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Archive for April, 2020

Airplane slide story – By Alex Olhava and Alice Cannon

Posted: April 29, 2020

Lying on the southeastern face of Wright the Airplane Slide sits an old rocky scar jutting into the mountain littered with debris from a crashed military bomber – Airplane Slide’s namesake. Based on the name alone, many would presume the fatal crash created the slide, but this is not the case. The plane actually crashed quite close to the summit, and there is a plaque commemorating it accessible to hikers just a quick walk from the top. In fact one can find debris from the bomber that flew over the summit of the mountain and littered the slide and the col between Wright and its bigger brother Algonquin with metal debris.

After an early wake up and a couple hours of on trail hiking, we began bushwacking up the much shallower and narrower Irene Slide. This slide was created by the torrential rainfalls that fell on much of the Adirondacks from Hurricane Irene in 2011. It follows its way down the col between Algonquin and Wright, and has a small stream flowing through the exposed rocks and boulders. Now that we were out in the sun, it was quickly becoming a hot day, with the sun’s burning intensity. And so after considerable debate we convinced Barry to let the group take a short rest to ‘immerse’ in the freezing mountain water. It quickly cooled us off and we collectively built up the courage to dunk our heads into the frigid brook. After putting our boots back on we continued hiking though, as we had not yet arrived at the base of the slide.

After veering off the Irene slide at a miniscule cairn, and a short bushwack, we finally reached the base of the Airplane Slide. We took a much deserved rest to recharge our legs and eat some chex mix, all while Barry took a few people on a short scavenger hunt for pieces of the plane wreckage. With a bit of searching we found some of the old rusty and mossy pieces of airplane, although the pieces we found were quite small. Deep in the wilderness, the debris showed how quickly nature reclaims anything man made. Moss had grown over the disintegrating metal, and it was almost unrecognizable from the forest around us. Soon enough though, we were off again, although this time the summit was in sight. Just another thousand feet or so.

The Airplane Slide is not the tallest, steepest, nor longest in the Adirondacks, but it was definitely not easy either. It was still a straight shot up the exposed slide, with the bright blue sky and hot sun of a typical Adirondack day surrounding us. We zig zagged up the rocky face, occasionally stopping to rest and for Adam to take some photos of us (Thanks Adam!). Barry also pointed out the stunning views of Colden and the picturesque view of the trap dike.

Once we had reached the top of the slide, we still had two more considerable pieces of the climb. One was the headwall, a steep diagonal wall of rock at the beginning of the slide, which we needed to navigate to continue onwards. After trying a few locations we found a promising method in which we climbed up a shorter part of the wall using some small and hardy alpine trees to stabilize ourselves, and then continued walking up the shallower part of the headwall. The summit was so close we could taste it, but first we had to bushwack up through the stubby and sharp alpine plants hardened from the severe Adirondack winters. This caused painfully slow travel, but finally we managed to reach the summit.

Once we finally got to the top, we were rewarded with an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, and ate a satisfying lunch of sun butter and jelly. Being the first large climb of the summer and only the second week of camp, the Airplane Slide was a promising beginning to a summer that would be full of adventures (and missing spaghetti Saturday).

By Alex Olhava and Alice Cannon

Lessons from North Country Camps – By Meg Johnson

Posted: April 16, 2020

Like many of you, I have spent the past month at home, allowing a lot of time for reflection. One memory I keep returning to is when my mom dropped me off at camp for the first time. I waved goodbye to her as I walked across the field. I was nervous about making friends and what the summer would bring – would I have fun? What would I learn? Who would I become? This experience may sound familiar to you, but perhaps unlike you, I was 18 and my first summer at camp was as a young counselor, and I had no idea what a deep and lasting connection I would form with North Country Camps.

It’s now nearly a decade and a half later, and I have a bit more perspective on what a summer at NCC can bring. In part because I found my summers at Whippoorwill so rewarding, I pursued a career in education and have been a high school history teacher since 2012. With my educator’s hat on, I see even more clearly how valuable camp is for children. I often talk with my colleagues about how we help students develop the dispositions and habits of mind that will help them live a purposeful, ethical and fulfilling life. This is complicated and difficult work for schools, but I think that work often happens in a beautifully organic way at Lincoln and Whippoorwill for both the staff and campers in their care. Looking back, I know that my summers on staff were absolutely formative in my own sense of self and habits of mind. I’d like to share a few of the key character traits that camp develops in its campers and staff.

Initiative -  Camp is a place that depends on the initiative of both its campers and counselors to create a sense of fun. Counselors and campers are co-creators of afternoon program, skits, trips and so many other parts of camp. My first summer (2007), I was blown away by final banquet. The theme was fairy tale and the dining hall had been transformed into an enchanted forest all through camper-made decorations (aided by adroit counselor guidance from Meg Keiffer if I remember correctly). I was shocked to see even many of the youngest campers get started on their peanut presents well ahead of schedule. These lessons about the fruits of their initiative are baked into flow of the summer at camp, rewarding campers who chart their own course and start projects early.

Teamwork -  It is appropriate that the first big event at camp is Pioneer Meet. Even as the two teams compete, the sense of group spirit is high! The bucket brigade brings everyone together to work as a team and my favorite event, the crosscut saw, can’t be won by muscling through, it has to be won by working together. It isn’t just at pioneer meet that this team spirit comes through. It is embedded everywhere at camp. I’ve seen campers take extra weight from their peers on backpacking trips, help each other with peanut presents and work together to build their workgroup projects. There is a very real belief that campers benefit not only from receiving help, but from giving it.

Resilience - I’m a big fan of NCC’s trip program. It’s where I came to love the outdoors and what led me to a summer job leading trips for NOLS in Alaska. The outdoor classroom has expansive possibilities for teaching lessons about resilience. The first time I led a Lake Colden trip, the final day of backpacking brought constant heavy rain. As we slogged up Colden, I worried the girls would be discouraged or complain. They proved me wrong though: they sang the whole way up and down the mountain. Resilience doesn’t mean you don’t find the conditions challenging, it means finding ways to keep your spirits up even when times are challenging. This humor, perspective and joy even in the face of adversity are of particular use now as we navigate a difficult reality.

All of these are important, but the most important thing that I have witnessed at camp is children developing a sense of belonging and ease. When I visit camp for a week each summer, I always try to be there for a Sunday night so that I can hear the campers give each other commendations for achievements and kindnesses both small and large and sing with them while the sun sets. Watching the campers as they slowly walk up the hill, hand in hand, singing their way to bed, I am filled with a sense of gratitude to have found such a magical place tucked in the pines along the shore of Augur Lake.

I proudly invented this trash bag fashion show competition when I was a counselor!

Some of that lasting camp community

Team work at it’s finest for the Cross Cut Saw competition at Pioneer Meet

Cementing my love of the outdoors with WG 2010 in Bolivia (many of whom are past or current staff)

And a little teamwork with Logan Birdsall – camp style!

Written by Meg Johnson

The Great Range Traverse – By Danny Hickey

Posted: April 7, 2020

Lower Wolf Jaw seldom sticks out in a hiker’s mind as a highlight from the High Peaks, and especially not when set against the backdrop of its siblings: The Great Range. At the end of a chain of heavy hitting open summits and some of the Adirondacks’ most spectacular climbing, the memory of Lower Wolf Jaw is often obscured by early morning intimidation at the start of the traverse, or fatigue and more dramatic views by the end of it. Or, as anyone who has climbed it knows, the experience of Lower Wolf Jaw can very easily be colored by the nightmare of a climb that takes you out of Wolf Jaw Notch.

    Haystack, Basin, Saddleback, Gothics, Armstrong, Upper Wolf Jaw, and Lower Wolf Jaw, plus or minus the state highpoint of Mt. Marcy, all put together make for a day that is as punishing as it is rewarding. One late September Saturday, I set out with Barry Needleman, Molly Schneider-Ferrari, Erin Coyne, and Ted Sonneborn to have such a day out on “The Range.” After months of talking about doing it, I couldn’t tell if it was the 4:00 AM coffee that had us nervously shifting around in the car, or if the reality of what we were about to face was finally setting in. The next 12 hours were grueling, yet amazing. The views offered by every single peak seemed to inject some power into our legs after every grueling climb, and our spirits were soaring as we traversed the Adirondack high country.

    And then, Wolf Jaw Notch. I imagine this is how an electric guitar feels if it is unplugged mid strum- struggling, suffering in order to do its job with power and dignity but instead merely producing a feeble scraping, barely audible. Climbing out of Wolf Jaw Notch, with only one more peak to go, my legs were guitar strings, emitting their final desperate twangs as the power seemed to be pulled from them in an instant. I am not sure how I ended up making it to the top of Lower Wolf Jaw on those tortured wires, but when we stepped out onto the summit we seemed to be lauded for our persistence. Lower Wolf Jaw, the veritable outcast of the “Great Range”, met us with a sunset unlike one I had ever seen, dripping out from behind the Adirondack Park slowly and gracefully, as if to lead us home in its footsteps.

It may not be the most popular or the most memorable of Adirondack peaks, but Lower Wolf Jaw will always stick out in my mind as a reminder of what you may find when you hike just a little too far and stay out just a little too long: The best of views with the best of friends. Those are the hiking memories that will last forever in my mind, out in front of everything else. Even the climb out from Wolf Jaw Notch.

By Danny Hickey

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