For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Mud Season is Vermont’s unofficial ‘fifth season’, falling between winter and spring. Sunnier days, melting snow, and April showers cause New England’s rural dirt roads and hiking trails to become soft and mucky. Despite the inevitable muddy boots, the season is as much a sign of spring as green grass, blue skies, and chirping birds.
Just as winter is fading away, replaced by warm and sunny days, bright green shoots and buds, and the first flowers of the season, True North’s use of the Windridge winter campus comes to a close. Student groups are spending more time on state forest land in both Roxbury and Waitsfield, Vermont. These field areas are familiar to our students from their off-campus winter day hikes. As we prepare for summer, True North’s winter base-camp model becomes a nomadic structure of everyday backpacking and these state forest field areas become the full-time summer locations for our students. This backcountry camping model allows for groups to pack up and hike to a new site 5 days-a-week. Students hike approximately 10 miles per week, increasing endurance and mastering orienteering skills along the way.
After five days of backpacking in the woods, students will return to Windridge for a two-day layover where they receive food and gear re-rations and shower at our restored 18th century Inn. As the weather continues to warm up these layover sites will eventually re-locate to the Green Mountain National Forest with re-rations and pop-up solar showers delivered right to each group.
Transitioning between seasons also means different gear and clothing for students. Just as our recent mid-April snowstorm demonstrated, our students need to be equipped for whatever comes their way. Raincoats and rain pants are the first new items to be issued. Once the weather reaches consistently warmer temperature, heavy winter layers will be traded in for lighter weight quick-dry tops and bottoms as well as summer hiking boots and NEOS overshoes. Students already in the program who are transitioning to the summer program adapt to new gear and quickly come to appreciate that their new layers are just right for the changing seasons.
With beautiful spring days already here, it’s not hard to believe that the summer program is almost upon us. The operations department will be busy over the next few weeks preparing summer field areas by flagging new campsites and checking trail conditions as well as wrapping up winter operations at Windridge. Students and staff alike are looking forward to all things summer: more daylight, more hiking, and especially shedding those heavy winter layers and feeling the warm sun on our faces!