Student Expedition Journals
At the end of February, Jodi Harris, an 8th grade teacher from the Cincinnati Waldorf School, brought her class on a 10-day, 83-mile expedition on the Rio Grande with Kroka. Below is the story, as told by excerpts from student journals:
Today we arrived at the Rio Grande at dawn. When we got there we all went pee in the cactuses. After that we talked about what to expect during the next two weeks, as well as canoe safety and paddling techniques. Then we swam while we waited for the canoes and gear. The water was cold, but refreshing. At about 4:00 we started canoeing (after we put all our supplies in the canoes, which was very difficult). Everyone was assigned a job. Some people had difficult jobs and some people had easier jobs. After 1.5 miles of canoeing we found a good place to camp and set up camp. It took around an hour to set up the entire camp. We went to bed around 10ish. The weather throughout the day was completely clear and very warm.
We got to sleep in a bit because everyone was exhausted from the first day. Everyone is taking down camp. It’s quite warm and there are cirrus clouds and a slight breeze. Later Today… It is dark. We arrived at camp at about 6 ish. When we got here we put the canoes on land and brought all our gear to camp. Today we canoed 5 miles, but we are behind schedule. Throughout today it has been quite windy and it was difficult to canoe. The stars are coming out and there are so many stars. Now we shall eat stew and then sit around the fire and sing or tell stories.
Today we canoed 10 or more miles, which is a great accomplishment! But we have to go that far every day, which is going to be tough, I think. This is the first night that we have got free time. Right now some people are off exploring. Everyone has used the poop bucket thingy. And it is actually a big relief after you poop. There is a poop key and a changing key. That way people get to take turns going to the bathroom or changing, so not everyone is going at the same time. I think everyone is getting better at working together and knowing how to do everything. Today for breakfast we had potatoes with eggs and onions. Tonight we are having burritos. Some of us are a little homesick and started crying as we were changing. But we’ll all get through the trip together and it will be ok. Tonight we are hopefully going to be able to sing.
Jacob’s Birthday! Today it was very hard to wake up. At around 3 am last night there was a huge windstorm, which made our tents begin to rip out of the ground. The teachers said to evacuate the tents so we all ended up sleeping outside in the flying sand and everyone got really sandy. The adults made a windbreak with canoes. It was difficult to canoe today because the wind was against us, but we managed to put in 7 miles. We found a tiny spring to fill our empty water jugs and water bottles. Tonight we had pasta for dinner. And since it is Jacob’s B-day we are having fire-baked cookies! This has been the best day so far. But wait! There’s more! Today we saw multiple cows, live and dead, and a cow even wandered into camp. We’ve seen about 53 turtles and 24 cows. At the campsite there was a cool cave and a few people wandered up to see what it was about and there were black smoke stains on the ceiling, which means that people lived there thousands of years ago. Emma, Rory and Isaac saw a spring that was all dried up and there was an awesome cow trail and it seemed to really boost everyone’s spirits.
This morning we had hot cereal-porridge. It was made out of different grains and maple syrup. ‘Twas yummy. Charles figured out that if we canoe for 12 miles per day, on Wednesday we could have a 4-mile solo. We reeeeally want that solo but ended up only canoeing 9 miles. There were a few more difficult rapids today and Gabe and Gage flipped again. They were okay but apparently Gage lost his sweatshirt. Unfortunate stuff. Anna and Jesse Partially flipped too, and Anna was really mad at Charles cuz it was Charles’s fault. We stopped at a huge canyon and took a wicked long hike. We walked up a big dry riverbed (a “wash”) and you could really tell where the water had gone. We’re having Russian soup for dinner and people think there will be a windstorm tonight. Hopefully not.
Today we canoed 9 miles and portaged around the rapids. We took all our gear out of the canoes and walked around a trail past the rapids where the canoes were (Before that we lined our canoes through the rapids). Some people thought it fun and some people didn’t like it as much. We also explored the canyons, which we’re been trying to do as much as possible, because as Misha says we need to explore as much as possible, ‘cause “You can’t just go through the Rio Grande and not explore through the canyons.”
Today we canoed 10 miles. Last night we did not set up tents; we slept outside which was really fun. We slept on the rocks but if was actually surprisingly comfortable. This morning we got up late because we stayed up too late last night. The teachers don’t wake us up anymore, we have to wake ourselves up. It’s kind of challenging, but it’s OK because Jesse always wakes everyone up by singing. Everyone has been yearning for a solo night, which is happening tomorrow. There was a big discussion of whether we would do the solo or not, but it ended up we decided to. Some people don’t think we can. We only have 12 miles left of the trip and we can totally easily get that done with the amount of time we have. After that it’s just traveling home!
Today was good. We woke up and had a good breakfast and Misha told us we would have 3 strikes and then if we strike out, no solo. We canoed 8 miles today and Gage and Gabe flipped. Again. Third time. We ended up getting a solo. But Misha decided that we would split up into two groups. Tomorrow we will wake up at 5 am and take down camp and canoe 4 miles to take out and go home. The teachers were supposed to go all the way to take out but-for some unknown reason they are a little bit upstream. After the adults left we began setting up camp. Then we laid our sleeping pads as Charles cooked dinner with Gage. Afterwards we ate, went swimming, and did the dishes. We got into our sleeping bags and played truth or dare and laughed ourselves to sleep. We woke up late the next morning and paddled as hard as we could. On the way Jacob and Jess capsized and Charles nearly lost his paddle. No matter, we made it to the takeout in time!
The Solo: the small group
Everyone in the class was excited for the solo. In my group of Gabriel, Anna, Eden, and I, we were especially challenged. There were only the four of us to collect firewood, make dinner and breakfast the next day, set up the toilet, navigate, and all the million other things we had to do. After the groups were given, we canoed a little bit down river to camp on a small beach. We took everything out of the canoes and set up camp. Gabriel, being the cook, immediately began to prepare dinner. We were having pasta and Misha had given us some marshmallows to roast on the fire after dinner. Anna set up the toilet, and me and Eden collected firewood for the fire. Later, once the sleeping bags were in order, dinner was cooked and any miscellaneous items lying around camp were collected and put in their proper place, we sat down to dinner. Dinner consisted of pasta, gingersnap cookies, and smores. The pasta wasn’t exactly mac n’ cheese but ended up being more like pasta soup. But the gingersnap cookies and smores were very good. After dinner we put down the dinner things and sat in our sleeping bags and talked for hours. We had to wake up at 4.30 the next morning. We had to canoe 4 miles to be at the take out at 9 am to clean the canoes. Eden, Gabriel and Anna ended up making me drink a whole bottle of water before bed so I would wake up in the middle of the night and check the time. It ended up working and amazingly we woke up at 4.30 on the dot! It took Eden and Gabriel a while to wake up enough to get out of their sleeping bags to make breakfast. They got up eventually, and Gabriel began making scrambled eggs for breakfast while we three packed the canoes and took down camp. Breakfast was much, much better than dinner. Then we took down the “kitchen” and packed it away in the canoes. By 7 am we were right on time and canoeing to the end–the last 4 miles of our 8th Grade Trip! We did it!