One Happy Family
Kaia, CS17, St. Paul, MN

6 days, 5 nights, 4 tents, 3 waterfalls, 2 stoves, and 1 happy family surviving on what we carry on our backs. This lovely family consists of 8 teenagers and 2 adults hiking through 55 miles of the North Country Scenic Trail enduring the challenges and the epiphanies and all growing and changing by the end of the trip. 

View from the top. Trees and sky in the distance.

One of those challenges was the first night on trail when it was a blustery, rainy night and we had to find the already hung ropes for bear hanging in the dark. We trudged through the pitch black and stormy woods with our headlamps looking for our three hung ropes. Finally, we found two of them but came to the conclusion that someone had stolen the third rope that was laying across the path. Luckily, there was a bear pole so we tried a few times to get the last bear bag onto that. Eventually, we gave up when we’d made many failed attempts and someone pointed out it that it’s “probably not the best idea for us to be holding onto a metal pole in a lightning storm.” Our epiphany came at the end of the night when we frankly gave up and just stashed the last bag under our tarp with some pans on top. Letting go is an important part of having success on trail, and we showed that perfectly that wet and stormy night.

Backpackers on trail

The next day we figured out the importance of being open and positive to inclement weather when it was rainy and cold. We all huddled together to get warm and could barely pack up due to our fingers being numb from the cold. Going through those uncomfortable conditions at the beginning of the day made the first glimpses of sunshine a miracle. We all beamed and rose our faces to the sun as if that was all we needed from the world. That night, we all bounced and danced around as if that was the happiest night of our lives.

Trees in the distance

I was able to contemplate my experiences on this trip as well as other thoughts while hiking in solitude. During this time, I became so deep in thought my body walked without me putting in any conscious effort. It made me more conscious of my surroundings and my thoughts. I was able to feel at peace and centered in solitude because of the comfort of knowing someone is somewhere in front and behind me but that I was virtually alone amongst the trees. That is a liberating and freeing feeling.

Students taking a break and smiling

The last night on trail, a few of us stayed up watching the full moon rise and recapped the trip. As I listened to the trill of soft voices around me, I realized I would not have changed a single thing about this trip. I was content with everything because every moment was valuable and remarkable. Those moments, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, have shaped my views, my thought processes, and who I am, to become just a little bit different than before I stepped foot onto that trail. I am thankful for that trail and for my family of 10 who hiked through it with me.

Student looking at a waterfall
View of a foggy peak between the trees.

Photos contributed by Kaia, CS17, St. Paul, MN.