Friday, March 23, 2012
Expedition Seven by the Students of FMA-XII
For this issue, and the event of this year’s final group expedition, each student took one day of the expedition to write about, with a final note on the experience of sharing seven expeditions thus far.
Day One: Joshua B.
On day one of this expedition I got up at 5:30 a.m. for 6:15 class, then had the normal expedition breakfast, chores, and room inspection. At 8:30 we left on the bus for a two-mile drive to the base of Academy Trail. After getting separated from the front half of the group for about 30 minutes, we hiked up the Academy Trail for what seemed like miles. At the top we reached the Iron Mountain Trail, and hiked about three miles on that before arriving at camp at approximately 1:30 p.m. Mitch and I got our tent set up and our fire started, gathered some wood, and then went to rally, after which we had supper and went to bed.
On the second day of expedition I awoke to a cool windy morning. After Carlisle and I had packed up our camp, put out our fire, and eaten a wonderful breakfast, we started hiking toward rally. It was then that I remembered it was my birthday. This made me feel kind of annoyed because I wished I were home with my family having a regular birthday; however, once we started hiking, my mood improved for I was able to let my mind wander and enjoy the beautiful scenery. It was a five-mile hike, and about halfway through a light snow began to fall, but it wasn’t bad. Once we arrived in camp it started coming down harder. This was probably the most amazing campsite I have ever been in. It has a view of Doe Valley below and is truly spectacular. We were allowed to relax in camp for the remainder of the afternoon, and at 5:00 p.m. we went to rally. At rally I was granted a pleasant surprise when Mr. Dan came toward me singing Happy Birthday and carrying Snickers bars for everyone. All in all, it was a great day. At about 8:00 p.m. it really started to blizzard, and although the night was cold, my sleeping bag kept me toasty.
Day Two: Jordan B.
This morning my tent partner Aiden and I awoke to a serene, snow-covered stillness. For ten minutes. Then the winds started. Maybe “started” isn’t quite strong enough; rather it began howling madly like those large brown monkeys in Costa Rica. This was only the beginning; as we hiked along the IMT we were pelted with a massive barrage of icy snow, which continued until we reached our next camp. Our SMEAC said we’d be headed to “camp onion,” but due to the weather conditions we stopped a bit short – at a camp, which has yet to be named. And now I sit by my fire, wind still blowing, with a hot drink in my hand. Today brought rough weather, but it was good for my mind, because I persevered and can still smile at how beautiful everything is out here.
In typical fashion, Jacob and I awoke well before the designated “out of tent” time to painstakingly apply our outer layers of clothing and boots. The entirely clear sky (in stark contrast to yesterday morning’s blizzard-like whiteout) allowed for a bitingly chilly welcome to the outside world – outside the tent that is – as we tossed all our belongings out in front of us in order to get packed up quickly and to ensure we wouldn’t succumb to the temptation of re-entering the tent. The dreamlike weather outside and the lack of any significant terrain obstacles made the 4.8 mile journey from camp “no name” to Abingdon Gap pass quickly, allowing me to enjoy the lustrous views of Holston Valley and two large lakes which gleamed with an almost green tinge below our ridgeline. After erecting our tent and starting a modest fire, I was able to enjoy a delicious meal of salami and Mr. Mike’s mozzarella cheese, while making slow progress on a new interest, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. By 2:00 p.m. all the groups were assembled for class where we participated in some field first-aid Jeopardy! Getting back to my book, and now reading aloud for Jacob’s entertainment, the 5:00 p.m. rally came in the blink of an eye. I am currently sitting in my tent, of course, in the comfort of a bag of sleep. Day five beckons so toward dreams I shall creep.
The sun peeked over the mountains as Ralph and I crawled out of the tent at 6:50 a.m. After we put on our boots, Ralph went over to start the fire using flint, steel, and a good amount of dry twiggies. While he did that, I quickly took down and packed the tent, and, at 7:26 a.m., I was just in time for a delicious breakfast of oatmeal mixed with hot chocolate powder. While Ralph went on a water-run, I took apart the hammock chair we had made the previous day, and then neatly packed my backpack for the day ahead. By 8:00 a.m. our warm fire was smothered, and we were ready to leave. We commuted to the rally point where we were notified that we were early. At 8:35 we met with everyone else, and Mr. Mike talked to us about leading. At 8:49 a.m. we started our 7½-mile hike from Abingdon Gap to midway camp. Throughout the hike we changed leaders at each break. At 1:15 p.m. we arrived at camp, and, while I started the fire, Ralph set up the tent. After collecting wood for an hour we finally sat down to eat and relax. At 3:00 p.m. we had rally where we reviewed out experiences while leading. At 4:00 p.m. I went down to the trickling water source, and, when I returned, I was happy to find that Ralph had made a wonderful meal of lentils, rice, and lots of cheese. After dinner, we headed for rally. After rally we finished the evening by collecting wood and happily “scarfing down” the delicious chocolate donuts we had made. By 6:40 p.m. we were in our tent ready to rest up for the next day.
Day Five: Liam L.
I awoke to a beautiful day at 7:48 a.m., but was, once again, reminded by my stomach of the reality of the situation, and I found myself, yet again, perturbed by the idea of satisfying my hunger by eating my tent partner, Liam Lewis, as he started the fire. These thoughts began to erupt as the already low food rations, drawn from my pockets, had shrunk to mere crumbs and were compounded by the realization that we were ten-thousand, five-hundred, sixty feet from civilization. As it was our last day, it was unlikely that we would seriously resort to eating each other, but no one could have foreseen what was to transpire by 9:00 that morning. It was 9:24 a.m. when we discovered that the disastrous events I had been imagining, due to the loss of our precious food bags, had actually been part of a dreaming fantasy, and now that I had regained consciousness, we both enjoyed delicious oatmeal, and were even able to double our regular amount because we had “saved” some for this final day. We gorged ourselves on the contents of our food bags, which contained even more rations we had been “saving.” By 10:23 a.m., Liam and I had the tent taken down, as well as the fire put out, which was not difficult considering our previous training. At 12:45 pm., we, being the entire team, left camp for Damascus where we would rendezvous with Ike, the bus to be taken home. We arrived in Damascus around 1:50 p.m. where we enjoyed delicious Pepsis. After that we commuted back to the school on Ike, and did our routine check-in. It was official; our expedition vacation had ended and work had begun once again. The remainder of the day included stuffing ourselves with amazing food, catching up on homework, and introspection.
Throughout this year, every three weeks, an event has arrived that I have not always look forward to. Weather conditions have included pouring rain, snow, lightning, and windstorms that seemed nearly hurricane-level, but somehow expeditions have still been a highlight of the year. Each has covered a period of six days during which we have the opportunity to bond with each other and learn first-aid and wilderness survival skills. This last expedition was a bittersweet experience. As it came to a close, we all realized it was the last expedition we would all be going on together, as the next expedition will be divided by level achievement. We have been through tough times, great times, and times full of fun, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that looking back, we enjoyed it 100% of the time, even in the worst conditions. Whether it was a bright sunny day, or a bleak gray wintery storm, we learned to get along well, and I’m sad to see the combined expeditions behind us.