To remember forever

Posted October 12, 2006

Students from the Martha's Vineyard Charter School admire the view from atop Mount Greylock in Western Massachusetts during a field trip last month.
Students from the Martha's Vineyard Charter School admire the view from atop Mount Greylock in Western Massachusetts during a field trip last month. Photos by Meagan McDonough

Last week the seventh and eighth grade students at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury went on a camping trip to Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts. The following essay was composed from the journal entries of seventh-graders Anna Hughes, Maya Harcourt and Hannah Vanderlaske, and eighth-grader Rose Maidoff.

Our trip to Mount Greylock had moments when you were desperately struggling over rocks and gasping for breath, and moments when your heart and mind would soar over cliffs and hills. Mount Greylock was an experience to behold. People you didn't know well became your teammates and friends. Mount Greylock taught us cooperation and survival. Greylock was beautiful, perilous, wild, and unpredictable, but that's what makes a good adventure, right? Here is ours.

A guide from Mt. Greylock leads Rose Maidoff and Meagan McDonough along the trail.
(From left) A guide from Mt. Greylock leads Rose Maidoff and Meagan McDonough along the trail.

The bus ride was so long! We took the five-hour ride from Martha's Vineyard to our campsite a quarter of the way up the mountain. As the bus stopped, everyone sighed with relief. Being cooped up in there was like being in prison compared to the great outdoors in which we now stood. Wildlife was all around us. It was screaming, it was moving, it was its own person.

At the camp, a fresh stream was our water supply and we shared a fire pit for warmth. Everyone was given tent and work groups and we all got busy. This camping experience wasn't just about having fun. In school we were learning about the 18th and 19th centuries and this learning would continue during our trip. All of our food had to be what the early settlers had eaten and everything we did had to be authentic as well. There were no marshmallows for desert and no refrigerator to keep our food fresh (although it was cold enough outside to be a refrigerator!).

Joey Myers tends the fire.
Joey Myers tends the fire.

As night came, it got incredibly cold and we were reminded of how some of our ancestors had to struggle for freedom and what they believed in. Every moment of our trip was an opportunity to share. Whether we got along with each other or not, we shared everything: our tents, our plates, and our thoughts. After a dinner of lentil soup, which we prepared over a steaming cauldron, we sat around the fire while Jonah, our Social Studies teacher, told us a story about a pirate who sailed the seas and stole from the rich and poor. He didn't know what to do with the treasure, so he hid it on Mount Greylock. The victims of his piracy finally got their revenge and according to the story, you can still hear the ghost of the pirate saying, "I want my treasure." Jonah is a great storyteller and though we knew he was making the story up, it still sent shivers down our spines.

Students relax around the campfire.
Students relax around the campfire.

The next morning it was cold and we wore layer upon layer of clothing to keep us warm. We gathered wood and got the fire going while the breakfast group cooked bacon and eggs. When everyone was ready, we started on the hike. First we took the Deer Trail, which zigzagged up a steep incline and then we got on the Hopper trail, which we stayed on for several hours. We traveled along wide bridges that crossed over rushing water and over jutting roots and rocks. The trek wore some of us down and made us again realize the hardships that our ancestors had to go through, as we struggled up the trail made by sweat and tears. At the top of the mountain we observed the unbelievable view of the towns that clustered around the base of the mountain. We had lunch and relaxed in the lodge. Before we descended the mountain, we reflected upon the memorial for soldiers who had died fighting for our country.

The next morning it was time to go. As we sat on the bus looking at Mount Greylock, we felt sad, relieved, and content, like an overworked, broken machine. It was nice to be making our way back home to Martha's Vineyard, but we knew that we would remember this tremendous journey forever.