Like most of the kids in my urban hometown, I did not grow up communing with nature. As an adult, I have come to seek refuge in the outdoors, and spend a great deal of time hiking and camping. Knowing how much I have benefitted from hanging out in nature, last year I started an Outdoor Adventure Club at the high school where I once attended, and now teach. There was clearly a need for such a club, evidenced by the over 200 kids who showed up for the first meeting. Since then, each time we go on a new adventure, I witness the powerful effect nature has on the lives, spirits, and mental clarity of my inner-city students.
Over the past 18 months, our Outdoor Adventure Club has partnered with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Youth Opportunities Program. With their support, we’ve been able to hike, camp, canoe, ice-skate, ski, snowboard, and snow-tube. They provide us access to gear and equipment, reduced rates at AMC lodges, help planning trips, and more! Thanks to them, I was able to bring 16 club members to the Noble View Outdoor Center in Russell, MA for the past few days for a winter adventure trip.
After loading up all of our gear and food onto a school bus, we arrived at Noble View in just over two hours. After dropping our gear in one of the two common rooms of Double Cottage, we set to work passing out gear, claiming beds, and eating lunch. It was a whirlwind of activity that led up to what we’d all come there for – a hike through the snow on snowshoes.
A lot of the club members have never hiked before joining the OAC. On this particular trip, only two had ever been on snowshoes before. Even for me, it was a new experience as it was only my second time using snowshoes. After some ice-breaker activities, an overview of what to pack into daypacks, and a review of layering clothing for outdoor activities and signs to watch for that indicate if someone is getting cold, we gathered our gear and headed outside to hit the trails.
Date: February 18, 2013
Distance: 2.4 miles roundtrip
Our Hiking Time: 2.5 hours roundtrip
Trail Blaze: Blue Rectangles (Circuit Trail & Short Circuit Trail), Red Rectangles (Dam Brook Trail), & Yellow Rectangles (Link Trail)
We crossed the open field behind Double Cottage and started our trek on the Circuit Trail. The sun streamed through delicate little pine trees – I felt like I was walking in a winter wonderland. The kids had fun getting used to walking on the snowshoes. I spent some time teaching them how to read trail blazes as we wandered down the trail.
After 1.6 miles we took the Short Circuit Trail to the Dam Brook Trail, which leads to a small pond and stone dam. This length of trail, though short, was the one moderately difficult descent and climb. After just two tenths of a mile, we took a turn onto the Link Trail, and cruised back to double cottage. It was a great first hike for the kids – challenging enough to keep them interested, but not so much that they were overwhelmed.
When we returned to Double Cottage, a few of the kids went sledding while the majority started making food. And by food, I mean massive quantities of eggs rolls, crab rangoon, and sushi. Many of the club members are Southeast Asian, and every trip they kindly share their culinary skills with the rest of us. It is not uncommon for us to get to the top of a mountain, and there suddenly appears a smorgasbord of noodles, rice, egg rolls, and sushi.
One of the things I love about my students is their willingness to share their culture and talents with others. Another group of kids, from a program run by the Concerned Black Men of Massachusetts, was staying in North Cottage. We invited them over for egg rolls and crab rangoon, and the kids ended up sledding together.
As the evening wore on, I led the kids through a reflective activity and we settled in for the night. (Okay, I settled in – they stayed up past midnight, giggling, bonding, and easting massive quantities of Cup o’ Noodles.)
Day two we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise. The kids were sprawled on the couches of the common area – taking advantage of the warmth of the wood stove. As they slowly woke up, those who’d signed up to cook breakfast got to work making us an incredible meal of eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, and oatmeal. It was fantastic!
After cleaning up, we geared up for another hike. The forecast predicted rain for the afternoon, so our goal was to complete a long hike before being shut indoors for the rest of the day.
Date: February 19, 2013
Distance: 3.25 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 436ft.
Our Hiking Time: 2 hours, 51 minutes roundtrip
Trail Blaze: Yellow Rectangles (Laurel Lane Trail) & Red Rectangles (Pitcher Brook Trail)
Once again we strapped on snowshoes and hit the trail – this time opting to take the Laurel Lane Trail to the Pitcher Brook Trail. Laurel Lane was an easy walk, with little change in elevation. As we turned onto the Pitcher Brook Trail, we descended several hundred feet until we reached the Pitcher River. We took some time watch the water flowing under the frozen ice before beginning our ascent along the river. We passed two waterfalls along the trail. Both were beautiful, but the second was truly stunning.
The ascent was slightly difficult given the snow, but everyone made it to the top of the trail. As we headed back to Double Cottage, we celebrated our success.
We spent our afternoon playing board games, sledding in the rain, making Nutella and banana filled Rangoons and enjoying each other’s company. Dinner was tacos, followed by a short night hike with Joanna from the AMC, then cookies, brownies, and hot chocolate.
The kids had another late night of noodles and fun. The next morning we were sad to leave Noble View. The kids were already talking about our next trip!
Noble View is a great place to visit – for a day excursion, or for an extended, overnight stay. There are several options for lodging, as well as a camp site. The trails on the 358.5 acres of land surrounding Noble View offer a variety of difficulty levels, and are perfect for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. You can download a Noble View Trail Map.
Directions to AMC Noble View Outdoor Center:
Noble View is located at 635 South Quarter Road, Russell, Massachusetts 01071.
From Rt. 90 East: Take exit 3 toward US-202/
From Rt. 90 West: Take exit 2 for US-20 E. Turn left onto US-20 E/