke rising from two thatched mud huts in the distance. Before we could begin to backtrack, a Lesothan man in a toga-like cloak of dark cloth approached us. He walked towards us with long strides, sure-footed in the thick tufts of grass. We took off our hats and waited.
“I go to Natal,” he told us when he got close enough to speak. We had begun hiking in Natal, a part of KZN.
“We are going there too,” I responded, wishing yet again that I could speak Sotho. “What takes you there?”
But he only looked at us, his expression halfway between a smile and a question. “I go to Natal,” he repeated in the same tone, and we realized that he barely spoke English.
This time we only nodded and prepared to leave, but his next line stopped us.
“I am hungry,” he said and rubbed his stomach.
I felt the guilt that had become familiar by then—an American in a developing country, my bright red polypro shirt and leather boots a sharp contrast to his graying toga and the light scarring across his dark feet. We could spare nothing—we were already several miles lost on a carefully rationed trip. I could not even explain why I could not give him food. We apologized, shook our heads, and turned back towards the Escarpment. I looked back as we walked away; he remained standing in the same place, confused and expectant, the corners of his cloak slapping against him in the wind. I wanted to swear, but he and Cliff were the only two to hear in the rolling hills and biting winds. He would not even understand, a strange foreigner shouting stranger words across his countryside. We kept walking, looking like all the others—foreigners turning their backs. I forced myself not to turn back.
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project has now reached Phase II, which calls for new dam sites and more pipelines to South Africa. The Kingdom of Lesotho is relocating thousands of citizens who live in valleys to be dammed, but a myriad of complaints has emerged about the status of new housing. Relocated citizens cite poor water, sanitation, and agricultural land. Their compensation payments are overdue. When I think of them, I see the man on the Escarpment. Thousands of him have watched their homes flood, confused and expectant and angry, for a promise that is silently flowing away.
An ode to the thru hiker who wouldn’t leave
It happened one fourth of July
We hiked to watch fire light up the sky.
Up on the top of dear Moosilauke
We huddled in fleece behind wind battered rock.
Little did we know our dear friend Jon Kling
Was about to do a terrible thing.
A thru hiker on high summit he did see.
“Hey hiker, come to the lodge, do work, stay free.”
This offer is generally safe to make
But unwritten code of hospitality our hiker did break.
Normally they stay one day, two; then they’re gone
But this was not the case for our new resident A-Ron.
At first, inconspicuous, it appeared.
He did dishes, set tables, and cleared.
Till day turned to night and night turned to day,
And a-Ron, oh a-Ron, would not go away.
With curt speech and scowls we tried to be subtle
Only to be met with passive rebuttal.
We joked when it would ever end
Growing weary of our residential friend
Sean told the hiker to call the kitchen quits
And passed the baton to unfortunate Brits.
He said one more day, this did not deceive
As we plotted stratagems to get him to leave.
Room three, then Benton—guess which room is next!
Beaver brook is calling, Eliza, then the rest!
Oh a-Ron, dear comrade, would you mind getting lost?
Your presence, on our health, has begun to have a cost.
The limit has come, finito, au revoir.
It’s time to get moving, and get moving far.
When I wrote this we didn’t know how this tale would end.
We still had a-Ron, no longer our friend
But the moral of the story: please crew help for one or two day
And under no circumstance overextend your stay.
The poem had been written with great resignation
When surprise! The next day—a-Ron ended his vacation.
He said adios and thanks and sauntered to the door
While crew did a celebratory jig ’cross the floor.
A week and a half was the length of his stay
-and finally the thru hiker has gone away.
He was alone. He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and willful and wildhearted, alone amidst a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight.
I am alone. Behind me winds six miles of rough single-track, twisting through lodge pole pines at the base of Silver Run Plateau. In front of me the trail splits. The right fork widens, flattens, and runs along the creek for several more miles before looping back to the highway. The left track, filled with jagged granite pieces, narrows as it climbs the side of the mountain. I debate which trail to take. The right would be an easy, relaxing ride. Perhaps I could stop and dip my feet in Rock Creek, and then return home to watch the sun set from my back porch. Or I could take the almost vertical left path, which leads to Ingles Creek and ultimately the top of Silver Run Plateau.
I love mountain biking because of the unexpectedness. One minute I am invincible, careening down a mountain road; the next I lay in a crumpled heap of metal and blood at the bottom. Unlike my other activities, mountain biking thrives completely upon spontaneity. Split second decisions must be made. I must decide whether to go over or around the boulder blocking the road, and then immediately move on to the next obstacle. I cannot afford to pause; the wasted time will squander my momentum and I will be unable to make it up the next rising slope.
When I bike, I do it solely for myself. At school and work, other issues crowd my mind. But while I am sweating out a challenging uphill, all that I feel is a satisfying burning in my legs and lungs. It is not just physical, however. It is the feeling of gratitude I acquire upon reaching the top of a hill that looked impossible from the bottom. It is the rush of adrenaline that courses through my body after making a steep technical drop at a speed faster than feels comfortable.
Mountain biking is not perfect. I’ve had my share of cuts and scrapes. I’ve had bruised shins, fractured ankles, and a broken wrist. This imperfection gives mountain biking its beauty. It is about exploring limitations. I learned humility the first time I approached a difficult descent with an attitude of nonchalance and hit five trees before splashing into a creek at the bottom. I gain more respect for our world every time I ride into the sunrise with the early morning rays casting shadows of pink and orange across the forest of pines and firs. I have learned self-discipline as I pedal through sleet and hail to finish the ride I previously had planned. My confidence increases each time I complete a ride that was formerly unattainable.
Mountain biking is extraordinary because it teaches me about life. Obstacles in life are just like rocks in the middle of the trail. Rather than trying to weave a complicated path to avoid each one, I have learned to approach them straight on at full speed. This is the only way to make it over without crashing. Making decisions has never been easy for me. I tend to over-analyze situations because I want to always make the best decision. Mountain biking has helped me to realize that it is often better to be spontaneous, to seize each opportunity, and to be happy with what I have chosen. I have learned to regret nothing and to know that whatever decision I make is the right one. I have discovered how to embrace difficulty. Not unlike speeding down a steep trail laden with sharp granite spikes, I may be slightly out of my comfort zone at times. The challenge, however, is what gives mountain biking, and life, its splendor.
So as I stand at the fork of the road, it is obvious which path I will take. I will take the left path, the more challenging path. I know I will get tired before the afternoon is over. I will crash several times. The sun will have set by the time I hoist my muddy bike onto the back of my car. I will be dirty, exhausted, and sweaty by the time I finish. I do know, however, that it will be worth it.
Cycling Club Annual Report
The cycling team has grown a lot over the last few years, from a team of 5 to a team of nearly 40 racers this year. Dartmouth Cycling has claimed the DII Collegiate National Team Championship title for the past three years running, and we have our eyes on the prize again in 2005. Captained this year by ’05s Tim Clement, Steve Weller, and Thayer student Amy Wallace, the team has been racing this year since March and has placed well every weekend, including their first ever weekend win this April at Penn State University.
The team is composed of undergraduates and grad students, men and women alike. Over spring break we went on an awesome training trip to Asheville, North Carolina. We enjoyed beautiful weather and beautiful hills, lots of sleeping and lots of eating. We came back to Hanover ready to race and do some epic rides here in the Upper Valley.
All students are welcome to join the club, and we go for various rides most every day through the fall and spring. This year, for the first time in a while, the Dartmouth team will be hosting their very own race weekend April 23&24 for the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, including a team time trial and campus criterium on Saturday and a Norwich hills road race on Sunday.
Weekly updates and photos are posted to our webpage.
No Mad Existence
I have been here for about twenty-one years, and I’m getting near to the point where I will have to decide. You know what I mean. Decide.
Now, I live in a city that I know so well I can walk through it on the quickest possible way between points without even looking up. I can read the papers, sip a coffee, or look at European boots marching by. But when I get home, I don’t know why I had left in the first place. This is the city that gave birth to modern democracy and capitalism, to Marxism, and is the capitol of the nation that invented technical climbing. Poverty and wealth, beauty and disgust coexist here. It brings something out from the anti-romantic in you, watching the tide on the Thames sweep back toward the cold Channel, as it has for thousands of stacked years.
My religion has faded. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t touched rock, haven’t sunk crampons into a waterfall, haven’t felt a plastic hold. Just before this period of my life began, I walked up Mont Blanc alone by the easiest route, but the path was like the tract of a treadmill — a riverbed of dried mud. There was practically even a guardrail of ice built from snow that had been trudged to the side, long since refrozen. There were even twenty-somethings from Paris bandying weekend piolets with coffee on their breaths and uniform synthetic armor on their bodies.
Those were instrumental days — for all of us. I was back in Metropolitan Park in road-crossed Ohio, walking through the woods with the car lot through the trees. It was purely rational. These alpinists and I were out to get in shape, to come back with a story or two, to experience altitude, to see a pretty view, to build esprit de corps, to touch the highest point on the Continent, to purge frustration or forget desire.
I’m a climber — I call myself that — but I didn’t know why I was climbing Mont Blanc. When I had been at this little game for about five years, I found myself one day on the opposite side of the world, staring at the death shroud of an un-named, frozen human, going the other way — down.
I needed to justify what I was doing. But there was no justification. I’ve felt the warm content of sitting in a couch with my feet curled beneath my ass and a hot bowl smoking before me, head still itching beneath my hat, wet socks steaming near the fire, hardware hanging on the wall pegs. I’ve felt the acid satisfaction on a ledge atop a pitch with the pungency of aluminum, adrenaline, dust, and blood on my hands.
These are instinctual pleasures, bearable because we believe they return us to a state our earliest parents had moved away from in the name of progress. Pleasurable because we are remembering how it feels to be nomadic again, sweeping away constraints in deference to the awe of space, time, and energy without horizon. Our ancestors built walls to keep out the hordes of those code-less savages, and they crafted societies of niches and little pleasures, of hierarchies and rights, of responsibilities and syllogisms.
I had a girlfriend at home at the time, who, along with my parents and a sibling felt empathy for me. They would have given a legitimate damn if this project that they had patiently observed for twenty-odd years came to a sudden end. They would care a hell of a lot more than they cared for this avalanche fodder on the snow like packaged fish before me, more than they cared for the suicide acquaintance, more than they cared for their ancestor’s friends beneath limestone graves down the road.
A lot of people need substance to get through their lives. Where substance lacks, substances — ironically — can be the replacement. You stop every day on the way to your job for an espresso, and you wind down with a pint of bitter and a kiss from a loved one when you get home. That’s pretty harmless; it works. For some it doesn’t, and they find their escape on the top shelf or in a dark room, in a joint or in a needle, in a pill or in the television. They turn themselves into another sort of priest — pulling another structure to their lives because they are afraid of fear and boredom. They’re drawing striations in the smooth sand of their existence because they can’t bear the bravery it would take to refuse building their castle. We divert our attentions.
“Climbing is one hell of a lot of fun! Thanks for bringing me out here.”
“It isn’t so fun when you start seeing people die, so you better make sure that eight is tied right. Otherwise, there’ll be a lot of screaming.”
“Alright — you have me?”
“We better get crackin’ here before the sun goes down.”
It was irrational what I was doing on Alpamayo, on chossy limestone, on the pitch I thought no one was watching. I didn’t fear. I welcomed the possibility of death by a cold bludgeon, but it took me some time to think it over. I had to go back to town, first, and engage my last supper with the locals. They were involved in their patterns: waking, cooking, speaking, working. They’re so far behind us in that respect — they can’t see the light in the future that keeps us sane in the North — they’re the darkness beneath us in the sunny South. And that’s why they have heroes lithographed on their ratty, second-hand Chinese buses. She looks past you, as a young boy sticks his head out of the dark interior and demands money for the ride into the mountains. We both understand the logic of exchange. And we both understand that we need something more than what we’re getting. Especially him. Especially the girls that come home so easily. Not all can put themselves to the task of digging it out from the rubbish heap of ideas and deeds that we stand atop.
Madness, hermitage, and death. These are the exit signs lit for us today. To exist, we must choose between that Trinity, or choose the Trinity in whole. But usually we’re too afraid to touch the door handle. All other doors lead to the instrumental life. This is why man’s secret, most sublime hero, who defied God knowing full well that if the revolution he proposed failed (we have since learned that all revolutions fail), then he would be cast into the Shades. He is Lucifer.
It’s clichˇ that the greatest trick he ever pulled was convincing us that he never existed. But he didn’t. We did, by telling ourselves that he never existed, that we never betrayed him so that we don’t have to look him in the face anymore. We are told that the truth of hope exists through imagination and empathy — and we buy that logic because we know there is no other — at least not in the realm of the rational. That’s a bit more acceptable than antipathy. We would walk in the Shades otherwise.
So, revolutionaries and climbers are not so different. What is worth killing for is worth dying for. And if climbing is worth dying for, then the climber is revolting against an instrumental non-existence in favor of an irrationalism that nonetheless gives him hope. The hope of slaying the structures within that keep him latent until the moment he can no longer bear the weight. Madness, hermitage, and death coalesce and appear, and he either runs home from fear, or accepts their inevitability because the boredom could spell no worse an alternate fate. For the admirable few, madness is an original state. They can avoid these trials of rationalization.
Cool-headed on the surface, when you are soloing with a few thousand beneath your feet, the rage of Achilles is within you, waiting to be untethered at the moment your hand shifts ever so slightly in that crack. When you enjoy the deafening silence of the sun, standing on a snow-muffled glacier crossed with death, you may feel a fleeting moment where you wish to never return. We don’t walk into cafˇs with explosives on our chests, but we do tempt the end of being.
We were not ready to go mad, to go into hermitage, to die when — if our bluff isn’t called — we have little grins on your faces. We must be hysterical in laughter and unintelligible in reticence because we nearly met the shatterer of worlds, but realized that he was a hoax himself. When we decide to be irrational, we’re the artists who would rather freeze to death alone in the arctic than burn our work for the last hour of warmth.
The funny thing is — those of us who stick with climbing became that way through our imagination, through our innovation, and through our empathy. My partner, tied to me by an artificial umbilical cord — I wager my existence on my trust in her, share water and sugar with him, and confide in them all my secrets at the ends of our world. There is no material exit for us but what lies at the end of that Trinity — death. We don’t have to be nailed to a cross or pilot an airliner into a building. But we have to be radical. We must either suffocate alone upon reaching the shores of nihilism, or we must continually re-imagine, re-envision, and re-empathize while we are still swimming. The other option is letting ourselves sink to the bottom. I think I already mentioned that I had a decision to make.
DMC Annual Report
Immediately after winter finals finished, 15 frozen Dartmouth students packed into a bus and drove for 55 straight hours, braving snow storms in New York to arrive in Las Vegas for a week and a half of sunny, warm climbing. Almost 25 Dartmouth students ended up participating in the Spring Break Trip this year in Red Rocks, NV. There was great climbing for all, from beginners to experts and from bouldering to sport climbing to long trad routes.
The spring saw a huge amount of tough sport climbing at nearby Rumney. Dartmouth students could be seen on the cliffs casually polishing off 5.12s. Tristan Perry ’04 knocked off Big Kahuna (5.12d) and Butt Bongo Fiesta (5.13a) , while Victor McConnell ’04 sent Silver Surfer (5.12a) and James Joslin (’05) got Maui Waui (5.13b) and Rhythm X (5.13b/c) among others. Numerous others were climbing hard at Rumney this spring as well, including DMC alumni.
Laura Case and Robin Batha chaired the club this past summer, getting the ’06 class out to local areas such as Rumney. A midsummer trip to the Adirondacks in NY also provided great climbing and a good trip from campus. Though rain came on the second day, the ’06 class found much to do in the woods and roads of upstate NY. Those not on campus this summer climbed everywhere from Yosemite and Owen’s River Gorge to Lumpy Ridge and the Grand Tetons.
The Expedition Fund was put to good use last summer by Andrew Flynn ’07. Working for the International Scout Center in Kandersteg, Switzerland, Andrew led students on mountaineering trips in the Alps. In his spare time, he climbed some classic routes, including the traverse of Mt. Blanc during which he summitted three 4000m peaks.
Fall climbing (headed up by co-chairs Vivek Tata and Luke Evans) in New England provided beautiful foliage and great trips to Rumney. Several beginner trips went out, as well as numerous trips by DMC’ers on their own. November came with a trip to Pawtuckaway for great fall bouldering, and a weekend to the Shawgunks in NY during which several members showed the club has at least some culture and saw Le Nozze di Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera House.
This winter the club has been as active in New England ice as ever. With Andrew Flynn, Addie Smith, and Luke Evans chairing, the club has taken beginner trips to Holt’s Ledge and Mt. Ascutney, and will be going to The Flume soon. There is enormous interest in the sport, with spots on the trips being filled within hours of announcement, signifying the sport’s surge in popularity. In addition, individuals have been active going to Crawford Notch, Lake Willoughby, and Cannon Cliff. Linden Mallory ’07, partially supported with Expedition Fund money, went to the Andes to climb 22,211 ft Mercedario. Bad weather kept Linden from summitting, but he reached 19,000 ft before turning back.
Overall this year has been great for Mountaineering Club climbers, with next year promising to start off well going to Bishop and Joshua Tree, CA for spring break.
50 Miles of Fun
No amount of planning will ever lead to the perfect outing. The best times and most fun seem to come just winging it at the last minute and seeing what happens. Sometimes fun happens by accident, like when Kyle missed the exit in the middle of the night and we wound up in Texas. Or like the time I accidentally bought plane tickets to Santiago, Chile. Likewise, our trip to Moosilauke seemed to be an act of Providence—the idea for our adventure came down upon us, and through divine will; events somehow fell into place to make it happen.
It was Green Key weekend, which usually means heavy drinking and irresponsibility, resulting at last in passing out in a pool of your own vomit and shame. On Friday afternoon in the spring warmth and sun, I was chilling at an outdoor Strangefolk concert on Frat Row contemplating the imminence of the aforementioned joyous expression of college fun when I ran into my friend Katey.
“Do you want to get out of town this weekend?” I asked.
“Yes! — what do you want to do?”
I could sense the opportunities for adventure spinning themselves out in our heads as I added,
“Let’s do something big! How can we hurt ourselves?! I know, how about hiking the 50 to Moosilauke?”
“Okay! Can we run it instead?” she said, “And let’s not bring any food!”
Clearly this trip had the roots of heavenly inspiration.
Maybe it’s because you don’t have time to plan that makes the trip so much fun. Then there is also the challenge of being unprepared, which leads to MacGyver-esque feats to overcome the odds, which is the pith of good fun and good stories. We were excited at the prospect of new proving grounds and absolutely thrilled to leap before we looked. Drunk on the anticipation of our new adventure, we bumbled into our friend Anne, who on the spot decided to come and who convinced us to bring food. Good thinking, Anne! We then split up with the sketchiest vagaries about getting supplies and maps, and in less than 12 hours we met again at 5 in the morning by Ben & Jerry’s to set off on our new (brand-new!) trip.
It seemed like such a guilty pleasure to be out hiking through the woods and having such fun when everyone else was stuck on campus dealing with parties and social scenes and beer. We were outside, bouncing along the AT, tripping over streams and bounding up the hills. We didn’t spend any time worrying had we remembered this or that, or had we brought enough stuff, or were we on schedule, because we didn’t have time to plan anything before we left, most of us with almost no sleep, having just thrown the bare necessities into a backpack, and with no idea where we were going. I’ll admit that this is not the best condition in which to run out into the woods, but it really worked for us in this case, where the worst thing that could have gone wrong was to over-think the trip. If the Devil is in the details, we completely skipped him and went straight to adventure heaven. There were no expectations, and I guess we simply figured the fun would just show up, because we had.
This two-day, 54 mile hike with Anne and Katey was some of the most fun I have ever had. I got to bond with two of the most amazing girls I have ever met, and we were hardcore kicking butt and having a great time all at once. This trip was the start of our friendship. We giggled insanely in the middle of the trail in the middle of the woods about some stupid joke that isn’t even funny unless you’ve been hiking for at least 30 miles, and with one will we pushed our weary bodies over Smarts at sunset, looking back on miles of trail that hadn’t even crossed our minds before we chose to take our trip.
We made it to Moosilauke by dinner the second day, which was just in time for us to feast with the Spring Weekend crew and get a ride back. After dinner and before we left, I lay on the couch on the crew porch in a sleeping bag, watching the silhouette of Moosilauke get darker and darker against the night sky, snuggled into the down as the air grew cold and fresh. My entire existence was brimming with happiness over how amazing it is to be blessed with such great friends and great adventures, and I felt truly alive (and truly tired).
Dartmouth Organic Farm Annual Report
As a physical extension of the college, its lush pastoral setting on the Connecticut River provides a haven for students away from the rush of campus life. The mixture of students who are drawn to the Farm come from many different backgrounds and interests, but for all of them, the Farm provides something that they cannot find on-campus or with other programs. Finally, for many students who have come to know him, the farm manager Scott Stokoe is a supportive, nurturing mentor who shares his farming and environmental knowledge, kindness, and life wisdom.
The Dartmouth Organic Farm has organized many activities throughout the year. This summer, we hosted a visit from Micheal Pollen, the reknowned author of Botany of Desire, and an environmental writer. Fall harvest was brought to market on campus at the Collis Farm stand, where we sold produce and flowers to the Dartmouth community. This winter we visited the Northeast Organic Farming Association conference and attended a number of workshops and speaker. At the Farm, we hosted a sledding potluck, joined with the Forestry team for wood-chopping and marshmallow roasting, and organized maple-sugaring for the spring. This spring we held a spring event with yoga by the river, potting seedlings to bring home, a potluck and live bluegrass music. Like other DOC clubs, the Organic Farm’s meeting and events are well-attended and enjoyed by a variety of students, ranging from curious students to future farmers. We hope to continue and increase the number of events that encourage the flow of ideas and making friends with the Farm as a focus.
For my father, pursuer of mountains, before he goes.
You will be Antarctica
at the bottom of my globe,
like Atlas, your load
heavy as the world.
The largest birthmark,
the mile-thick glacier
melting into sea
under a broken ozone.
You always were
that sort of landscape,
a daunting expanse
of mountains and sky,
callous to the cold,
addicted to the white
burn of that sun,
living on dehydrated food
and melted snow,
waiting out the weather
for a day clear enough to summit.
I spin on this axis
though the dawns and dusks
before you fly into the white
to become only daytime—
much like I imagine heaven to be,
always bright—but I wonder,
Will you miss the night?
Then again I’d rather reason this
white light into science,
facts, and angles of the sun
for January is summer there
and days hardly end.
You will be Antarctica
at the bottom of my snow-blind world,
disappearing into days that will seem—
when I listen to the creaking
of some cracked crevasse
widening between us, wondering
in prayer-like paper whispers
if that thickness will take you
and in turn me, arm in arm,
as always, together while apart,
falling off the bottom
of a spinning globe.
The shoreline of South-central Alaska, much of it a part of the 5,900,000 acre Chugach National Forest, is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas there is. The opportunities for exploring the region by both land and sea are endless, but the experience is particularly rewarding when traveling through the crystalline waters under one’s own power. The ocean environment is most frequently visited by the cruise ship crowd, but also attracts those seeking a more intimate experience with the landscape and its inhabitants. My family has long answered this “call of the wild,” and with a few days to spare in late June, we—along with my 15-year-old cousin from Florida and Jeffrey Bate ’07 from Massachusetts, both visitors for a few weeks — packed our car again for a few days of sea kayaking along Resurrection Bay.
We arrived in Seward by nine o’clock that morning and quickly began the task of putting our collapsible kayaks together. The kayaks, both single and double ocean-going craft, are manufactured by the increasingly popular Canadian company Feathercraft, and are very similar to well known Kleppers. Assembly involves connecting aluminum and plastic pieces together to create the frame, which then fits inside a rubberized skin — a knuckle skinning process. A couple hours later we were ready to hit the water. Unfortunately, the wind had its own agenda as it swept across the Bay from the open ocean, creating an insurmountable headwind. By noon the water was ridden with white-caps. In such conditions we typically take a conservative approach, especially in Alaska where the 38-degree water will render you hypothermic and near-death within twenty minutes. Our decision to wait for calmer water forced us to stay on shore until the following day.
We awoke early the next morning to glass-flat water and clear, blue skies, so we quickly set out for our destination of Thumb Cove. After only an hour of paddling along the shore leaping fish, curious seals, bald eagles, and various other shore birds appeared. The coast itself is very rugged, yet lush, with spruce trees clinging to the eroding cliffs above us — a beautiful foreground for the mountains beyond. Our campsite was 8 miles away and as we drew closer the afternoon headwinds arose again, forcing a strenuous final push to reach the protection of the Cove.
Upon reaching our campsite we spent the remainder of the day lounging on the shale rock beach and walking along the shore, taking advantage of the low tide to access other secluded sections of coastline. The land surrounding the Cove is green and marshy, but quickly turns into steep, mountainous terrain that is home a network of glaciers. This scene provided the backdrop for the next three days of day-tripping.
During this time, we paddled around the Cove and to points further down the coast in the mornings and evenings when the water was calmest, using our readily employed mast and sail to take advantage of the occasional tailwind. On land, we passed the time by beachcombing, taking quick polar bear plunges, and playing cards. Each afternoon a water taxi brought another group of sea kayakers to paddle the Cove, and from afar we watched them receive a quick lesson, paddle around for an hour or two, and then depart as quickly as they had come, leaving us again in the relative solitude of our surroundings.
On our last evening in the Cove we looked across the water to the Bay and saw a cruise ship headed towards Seward. The people aboard were surely enjoying their five course dinners in a stately dining room, yet as we cooked our own meal, crouched over our camp stove, we joked about their herded experience and all agreed that we wouldn’t have our adventure any other way. While this trip was only a snapshot of my family’s typically extended journeys, it allowed us to introduce Jeff and my cousin to the essence of what we love about sea kayaking in Alaska.
Thursday Rolling Practice
Thoroughly thwarted through and through,
though I thought- theoretically, looking to you-
that a thwack of the paddle would sure do the trick,
would threaten the water, all thistly-thick,
and bring me up quickly, thirsty and proud,
thinking of rivers thundering loud.
(In my mind I’d decided I’d be great at boating:
I’d walk down the street with a smile on, gloating;
throwing down would be simple, I’d know all the tricks;
I’d grin while I boofed and then toss a helix…)
But alas, when my head thunk thtraight under the water,
I saw that my theories were flawed and I oughter
work out these thighs and this thorax of mine,
thicken my muscles through practice and time,
so, throwing my heart right back into my throat,
I gathered my wits and thrust back in my boat!
Dartmouth Northern Club (DNC)
The Dartmouth Northern Club is a new organization founded last fall by a group of students seeking to discover, develop, and promote arctic and northern interests both on campus and throughout the Hanover community. We love the cold. We love the snow. Our nipples are always hard. Our currently small, but enthusiastic membership includes ski instructors, Alaskans, and wannabe-Icelanders—making the DNC, without a doubt, the coolest club on campus. The group works closely with the Dickey Center’s Institute of Arctic Studies (IAS) to bring speakers to campus and to advise and educate students about travel and research opportunities in northern places.
Last fall Wiley Bogren ’07 organized and lead a DNC cold-weather canoe trip to the Adirondacks. This winter the group brought in speakers such as Gary Kofinas, former Dartmouth Senior Fellow with the IAS, from Fairbanks, AK, to talk about the ecology of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and Phil Cronenwett, former Dartmouth Special Collections curator, to talk about Dartmouth’s long legacy in the Arctic. The group didn’t quite achieve their goal of arranging a dogsledding demonstration for Carnival, but hopes to make that a reality next year. In the mean time, we’re looking for members, ideas, and excitement. If you speak fluent Inuktituk, or want to see an FSP to Iceland, or are from Florida and just want to learn how to build a snowman, blitz “DNC,” come to a meeting, and come get involved with the cold. To learn more about the DNC and IAS, and upcoming events, monitor the Arctic Studies bulletin, and check out http://www.dartmouth.edu/~dickey/dickey_arctic.html.
If You Don’t Tuck…
Six months ago I was sitting at my kitchen table, safe and warm in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. My father and my uncle, both Ledyard members, were waving their arms above their heads, lecturing me about the importance of the hip-snap and how to position my paddle for a roll. From a kitchen table, it seems kind of ludicrous.
Three months later, upside down in the Hartlands Rapids and losing feeling in my limbs, I reflected that the roll might not be such a bad idea.
The first time I went over in a kayak, without Laura Jorgensen standing next to me in the shallows reading to flip me back up, my first instinct was to abandon everything I’d ever been told and panic. I tried to push out of my boat, but my skirt acted like a slingshot and launched me back right where I started. As I floundered, I had a vague memory of something Laura had said on the dock at Ledyard, something about tucking.
I think her words were, “If you don’t tuck, it’s like ‘Hey rocks, come break off my face!’”
I had a sudden image of pieces of my face being broken off, like the Sphinx. As I imagined pieces of my nose and chin floating down the river, I tucked.
It was a good thing I started to remember what to do, because I was running out of air. My skirt, it turned out, was not trying to drown me. I just had to pull the loop to get out.
Surfacing, I was very pleased to see that I wasn’t drowned. When the cold began to kick in, I started to wish I was.
Jeff and Scott hauled me over to calmer water (as opposed to the trickle that had dumped me) and emptied my boat between them. As I treaded water, I could feel the blood literally flowing out of my limbs.
Somehow I got back into my boat. Getting my skirt on was another matter: I had no feeling in my hands. I ended up having no participation in the skirt; I think Jeff got it for me. By the time I was ready to go, I was clenching every muscle I could to keep from shaking so hard that I flipped all over again.
“Great,” I remember Scott saying. “Let’s go.”
So I found myself paddling back towards the seemingly innocuous current. I was soaking wet, freezing cold, lacking sensation in my limbs, and heading back to the piece of the river that ostensibly wanted me dead, or at least waterlogged.
The weirdest part was, I was having a pretty good time.
I thought I must have been going crazy.
Three months after Hartlands, safely in the pool, I got my first roll. I remember the absolute surprise of coming back up. That night I called my dad and told him it really was all about the hip-snap. He sounded kind of smug, like I was finally coming around.
Next time I’m in Hartlands, I’m sure I’ll forget how to roll. It’s an absolute given. But maybe I’ll remember to tuck. I have faith that eventually these things will come naturally. In the mean time, I don’t so much mind being cold and wet.
Insanity must be the result of exposure and spending time with Ledyard people. At least if I’m nuts, I’ll be in good company.
Crabs can’t kiss when they’re inside their shells
my mother teased, holding my two new hermits
high up together in the kitchen’s yellow light.
And she was right. They were fierce loners
curled into little pink fists inside their cores
of darkness. But on a palm they might
dart out and fasten hard to skin, I knew,
as if they meant to drag everything in to themselves
instead of doing what sympathetic people ought to do,
which is, show a little kindness.
And they would take each other like that too,
the pet store owner said, if we weren’t careful
to keep them comfortable
they would go for each other, wanting
something the other had.
But the next morning when I found one crab
outside its shell, naked, against the glass,
there were no signs of struggle. It seemed
he’d hauled himself out of his place
and died like that: monster
pinchers dragging the dead half of his body
around in circles, refusing to take
another home. Nothing seemed so tight and safe then
as his original, which lay deserted
and rocked there as a door might rock
open and shut on its hinges—equally
uncomfortable with coming and going—
a gesture of perpetual anxiety,
and in the background the ocean
swept away any respectful silence.
Outdoor Tip: If a Leech Invades an Air Passage
Hirudiniasis is a potentially serious condition in which one or more leeches invade a body orifice. In particular, Dinobdella ferox (literally, “the terrifying ferocious leech” or “nasal leech”) has a predilection for airways, where it may cause a blockage or asphyxiation, especially if leeches invade the passage in large numbers. If there is a leech invading your airway and you can breath, do not attempt to remove it—seek medical attention immediately. If you cannot breathe, take the following steps:
1. Gargle with diluted 80-proof alcohol. Most distilled liquors—vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch—have the requisite alcohol content. Use a mixture of 50 percent alcohol, 50 percent water. Be careful not to aspirate (inhaling the leech and the alcohol).
2. Spit out the leech.
Fresh powder in the Groulx Mountains of Quebec (photo: Pamela Collins ’07)