Proctor's Spring 2019 Mountain Classroom group is nearing the end of their nine-week road trip across America, and share a window into the daily operations and roles that allow the group to function on the road. Read Maura's '20 description of a day in the life of Mountain Classroom and Bella's '20 Top 10 gear necessities for future Mountain students.
Maura '20: A Day in the Life on Mountain Classroom
As we approach our sixth week of Mountain Classroom it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that I wake up excited every day. Whether I rise to the sound of my watch alarm or Madeline shaking me early to go for a run, each day holds something different. We follow a daily order of operations called “EGGS” which stands for “essentials, group, group, self.” When everyone has pulled themselves out of their tents in the morning, we all shiver around a pot of boiling water for some hot tea or coffee. Along with a drink, breakfast is usually oatmeal, eggs, or yogurt and granola. We have learned that although pancakes are delicious, fuel and efficiency are more important for our first meal of the day. If needed, the Leader of the Day will brief the group on our plan for the day. Next we move on to what I would refer to as “activity time.” So far, activity time has included, but is not limited to either driving, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, canyoneering, or exploring. When we are in the mountains, our group is always on the lookout for a great lunch spot around noon. Lunch can be a sort of sandwich free-for-all when we are on the move, or a longer sit down meal when we don’t have a time restraint. After lunch, we move back onto activity time and check in about job duties.
LOD: Leader of the day. This person plays a crucial role in how smoothly each day goes. They are in charge of making major group decisions and act as a bridge between students and instructors. We have learned about different leadership styles and how they can influence the tone of the day. When Emily is LOD, as a spontaneous motivator, she enjoys waking everyone up by yelling her signature jingle, (“wakey wakey or I’ll have to shakey shakey”) .
Navigator: The navigator works hand in hand with the LOD during expeditions and drive days. They use our paper maps to direct Kate or Quinn to our destination when we drive, and lead the group on hikes. This job gives everyone an opportunity to learn how to read topographical maps and apply that knowledge. Kate calls the navigator “savvy navvy.”
Cooks: Two cooks purchase and prepare three meals a day. We do our best to prioritize nutrition and taste during our food buys but we definitely don’t always portion correctly, causing a need for pb&j’s as a second meal.
Cleaners: Our two cleaners work hard after meals to clean up the mess made by the cooks and set up buckets for personal and group dishes. Cleaning is not a group favorite job, but I have found that if you put on our handheld radio and chat it can be pretty enjoyable. Faolán and I have taken a liking to listening to jazz music while we cook or clean to add some fun to the job.
Bard: The bard is a relatively simple job that includes writing a journal overview of the day, sharing a quote and naturalist fact with the group, and leaving notes of thanks if needed. Here is one of my bard journals:
Today can be described with the letter S. The first word that comes to mind is smiles. Smiles that lit up every moment of the bus ride, and Madeline’s smile at 6am when we ran with a breathtaking view of a cotton candy sunrise over the mountains. The second word is sorrow. Sorrow to leave our Red Rocks campsite, and sorrow when Audrey shared the news of a left behind Frederick. The third word this strength. Strength in numbers when we managed to unstick our beloved bus DEB from the soft sand and strengthening our trust in one another when facing the challenge of backcountry shopping. The final word is step. Today we learned about the steps of the Grand Staircase, which took time to form and stretches many miles long. Our group took a big step forward today, improving the form of our relationships and traveling miles across states just like the staircase. I can’t wait for another day of stepping forward with you all.
HAWS: Our Health and Wellness Superstar keeps the group energized by planning a morning or afternoon workout, encouraging everyone to wear sunscreen and drink water, and carrying the first aid kit on our excursions. Our workouts are usually pretty fun and can be anything from obstacle courses to relay races to “tiny tanks.”
Equipment Manager (EQ): Often first and last person awake, the EQ has a tough job with many components. Some of their duties include filling up gas when we are driving, replacing propane tanks, sweeping the bus and trailer, and locking up the trailer each night.
Captain Planet: Captain Planet helps the group by taking out the trash and recycling as well as giving constructive feedback to the LOD. This is Quinn’s favorite job because he loves to sing a captain planet theme song for the group, (“he’s a hero!”).
Daily life continued:
Afternoon activities can mean a food shop if we are on the road, more driving, more hiking, more climbing, or a pit stop to the nearest visitor center! When we are in the front country, we often have class or time to walk around the town or area we are in before dinner. Dinner is a time for the cooks to get creative as we start to wind down the day. Every night before dinner our group participates in a Mountain Classroom tradition called “Chow Circle.” I see chow circle as a way for the group to link arms, share announcements, and be thankful and excited for our meal. When planning for dinner, Kate and Quinn encourage the cooks to know correct portion sizes and incorporate our leftovers, known as “roll over” food. In the back country we cook in groups of three or four to reduce waste and weight, but in the front country we put the pressure of dinner onto our two assigned cooks for the day. Something else we have learned over the course of our first phase is that earlier is better for almost everything. This ideology is particularly enforced when deciding dinner and evening meeting times. Evening meeting is a sacred group time to reflect on the day and mentally prepare for the next day. I am going to keep you all out of the loop on the details of evening meeting out of respect for its meaningfulness and the history of Mountain Classroom. Next we have independent time to layer up, play guitar, organize stuff, do homework, pack for the next day, sit around the campfire, or journal. One example of post evening meeting activities is that Jonah, Tommy, Asher, and Faolán take part in a nightly push-up competition. My favorite way to end each day is stargazing with the group before we zip up our tents and drift off thinking of our next day.
Dear Future Mountain Classroom Student,
You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. After our term on Mountain our group quickly figured out the do's and don’ts of what to have with us. Here is a list of the Top 10 most crucial items for your trip.
Sleeping bag liners: Sleeping bag liners keep you a little extra warm when it’s wicked cold outside. They also keep sleeping bags nice and clean, or as clean as it can be kept. Sleeping bags tend to get very dirty if you are not careful and sleeping bag liners help in that area.
Camping Pillow: Camping pillows keep you nice and comfy when you are sleeping on the ground every night. I have learned that even though it does not seem like much they help you sleep a lot better at night especially on uneven or uncomfortable ground. They are also the perfect thing to have on alpine wake ups when it is time for your drive across country. Sleeping on the bus is not always the most comfortable thing but having a camp pillow of some sorts really helps you sleep on the car rides.
Wipes of all kinds: Baby wipes, face wipes, all types of wipes. You will use them. All of them I promise you. They are perfect for baby wipe showers and cleaning off at the end of a long day of hiking, kayaking, or repelling. I know it seems silly or unneeded to bring baby wipes with you but they are a complete life saver when you go a weeks without showering.
Sun Protection: Sun glasses, hats, and sunscreen are all essential. You do not want to be the one always getting burned. If you do you will look foolish, be in pain and most likely be complaining about it. So help yourself and the rest of your group out, and make sure you stay nice and protected from the sun. Especially on those sneaky cloudy days, when you don't feel the sun's intensity, those will really get you if you are not careful.
Comfortable open toed shoes: Chaos, Tevas, Crocs, Keens, etc. They are extremely functional, they help when you are walking through water and very nice to have on hot day hikes. They are really important to have on days where you encounter water so they drain and you are not walking around in a puddle of water all day. They were very helpful for us on our backpacking trips when we had to cross rivers so our hiking boots didn’t get soaked. Also an advantage is the crazy tan lines you’ll get.
Fleece pants; They are the absolute saving grace on cold days. After long days of hiking when it is cold or rainy there is nothing better than putting on fleece pants at the end of the day. They are also perfect for when it gets painfully cold some nights and you need a little extra warmth in your sleeping bag.
Something that reminds you of home: If you’re anything like me, homesickness is somewhat inevitable. Whether it is while you are on your solos or just after a long hard day, it happens. I found it really helpful to have something that reminded me of home (pictures or notes from your parents), so when those days came I had something that made me feel closer to home and my family.
Warm hat: Another thing perfect for the cold. Warm hats are awesome to have if it snows or it if is just really cold in some places you go. I have learned that if your head is warm the rest of your body warms up quickly.
Camera: While on Mountain you will see some of the most beautiful scenery you have ever seen. I have found it really nice to have a camera with me to capture all the sights i’ve seen.
Kendamas/Games: A fan favorite of our group was our beloved Kendamas. Having games to play during down time are essential. They keep morale high and are a ton of fun. Our group has loved Coue, Werewolf, and Bananagrams along with Kendamas.