Proctor's Mountain Classroom group enters their student run "Final Phase" as they embarked on four day solos and visited our friends and the White Hat family on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Read more from Sam '18 and Kevin '18 below!
Sam '18: Solos
At the end of adjunct weekend we reunited with Masha (Kate) and Fasha (Alex) and said our goodbyes to Grampy (Josh Norris) and Grammy (Adam Jones). We hopped into Debby (the bus) and set out on our way to Jeff Schlukibier’s house in the Black Hills for solos. Jeff is a family friend of Sophie who kindly offered to let us say at his house for a few days. As we got closer we caught a glimpse of the terrain that we would be expecting for solos. Jagged hills covered with pine trees with the occasional remnants of old forest fires and pine beetle kills. We rolled down Jeff’s driveway to find Jeff and his neighbor’s, the Pitzes, waiting for us.
Before I go any further I've got to say that Jeff has a really cool house. For starters his roof has grass on top. During the winter, the grass and dirt work as insulation and in the summers, the grass keeps the roof cool. All of the power that he uses comes from solar panels. He gets all of his water from his own well and pump. He also heats all of his water using a solar heater. Even his house only uses heat from the sun. His house is completely off the grid. Pretty cool right?
We spent two days prepping for solos. We did things like talk about safety, learn how to set up our solo tarps, buy food rations and pack our backpacks. In our backpacks, we brought food, some clothes, homework and books. Lots of books. Solos were set to be four days and three nights long. For all of us, this would be the longest time we've been completely alone. On top of being alone for an extended period of time, almost everyone decided to fast for some part of the solo. You may ask: why would you do this? For some it was to gain a better appreciation of food. For others it was a test of their will power - solos were going to be a real challenge.
We woke up the first day of solos, grabbed our packs and started the short hike out to our solo locations. We walked in silence. When it was someone’s turn to go to their site, everyone would give them a hug and watch them disappear into the woods. When it was my turn, I said goodbye to everyone and trudged through a thicket of dead trees and branches. My solo site was a small valley in-between two ridges, dotted with many pine and birch trees. Down the center of my site was a small wash. After a three minute hike into my site, I found the perfect place to set up camp. It was a flat open space with only a few very small rocks. I set up my tarp and moved my food away from camp so I wouldn't be tempted to eat it. After I was all set up, I did what any 12 year old would do. I smashed some rocks together, made a spear, gathered materials to make a fort and explored. Come lunch time, I had realized my mistake. I was famished. From here on out, I decided that I would take it easy and spend the remainder of my time thinking, doing homework, and napping. Here are some of the things that I thought about: What came first the chicken or the egg? How will the Pine Beetle problem in South Dakota effect the tea prices in China and would peanut butter go well with pickles? (for those curious, the answer is no).
I managed to make it through the first two days of fasting, but on the night of the second day, tragedy struck. By the time the sun started to go down on the second day, I began to feel dizzy from the lack of food. To be safe, I decided to bring a block of cheese in case I needed to eat. I went to bed, but woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. After what felt like hours, I ate half the emergency cheese. I was so frustrated with myself that I threw the other half as far as I could into the woods. Although I broke my fast, I learned that I don't need to eat as much as I think I do to get through the day. Two full days is a long time to go without eating anything.
On the morning of the final day we all packed up our camps and headed down to the trail that we hiked up four days ago. In silence, we picked each other up from our camp sites. Once everyone was together, we broke the silence. We traded stories of our solo adventures and ate food. There seemed to be electric current of excitement running through the group for the rest of the day. Out of the nine people that decided to fast, only Sophie and Liv made it all the way through. Pretty sick-nasty if you ask me! By the way we’re in final phase duders! No more rules! Degaun son for life!
Kevin '18: Stepping Foot on Rosebud for the First Time
After our solo expeditions in the Black Hills, Mountain Classroom headed to the Rosebud Reservation for our next journey. As we passed by the Badlands National Park during our long tedious bus ride, Ponderosa Pines gradually vanished before my very eyes and the flat grasslands started to appear. The group briefly stopped for some lunch and a “dance party” just past Buffalo Gap where we blasted music as loudest as we could, jumped around, and shook our bodies off before we went back to our bus, Debra, for the remainder of the ride. We eventually arrived to our destination after another couple hours of driving. JR, one of the Proctor alumni, actively waved his hands as we approached him.
After the greeting, JR offered us an option to set up a Tipi for our stay, which we immediately agreed to do. The first step was tying up three long wooden poles with a rope to make a tripod. JR exclaims, “This is the most important part! If any of the wooden poles slide, the entire Tipi is going to fall down!” We felt pretty confident about the first step since we learned a bunch of knots for past couple weeks. “We got it,” Sophie, Katie, and I replied. Roughly 45 minutes passed, and we were on our third try, completely frustrated with tying ropes. JR quietly giggled behind us. Thankfully, we figured it out and were able to successfully set up the Tipi before sunset. I faced the sky to take a deep breath, and caught one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed. The clouds were painted with warm gold and orange towards the west, and the colors slowly transferred into fresh cool blue and violet, as I spun myself to the east. Then, we passed out due to our strenuous day after dinner.
The sun rose again the next day, and the clouds were painted gold from the east this time. I could see every single detail of the Rosebud’s scenery due to its flat landscape. We spent most of the day doing chores with JR to prevent his house from getting wet from its wooden foundation. Towards the end of the day, JR taught me how to drive his tractor. Even without a car license, I managed to steer it very well and finished the remainder of the chores with his tractor. JR’s family provided a delicious meal as their expression of gratitude. After, we headed back to camp an epic thunderstorm chased us. As a final phase navigator, I tried my best not to use the phone to navigate our way back; however, heavy lightening, hail, and rain made it impossible to read the signs on the road, which forced me to utilize technology to head back. I could see the storm and continuous lightning from hundreds of miles away, which I thought it was one of the scariest and yet beautiful storms I have ever witnessed. As soon as we arrived, we jumped into the heavy rain, and played epic rounds of Freeze Tag. I had no clue that running around like a five year old in heavy thunderstorms with nonstop lightening, thunder, and heavy winds could be that entertaining! How did I not come up with this idea?
Our final full day in Rosebud arrived. The group started with chores at the Sinte Gleska University (SGU) Ranch in the morning. Then, we blew out the bus as well as finalizing our plans for the final expedition before our sweat. Later in the evening, JR came to our camp to set up the sweat and explain the reasoning and purpose of this Lakota ritual. He first explained seven essential directions in this world: North, South, East, West, Up, Down, and Center. “Remember, we always consider that right here is the center of the entire universe when we do the sweat,” said JR as he pointed his finger to the lodge. He picked up seven of the twenty-four rocks and started praying to each directions of the world to ask all spirits to hear him and advocate for him. We joined him as he continued his prayer. Then, we placed all the rocks on a massive pile of wood, and lit them on fire for two hours. JR then elaborated on the purpose of the sweat: Sacrifice. In Lakota philosophy, one cannot not truly own anything in this society. Although one seems to own money, clothes, food, water, shelter, and many other factors that support one’s living, one owns nothing. The only thing that one can own is oneself. Thus, one has to sacrifice oneself to ask for others’ support. Time quickly passed as we did some last minute chugging of water before we entered the lodge. A couple minutes passed, and we were already sitting in the lodge with hot stones slowly boiling our bodies. The door closed and the darkness immediately surrounded the atmosphere.
My heartbeat drastically increased as I could only hear the sounds of nervous breaths from the others. JR threw a couple rounds of water onto the rock. Cshhhh! In pitch dark, I could hear the water quickly evaporating as soon as it touched the hot stones. I could feel the hot steam rising to the top of the dome, slowly rolling around the walls, and falling down on my head. A shout came out of the blue without any warning. The singing or prayer had finally begun. Mark White Hat '14 joined along as JR led the way. Loud vocals echoed in the dark and numerous people squeezed into a very small, hot, humid dome was definitely out of my comfort zone and gave me a bit of panic in the beginning. My muscles tightened up as I got more nervous, which made a minute feel like ten. But eventually, it stopped. The first out of four rounds finally ended. The cool breeze and the sunlight rushed into the room as the door opened. As I looked around the room, everyone was drenched in sweat, and some were on the ground trying to catch their breaths. JR passed water around the circle for all to quench their thirst. Then, we immediately went back into the second round. “If you are having a hard time, think of something important in your life,” said JR.
Again, the light vanished and the singing began. This time, I mumbled and sang along while I focused on my own train of thought. Before I even noticed it, faces of my family appeared in my mind. Then, the faces of my teachers and my closest peers came along. Tears glittered around my eyes as I imagined all of those who helped me up when I faced adversity. The door opened. The time swiftly passed on the second round. Then, the third round. I sang louder and questioned myself: Do I appreciate or express my gratitude enough to those who helped me in my hard times? As I reflected my past, I felt like I did not help others enough compared to the amount of support I’ve received. The door opens again. The fourth round began. Long circles of thought and reflection in retrospect has finally came to an end. Now, it was my turn to sacrifice. I would like to dedicate this sweat to all of my peers who gave me overflowing laughter, listen to my concerns, and empathize with me. I also would like to dedicate this sweat to my teachers who taught me not only about academics, but who were there to smile, cry, and give profound advice that has guided me to become who I am. I would like to appreciate my sister for listening to all my troubles and for being my role model. Lastly and most importantly, I would like to dedicate this sweat to my parents for giving birth to me and letting every second of my life be possible. I truly appreciate you all. The door finally opens, and I head outside of the lodge. The entire sunset was colored in gold as I embraced the cool breeze. I whisper to myself: Man, what a day!