Tag Archives: outdoors

#Solo: best solo-related hashtags

Alumni responded with alacrity to a recent challenge to post their best solo-related hashtag (and win an original poem written during F’16 solo). Here are some of the best:










#MyBootsAreFrozen #MyKnotsAreFrozen #MyNalgeneIsFrozen






















New additions from F16 solo tales:














Camel’s Hump Hike

On Sunday, October 18th, a group of intrepid students woke up early, piled into vans and drove to Camel’s Hump, Vermont’s third largest mountain, for an autumn hike. Here’s what some of the participants had to say afterwards:

Francesca: It was amazing. It was really beautiful hiking in the snow, and then getting  to the summit and seeing snow and in the background, the colors of all. It was a lot of fun.


Polly: It was definitely one of the highlights of the semester. I thought it would be harder than it was. There were so many people and we talked the whole time. It was cool experiencing fall and winter at the same time–like going from September to January. My favorite part was the peanut butter and jelly at lunch or watching Matt trying to eat the Vermonster at the Ben & Jerry’s factory. …It destroyed him. And it was so crazy when we got to the top: I looked at my watch and everyone else was just getting to brunch.

Hannah: I was the slowest person on the hike. I’d like to blame it on the altitude, but someone stayed back with me the whole time to make sure I was taken care of and that was really sweet.

Young Dan: It was the highlight of the semester–definitely the best day so far. It was really nice to see different scenery in Vermont because we’re so secluded here, and to get to see that with people from my semester.

Bev: It was so beautiful because when we were at the top it was snowing and looked like winter all around us, but if you looked out you could see all the colors of fall.


Sarah: My favorite parts were that as the elevation increased, you could see how the forest changed. Once we got to a certain elevation, it was mostly coniferous, and it was cool to see that change. When we were hiking up, we passed a bunch of hikers coming down, and they were really disappointed because they had gotten to the top and there was no view, so we were kind of worried. But when we got to the top, it was clear and we could see all the way to Lake Champlain and the Appalachians.

Jesse: I liked waking up early in the morning to go hiking, weirdly enough. I don’t think I’ve ever shed as many layers as I did-I would shed a layer, put on a layer, shed a layer again. It was cool because it was fall but snowing higher up–all out snow, like January. We couldn’t see–it was pouring snow, and then suddenly the clouds would disappear and it would be completely sunny. At the top, the sun was coming down through the snow in beams and you could watch the transition down the mountain. It was so icy going down: we just slid on our butts. The whole time, we sang songs that we only knew the chorus of and then we hummed the rest or made up lyrics. We all fell asleep on each other in the van on the way back. It was very fun, even though I had to do work after we got back, it was worth it. I thought it would be total Type 2 fun, but it wasn’t. It was just FUN.

Noah: Getting to the top was the best part. It was really cool how snowy it was at the top–it’s mid October but there was already a foot of snow in some places. In three adjectives, I would say it was slippery, anticipatory and tiring.


Ella: It was slippery. The walk up was interesting. It was cool to go from different forest to forest on one mountain–conifer, then maple, then conifer, then beech. It was cool to see that transition, and the transitions were strangely abrupt. The top was amazing and seeing all the white snow and then the color drop off of orange and green. I had never hiked in a snow environment before. It was funny because as we hiked up, I kept putting on more layers, and walking down, I wore all my layers and we threw snowballs at each other. It was really fun.

Zane: A huge highlight was the view from the top, and we could see Lake Champlain, which was cool. It was cold, but the process of putting on and taking off layers was entertaining. In three adjectives, I would say cold, fun, and pretty.

Miranda: It was really fun. It looked like a winter wonderland. We decided to call it Narnia. When we got to the top, there was a 360 degree view, and that was so cool. I always feel so accomplished after a long hike. At Ben & Jerry’s I had banana peanut butter, but I regretted that decision because I tried someone’s Americone Dream and it was really good…


Yesterday might have been one of the best days of my life. That hike was just out of this world. I didn’t mind waking up at 6 or the chilly air. Being able to go out in the fresh snow with a fantastic group of people was the best way to mark the half-way weekend. Walking through fresh, crispy snow sprinkled with fresh dry leaves was a magical experience and then continuing through a spotless Narnia-esque tunnel of branches. I brought candy for lunch. There was always great conversation and not a single complaint, even on the slippery ice near the top. Speaking of which, the view was stupendous, with dark clouds closing in on a baby blue sky on the other side of the peak. It was just a happy bunch of relaxed kids enjoying every part of our joined once-in-a-lifetime experience. Conquering the (mini) Vermonster at the Ben & Jerry’s factory wasn’t awful either. When I’m home, I think this is one of the days I’ll look back on to understand why this school is the unforgettable place that it is. –journal excerpt from OL


Shout out to Jesse for proposing the idea for a hike!

Find Your Way Back to Campus (or not) (S’15)

Each semester, students in Outdoor Program learn how to use a map and compass to orienteer. The final project is to be dropped off in a random spot a couple of miles from campus and to…Find Your Way Back to Campus. It’s an epic journey. There are even two different songs written about it. As always, the Spring 2015 students experienced to success to varying degrees… but everyone made it back eventually. Here are five different accounts of this semester’s FYWBTC extravaganza.

“Honestly, I was dreading it a little. I don’t have much faith in my orienteering skills… but I ended up having fun! We were the first group back. We got dropped off, and we immediately found where we were because we were on a road next to a field. Well, to be fair, I didn’t figure out where we were. I was distracted looking at the field. We aren’t allowed to walk on the roads, so we set off over some hills. I fell multiple times. J.C. and I nobly brought up the rear to watch for danger (that’s why we were in the back, not other reasons). We wandered in the woods and maybe on someone else’s property, but we didn’t really have a choice. And there was an American flag… that was weird. Then we made our way up several hills. We took a water break on top of a hill. We stumbled around for awhile, took a bearing, and then we realized we could see Liana’s sauna from the top of the hill. We got really excited. We sat down to eat some cookies. I was excited for chocolate chip cookies, but they were raisins. J.C. was excited – raisins are one of the few things he’ll eat, apparently. Everyone else was just quietly sad about it… I took out the raisins and buried them in the snow. Then we realized we had lost Robby and Lindsay because Robby’s snowshoe broke and we forgot to look back, so we kindly went back from them. Robby was kind of limping through the snow without snowshoes and got stuck. I stayed behind with him because I was loyal. We were not going to take the road, but then there were like 50 signs saying, “No trespassing,” and we were scared that someone would run out and yell at us. So we took the road for the last part of the walk. We saw the silo in the distance; it was like a lighthouse, except it was a silo. It was so exciting. We ran up the hill, so muddy and so happy. We were the first group back. Then we all went and had Sloppy Joe’s for lunch.”

5 word summary: Big damn hill. Raisins. Victory!


“My group brought back a dog by accident… The dog found us at the road. We thought throwing snowballs at it would make it go away, which did not work out, at all. It was funny because we were told explicitly not to bring back a dog. In his intro speech, Bruce was like, be safe, don’t walk on the roads, and DON’T BRING BACK A DOG. But it just followed us, and at first we were like, ‘Ha ha, we’re bringing a dog!’ When we found our way onto the Hemenway Tract and the dog was still there, we were like, ‘Oh…’ It followed us into Bruce’s office. We walked in and said, “Hey! We’re back!” and this little brown dog came in with us and we said, ‘We brought you a dog!’ Bruce was not that happy but not that mad either. It kind of led us home, though. Can’t really tell. Who rescued whom, man? That’s the question. The other highlight was that we stopped to eat cookies on a hill looking out over a field, and then we slid down the hill on our butts in the snow. There was a fence at the bottom and we all fell, but it was so fun.”


“My group thought we were in three different places, so we decided to walk down the road. If we hit a field, we’d know where we were. We walked down the road, and we hit a field, but we were still skeptical, so we kept walking until we saw a farm. It was Liana’s farm! Then we knew where we were. We took a bearing, but we didn’t really trust it, so we were walking through the woods like, ‘Let’s go a little to the right, now a little to the left.’ Then we found a path and followed it for awhile. We kind of followed our intuition, which sounds dumb, but it worked. We made it back by noon. Our motto was, ‘A little to the right!’ We got onto the Inner Loop across Brown Road, and we were so excited, we all kissed the ground. We almost thought we were in a totally different place and walked totally the wrong distance. That would have taken a lot longer…”


“It started out well. We cut through someone’s property – this cow field – and got to a point where we saw we would have to climb a mountain. Christina’s foot got stuck under a fallen log under the snow. Carmen had to dig her out. And this was when we had JUST started. On flat ground. So we were sitting there trying to figure out how to go over the mountain. There was this other group behind us, and then trudged pas and went straight up it. But we were thinking, there’s NO way we can do that. There were these two huge mountains. We were supposed to go up the one on the right, but we decided to go in the space between them instead, which was still steep but we could do it. We start climbing, we stop for a cookie break. Everything is going well, we’re following our bearing – until we hit Back Brook. When we hit Back Brook, we abandoned our bearing and ran to the stream. Then we realized we had no idea which way to go, so we followed it in one direction for awhile, then realized we were totally lost. We had absolutely no idea where we were. One person got really giddy, another really stressed, another angry. I started hyper-ventilating. It was kind of interesting to see all our different coping mechanisms.

I led everyone in a breathing exercise to calm us down – breathe in for four, hold for four, out for four. Then we started blowing our whistles. We thought maybe if we stayed in one place, they’d find us. We thought that for like ten seconds, then realized that was a terrible idea. We decided the best thing we could do was get to a road, so we decided to follow our tracks BACK over the mountain to the road. As we were doing that, we saw dog pee, and started screaming because dog pee means a dog which means a house which means civilization! So we followed the dog pee and dog prints along the river, and then we saw the abandoned trailer on the edge of the Mountain School property. In any other situation, that would have been SO creepy, but we recognized it, so we were really excited because at that point we knew where we were.

We followed Back Brook all the way to Hemlock Point, and then we had to walk up the slide below Hemlock Point, which was a big struggle. I mean, it’s basically vertical, so that was really difficult. But we had to do it. My asthma pump was not really working, and I thought I was going to faint. We got up to the top of the slide finally and all paused to collapse for awhile and breathe. By then, we knew exactly where we were on the Inner Loop, so we ate more cookies and then walked back. We were out for FOUR hours. When we got back, Pat made me drink three cups of orange juice in a row because I needed sugar. I wanted to vomit…”

Advice: NEVER leave your bearing ever, even if you see something. And breathe.


“I put my head down so I wouldn’t see where we were going. When we got to our spot, we were on a road going East to West with a pond and a turn, so we looked at the map, and I spotted it! I thought, ‘Wait, this can’t be right. I can’t have figured it out.’ But I showed it to the rest of the group, and everyone else agreed. I was really happy that I figured it out! Half the group wanted to go through the woods, on someone’s property, and the other half wanted to go on the roads until we reached woods that didn’t have no trespassing sign, but we decided to go through the woods. It was hard! We went up this hill to a clearing at the top. It was so nice. We stopped to take a break and take a new bearing. I was leading. The snow was up to my KNEES. I fell like ten times. Esme fell and said, ‘I need your help!’ and I said, ‘If I help you, I’m coming down with you!’ We reached an area that was posted, but we decided to go through it, and we ended up on Liana’s farm. Then we knew where we were. Everywhere we looked we saw no trespassing signs. We had never encountered that before on our practice rounds, and it made us nervous. We took a vote and decided to walk on the road. It was really nice because I got close to some people I hadn’t really talked to before. We all told stories and talked about spring break. We got back at 11:40. Bruce said, ‘Congratulations, you’re the first group back!’ I felt so accomplished.

Advice: I really enjoyed the group. Communication is key. Talk with your group and open up conversations. It makes the atmosphere more comfortable.


Thanks ZG, RM, EZM, JCP and SS for interviewing!

Fall ’14 Go Pro Video

In this 12 minute video, filmed over the course of the fall semester at TMS, the seasons change before your very eyes and students seem to grow up on screen as they learn to know a place and take care of it. The students’ eye view allows you to see for the first time (or remember) what it is like to live in such a unique setting. Experience the joy of frolicking in the woods, the intensity of snowball fights, the quiet peace of strumming ukuleles by the fire, and the adrenaline rush of dodgeball.

Carved into the headboard of one of the beds on campus is the question, What will you do with this one wild and precious life? The answer: Live.

Rated PG for outrageous dance moves, students falling off of sleds, spilled milk, and an adorable small child enthusiastically eating a muffin.

Thank you MAS for putting this video together!

Solo Spring ’14

Spring ’14 students have been griping recently that they were mislead – the season we have lived through for the last three months fits no one’s definition of spring. It’s been all George R. R. Martin style winter all the time.

We have finally, in the last week, progressed into spring. It is warm enough that the lettuce we’ve been sheltering in polyhouses all winter can now grow outside. We no longer have to wear more than one layer of pants. The fields are slowly turning green. All very exciting.

But none of that mitigates the fact that when we left for our three day solo camping trip on April 23, it was very cold and many of us camped on or right next to snow. Two of our three nights in the woods had below-freezing temperatures. Some of us even got snowed on the last morning. (Thanks, Mother Nature). The good news is that the second full day had beautiful weather, so everyone was able to enjoy at least one day of sunshine and warmth.

Liam's beaver pond (just another reason to be jealous)
The beaver pond at Liam’s solo site

Every semester, students go into solo expecting to be enlightened by nature and return fuller, better humans with profound new understandings of the world. As Grant said, “Before solo, I had this expectation that I was going to have deeper thoughts than usual. That’s something I’m never going to be able to do. I’m never going to be a meditator. I just pushed down trees and talked to myself.”

Here are some other students’ reflections on their solo experiences:

“There were these moose tracks all around my site. I was clearly staying as a guest in someone else’s home.”

“I tried to look closer at what was in the woods.”

photo 2

“A lot of what I did on solo was sit in places and just look.”

“I found flagging from a previous solo. It was cool because I realized, I’m not the only one who lived here.”

“I thought a lot about the happiness you get from yourself vs. the happiness you get from other people.”

“I was scared that I would be bored, but then I walked around and realized it was OK to be alone.”

“On solo, I would think of something, and laugh out loud. I kept cracking myself up and it was so wonderful.”

“I felt at peace with myself in a way that I haven’t been before.”

“I was always trying to drive myself to be more productive – to read, sketch, draw a map. Then, the last night, I decided I didn’t want to do that.”

“I worried that once I was alone, I wouldn’t have anything inside of me to be interesting. But I sat and watched bugs for awhile and realized they have really complicated lives.”


“I usually have something I have to do. On solo, I was able to sit in a hammock and do whatever popped into my head.”

“Every train of thought I had on solo led back to the same place of feeling lucky.”

“I felt grateful to see the beauty of nature.”

“I thought solo would be refreshing, that I would not have to focus on what other people want me to think. I would finally be able to concentrate on one thing. But instead, I let my mind go and got pulled in all different directions.”

“I was really surprised by how self-sufficient I was able to be. I got really into problem solving. Usually I’m so focused on efficiency and moving on instead of focused on finding a solution.”

Congratulations, Spring ’14! We’re proud of you!

Find Your Way Back to Campus (F’13)

Overview: Find your Way Back is one of the key experiences in the Mountain School outdoor program. In small groups, students get into a van, blindfold themselves, and are driven somewhere about 30 minutes away from campus. They are dropped off with a map, compass, backpack and water. Their task is to figure out where they are based on their surroundings, and find their way back to campus by orienteering.

The project: I asked some students to share with me about their experiences during FYWB. These are their adventures, in their own words…

We had a really far place. It was a lot of walking through really muddy mud – a good half mile probably. Liz’s foot went full into the mud at one point. We walked about two and a half miles, and then we had to hike Patterson Mountain. We didn’t see any land marks to show we were really on track once we past the bog. We were wondering, are we going the right direction? Then we got a little way down Patterson Mountain, we saw Garden Hill. We started SCREAMING and ran a good half mile to school. We saw the neighbors with llamas. They came out and said hi to us. We got back half way through lunch. OK – so we cheated a little – we looked at the map on the way to our drop off spot, but we were happy we did. We had a bunch of candy – sour patch kids and Swedish fish. We ate and walked and talked and looked at the compass. Every now and then someone would say, are we off course? But it ended up working out. Ohh – and we had one bar of cell phone service on Patterson! I tried to call my mom, but the signal was too weak. (Sigh). My advice? Wear good shoes and bring a lot of water. And trust the compass.

– Jacob R. from VA, F’13

Journal entry: NYC vs. TMS (S’13)

I never could have dreamed of waking up, the way I did yesterday, to the glory of a pink sunrise streaked with orange, the lines like those left after someone has waved a sparkler. When I was younger, I hated the city. I wanted to leave, to climb trees, to milk cows, to wake up to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s tin-basin bath. But I have grown used to the city, taking too much for granted the proximity of museums and how easy it is to find an excellent school – or, rather, a whole host of them. And in the past few years, I have taken art history, coming, through the class, to a better understanding of the beauty of the art in those museums. I have relied on multiple public library branches for research papers, resources that may or may not be available outside of New York. I have even started walking to school through the park in recent years, watching the sun rise up 96th Street. In short, I have come to appreciate the city and its way of life. I have lost touch with the desires that pushed me so forcefully away from it, and I have settled into its conveniences. I felt Nature’s absence less strongly, compensating, for its lack with my daily half-hour walk through the park. (I have, since third grade, intentionally capitalized Nature’s first letter.)

Life at the Mountain School is rougher. I don’t yet have the spiritual capability or possess the physical strength for life in Vermont winter. I can love the season’s visual aspect, but I am in no way prepared for snowshoeing up hills and pushing myself to the top. I have worked to find intellectual challenge; now, physical challenge has found me. I like the idea of it, and I hope that I will be able to meet it. The sense of time here is different and more beautiful. Not only am I allowed to admire the sunrise and look closely at the trees but I am expected to. Managing homework, in terms of time constraints, is still a challenge. But the challenge now is balancing school work with the outdoors, not schoolwork with more schoolwork. I have seen few sunrises but have had to rush onward to arrive at school in time for some sort of meeting or other. Now, I can stop for a few moments just to stare at the heavens. That’s the real difference between the Mountain School and New York City living.