Wiltonian spends 14 weeks in the wilderness

Wilton High School junior Amelia Walsh and 13 other students recently returned home after 14 weeks of wilderness education in New Hampshire and Ecuador with Kroka Expeditions of Marlow, N.H.

The over-arching theme of the semester was permaculture and sustainability, living in harmony with the land and its natural systems.

Amelia and her fellow students spent most of their time outdoors, exploring the contrasting natural environments and cultures of New England and Ecuador with their leaders Mathias Dammer and Nicole Marchan, of Ecuador; and Laurel Iselin, of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire

The first month was spent in Kroka’s carbon neutral village, where a simple, community-oriented life gave students the opportunity to experience the tricks and trades of living and depending on each other. They worked with hand tools, tended the forest, cared for the farm animals, gardened and practiced traditional wilderness skills.

Meals were cooked by students over fire and shared communally. Students also designed and built a sign for Kroka’s New Hampshire campus.

The students’ last 10 days in New Hampshire were spent bike-touring to four farms in Vermont and New Hampshire. At each farm, they became farmers and compared the different models of sustainable farming.

Ecuador

This Waldorf-inspired model of education continued at Mr. Dammer and Ms. Marchan’s home at Palugo Farm, outside of Quito, Ecuador, where the students explored the Andean region and became immersed in a variety of climates, cultures, crafts and traditions.

The students practiced sustainable living skills as they traveled and shared native Ecuadorian ways of life. While some local public transportation was used to explore the country, students mostly traveled self-sufficiently with map and compass by foot, bike and raft.

Hiking, biking, high altitude mountaineering, and white water paddling were some of the adventure sports practiced through the jungle, highlands and volcanoes of Ecuador.

During their base camp stays at Palugo Farm, students were part of the farm’s daily life. They cared for the livestock, gardened, milked the cows, processed food, and participated in building projects including the construction of Mr. Dammer and Ms. Marchan’s home.

Throughout the length of the semester, the students’ communal responsibilities included chores and “big jobs” — major team tasks, such as treasurer or food manager, which students carried for the duration of the term.

As the team’s sewing and craft manager, Amelia diligently organized and prepared all crafts and sewing projects for the semester team and ensuring that every job was completed on time and well.

For many weeks, the glacier-covered volcanoes, which are responsible for the shapes and the richness of the Inter Andean Valley, provided the group with water for living, farming and paddling.

At 19,200 feet, Mt. Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world and its summit was the student’s final destination.

With their handmade backpacks filled with the food they harvested, the semester culminated with triumph near the top of one of nature’s giants.

To learn more about Kroka Expeditions, visit: www.kroka.org.