Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Blog #4: Widening Skies

As the rain poured down at Kroka Basecamp, our footprints washed away and our journey out west began. Our first meal on the road was in Vermont's Prospect Mountain in the pink hue of the setting sun. From there we drove to Blue Heron Farm just outside Ithaca, NY. A sweet bed of straw and a lantern-lit barn awaited us.

The next morning we awoke to gifts: fresh peaches, eggs, and grapes. Birgit and Eric, the farmers, greeted us with warm smiles. For most of the day we worked in the cool soil of the fields, planting garlic and learning about life on the farm. By the end of the day we had planted 19 rows of garlic! Morning flowed into afternoon and we had a hearty lunch of farm veggies. Afterwards we all loaded into the back of Eric's trailer and rode around the 140-acre farm. Eric showed us the beautiful land surrounding us. Coming to a small forest, we ended up at the top of a deep quarry. From there the mountains seemed to stretch infinitely all around.

In the evening we swam at the finger lakes. The chilly water gently held us, washing away the dirt and sweat of the day. Beside the rocky shores, sitting on the grass, we celebrated Kai's birthday with rich chocolate cake and many birthday songs. In a small circle we attempted to block out the strong western winds so Kai could blow out his one remaining lit candle! As the sun dipped slowly into the horizon we loaded into the van for the long drive ahead.

Planting garlic at Blue Heron Farm
Elena hard at work! 
Erik giving us a tour of the farm on the wagon
A cool evening dip in the Fingerlakes

After many hours we arrived in Chicago. Mechanical issues held us up for the day, making for a very loud class on the front lawn of a Taco Bell! As cars raced pas us we discussed the words of Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass. Class came to a close with a writing prompt about creating stories just as the last issues on the trailer were fixed. Celebrating with a large game of Ultimate Frisbee on a nearby field, we then dipped in the calm waters of the Mississippi.

The next, on our drive, we watched the skies light up as bolts of lightning streaked down into the Iowa corn fields. We still had to find a place to sleep, so we kept driving, ending up at a very buggy campsite in Sioux City, South Dakota. Almost no one slept that night: Sounds of soft guitar playing, singing. Slow walks around the pond... We slapped away mosquitos as the sky lightened and we got back in the van. From her we drove 200 miles west to the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Lots of time in the car makes for a silly group of students...
Tow truck to the rescue!
Anything can be a classroom - even the front lawn of Taco Bell...
...or the underside of a highway overpass.

The elementary school students from the Lakota Waldorf School greeted us, bringing to life our childlike wonder to let loose and play. In the following hours we worked in the school garden, harvesting bok choi and weeding.

Driving away from Pine Ridge Reservation, we stopped at the Badlands: looking out over the valley, clay mountains stretched for miles. We climbed down, exploring the winding land as the cold ait and mist kissed our faces... while climbing, Tristan found fossils in the buried clay!

The vast desert landscape of the Badlands

"Being with the children let loose our child-like wonder"
Elena works in the school garden
Liam, Sarah, and Alice harvest fresh veggies! 
Pele and Kai assemble a tipi
Kai makes a new friend

As we drove into Wyoming through the shifting, misty landscape, we came into the town of Lander: 60 miles from our river put-in. Now, as the sun sets, we're settling into camp. As I write this blog entry we are doing our final gear check and getting ready (finally) for our paddling journey.

Loading boats at the put-in
Finally! The expedition begins! 


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Blog #8: Meeting of Rock and River

PART I: CONFLUENCE On November 10th our group arrived at Green River State Park, where Kroka staff member Tricia Bennett joined us! We...