240 Fingers and Toes

???????????????????????????????Tonight I had the pleasure of making a pizza from scratch. Mix, kneed, raise and kneed the dough. Shape the crust. Add the toppings and bake for 10 minutes. Then I proceeded to eat far too much for the limited amount of physical activity done for the day.

January was not all about eating- but it was mostly about eating. Eating calories keeps you warm. That is the mantra of our January Term Outdoor Environmental studies class. To counter those calories we spent hours a day traveling in the back country with skis and skins carrying a winter pack and taking turns pulling sleds to our next camp. Then, once ???????????????????????????????we stopped we moved tons of snow to make sleeping platforms, quincys and snow kitchens. Then it was time to cook dinner, do dishes and boil water for warm drinks and hot water bottles that would be the savior of my feet each and every night.

The adventure was part of a for-credit course taught through Linfield College. My co-instructor, Angela Henderson, and I took 10 students into the backcountry in the winter for just over three weeks. (This was my first time teaching this course without Jay). We start our adventure by spending time seam sealing tents, learning about astronomy and nature writing, planning our menu, shopping for large amounts of bulk food at Winco (including 48 lb of cheese) and then repackaging it all, fitting boots and skiis, trying out sleeping bags and learning how to pack.

We spent the first few days in a deep freeze (it was below -10 F on the first night) hanging out at the Skyliners lodge in Tumalo Falls. Here we learned all things skiing, how to stay warm at night and how to bake all kinds of goodies, gluten full and gluten free. We took our newly acquired ski and cooking skills into the backcountry with only a pack on our backs and a sled shared amoung three. We fumbled a bit on the first day. Our snow kitchen was a simple mound with a few platforms carved in the side. We fell and stumbled on skis.

Using Elk Lake Resort as our recharging, regrouping, and resupply location, we set out on journeys into the winter wilderness. As we became more proficient with backcountry travel, our snow structures became more elaborate and we started feeling comfortable in the cold. Snow kitchens began to resemble well-constructed highly intricate structures complete with storage shelves and refridgerators (which will prevent things from freezing overnight).

???????????????????????????????And then, it warmed up. On our long trip out, we were challenged with warmer weather and rain. We are not really prepared for 36 degrees and rain. We built elaborate rain shelters so we could all hang out in the kitchen. We grouped up and decided that the rain would not take the wind out of our sails. So we rallied under the kitchen tarps and made, from scratch pizza and calzones with all the fixin’s.

A month spent with 11 folks, together in close quarters for 24/7 can test the group dynamics and really challenges expedition behavior. This year, we were expedition behavior. We met our goals and outcomes particularly the one about returning with 240 fingers and toes.

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