Proctor Academy's Mountain Classroom Program continues their term-long adventure in southern Utah. Climbing in Moab, baking competitions with program director Patty Pond who was visiting with former Mountain Instructor Coco Loehr ‘07, studying water rights, a visit to Arches National Park, and so much more punctuated the last two weeks on the road. Read more from Tahg ‘21 and Griffin ‘22 below!
Mountain Classroom had a rad start to the new month in the fun town of Moab. Our first breakfast in this new place was a rocky one due to some runaway eggs. However, we bounced right back from that mishap with our usual chaotic meal planning! Next up was a long awaited, very intense competitive eating contest after picking the chaos card a few nights before. We substituted the typical hotdogs for some cold bananas we found while cleaning out our roadkill bin (our snack bin) that most likely had been sitting in our trailer for quite a while. The competition was “who could finish 3 bananas in the shortest amount of time.” I took the dub, finishing all three before anyone even started their second. To top off that sensational feeling, Patty arrived! We greeted her with smiles on our faces and socially distant hugs. She brought us the wonderful present of face shields to start off the next activity of food shopping. After that, the real excitement began.
Our first day of rock climbing in Moab was upon us. We drove to a cool spot on the bank of the Colorado River where Quinn and Erica set up 3 climbs for us as we all played “human knot” and “pterodactyl”. Patty quickly began snapping action shots of all the fun and games with lots of laughs being shared as we tried our hardest to hide our teeth, which is the premise of the game pterodactyl. Once the climbs were good to go, we strapped on our helmets and harnesses and started what we really went there to do: rock climbing! We all rotated through belaying, backup belaying, and of course, climbing. With our tightly fitting climbing shoes, we all ascended to the top one by one to witness the rewarding view of the Colorado River. Once we all shuffled through the three climbs, we packed up and headed back to camp for some bomb chili prepared by chefs Meg and Oscar, finishing off our first night with Patty.
The following day kicked off with an oatmeal breakfast and an interactive class with Erica. The main focus was animal tracking, so we all acted out different styles of tracks, running around like wild animals, the most challenging one being a lope. It was a little embarrassing as Patty was recording the whole time. The second half of the day was reserved for more wicked climbing in the same spot as the day before, just twenty yards to the left. Three more climbs were set up, the hardest one was rated a 5.10 out of a 5.15 scale. Pretty much everyone braved all three before it was time to pack up. With another tiring, but awesome afternoon of climbing under our belts, we returned to camp and shoveled down an INCREDIBLE burgers and dogs dinner grilled by Paul and Brynne.
A new day brought a class with Quinn on water rights where we broke out into groups and tried budgeting water of the Colorado River. Right after was another scholarly class of running around like animals with Erica once again, but this time, there was a race involved. A woman named Martha and her dog, Pemi, stopped for a visit as they were driving by, interrupting our class. It turns out Martha and her husband, Jory, are very familiar with Proctor as they worked at Holderness for a good amount of time. Furthermore, they are very tight with Proctor’s own Mike and Betsy! That visit made all of our days 10x better and put even brighter smiles on all of our faces as we all got a refreshing memory of our dogs back home. With questionable weather in the forecast, instead of climbing more, we grabbed our day packs and spent the rest of the day at Arches National Park. On our hike back down from Delicate Arch, we were ambushed by a rainstorm, our first on all of Mountain, reminding us more of home. We all laughed and sang together as we happily descended back to the bus. Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” was the first song that came on as we drove away, all of us proceeding to belt, and when I say belt, I mean BELT, at the tops of our lungs. That day made my face hurt from smiling so much with the whole group.
The next day was a special one for our group as it was Hank’s birthday! The day started off with an early 6:45 wake up (6:30 for cooks Ayla and me) and had some lovely avocado toast and fried eggs. After, we quickly gathered on Deb, our incredible bus, to headed out of camp to our climbing spot for the day, Looking Glass Rock. We quickly realized we had forgotten the wag bags and turned back, something that would most definitely come in handy later. Equipped with wag bags, we drove off again, hitting the road to Looking Glass Rock. With quick lessons on self belaying when we arrived, we now had the skill set to begin the climbs. With three different climbs, we all met atop the rock, filled our stomachs, casually sang the National Anthem while in a pig pile, then started our belay down. Who else can say they have free repelled over 120 feet? Not many people!. With our extremely long and rewarding climbing day done, we drove back to camp where Coco, a past Mountain instructor, was ready with a cake for Hank’s birthday. After chowing down that appetizer, Ayla and I served some pretty bomb fried rice, if I do say so myself. Everyone filled up, we had our nightly evening meeting, which was followed by the departure of Quinn and Erica. And just like that, adjunct weekend had arrived.
The wonderful weekend started with a breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and Patty’s amazing granola. We then had a surprise visitor of Martha and her dog Pemi again bearing a gift of homemade chocolate chip cookies which were very delicious. We then headed into a very needed study hall to get some work done on our scientific paper introductions for Erica’s class, while others worked on an assignment from Quinn that required us to distribute water rights throughout the western United States. Patty and Coco had the great idea for the recreation of the show “The Great British Bake Off” with our own special twist calling it “The Great Mountain Bake Off”, and we separated into 4 different teams of groups of 2-3 and had 45 minutes to make our best scones with no recipe and cooking on only Whisper-lights (orientation stoves). After the 45 minutes, we had to present our best scone on the table ready for judging, the categories of judgement being taste, texture and method of baking.
All four groups took a different approach with some traditional scones, some more like donuts and others even like pancakes. Two groups were getting eliminated this round, leaving the final two groups for the championship Sunday. The judges one by one revealed each team's showings, taking a bite and asking some questions about what they chose for ingredients and what baking method they used. After all four groups were questioned the two judges conferred while the groups tasted the competitions products and started cleaning the messes we made. A little later the judges came back with the results, and with a drum roll made by our hands we were informed that Meg, Tahg, and I had claimed first place, followed by 2nd place awarded to Sasha and Hank. We quickly then made our way on a little adventure deeper into the canyon we were camping in to go visit the pond at the end. We were surprised when we finally arrived when the canyon surrounding the pond had surprisingly great acoustics that ended in us singing some songs and performing a little concert for our new instructors who periodically joined in with us. As we got back to camp we meal planned for the upcoming days and for our backpacking expedition after this weekend was over. We quickly planned our meals and compared them to others to try not to overlap as the cooks started dinner and we wound down for the night.
As Saturday started we had a pretty early 7:30 AM wake up for a busy day, starting with going to the Moab grocery store to buy our recently planned meals. We attached the trailer, although the lock wouldn’t completely go on. We decided it was secured well enough and hit the road. After we drove for a little we were worried about the security of the trailer, and so Patty pulled over for us to try and hit the trailer lock with a hammer to try to get it to lock on. Scared we were going to break the hitch we stopped and decided to add the sway bar, a supporting bar for the trailer in rough weather just in case anything happened. As we pulled into the grocery store we accidentally hit the curb, bouncing the trailer right off the hitch, leaving it hanging on solely by the sway bar, grinding the metal bar used to hold up the trailer on the road. With Coco directing traffic in the middle of the road the rest of us- including a nice stranger- lifted the trailer by hand and placed it onto the hitch of the bus. With Patty’s permission we proceeded to “Bang the hell out of it” (the trailer hitch lock). Oscar grabbed the Mallet and went to town, eventually hitting it perfectly back into place for us to attach the lock safely and securely. We then continued to shop for our meals.
Next we headed to a sunny campsite not too far from ours to complete the very anticipated bus and trailer blow out!!! This consisted of taking everything out of both, cleaning and organizing it, and then putting it back. A very needed project, as both were getting rather gross. After around 2 hours we finished and packed into the bus for a trip to Dead Horse Point, an amazing viewpoint 2,000ft above the Colorado River and the canyons below. We then packed back onto the bus, heading to our new friends Martha and Jory’s house for an amazing dinner, finishing off the night with a piñata and ice cream before heading back to our campsite.
As Sunday hit, our last full day of the weekend, we were woken up to a delicious gourmet breakfast cooked by Patty and Coco consisting of luxuries like chai tea and Patty’s world famous chocolate chip banana bread. After we all ate we packed our school supplies and the baking finalists their baking materials to head to the park for the day. Once at the park we wrote letters to friends and our families as we excitedly anticipated our phone calls to parents and siblings. We had 45 minutes and could talk to anyone in our families. While we waited our turn, Meg, Tahg, and I started baking our cake for the finals. We started to bake a lemon cake with blackberry drizzle. We had an hour and 15 to cook, decorate, and make it presentable to our judges with an addition of Cassidy and Brynne who were eliminated in the first baking round. Once we finished we set our cake aside and called our families and Hank and Sasha, the next baking group, began cooking. We were surprised by Coco with some mid day pizza from Dominos that went fairly quickly before we all finished our calls. Next we had the cook-off finals. Our lemon cake against Sasha and Hanks Dark chocolate cake with raspberry drizzle. As the four judges went to make their decision after sampling each, the contestants and remainder of students got to indulge in some truly delicious cake. Eventually the results were in. With another drum roll the winners were declared: Meg, Tahg, and I coming in first and therefore awarded the first choices of some of Coco’s cool vintage hats she brought along with her. After everyone chose a hat we quickly stopped by Jory and Martha’s house to drop off a thank you card, along with some Proctor Buffs as a thank you gift. We headed back to camp and awaited another amazing meal made by Patty and Coco. The next morning we quickly packed up camp, appreciating our last moments with Patty and Coco before they departed and we were reunited with Quinn and Erica again.