Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors

If the phrase “parenting memoir” brings to mind tiger mothers and hipster fathers or over-the-top over-sharing on bringing up baby, then you might be misled by a new title in that genre. Luckily, the subtitle of Wild Play, “Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors,” helps put both “Wild” and “Play” in context.

The parent behind Wild Play is David Sobel, a faculty member at Antioch University New England who has done pioneering work in environmental education. Richard Louv drew on Sobel’s ideas about place-based education in Last Child in the Woods, Louv's best-selling indictment of “nature-deficit disorder.” In articles and essays in Orion, Sierra, and other magazines, Sobel has often drawn on his own experiences as a parent, raising a daughter and son in the Monadnock region of southwestern New Hampshire. Wild Play is Sobel’s earnest attempt to consider ideas he’s spent his career working on — principles of children’s development in connection with nature, and strategies for developing those connections — in the light of his own experiences as a father.

Sobel comes across as a loving and devoted father, and as someone who has thought deeply about the value of spending time outdoors throughout one’s life. Within the framework of his own family story, Sobel offers useful ideas for parents who want to create similarly strong attachments in their children.

His description of childhood development in relation to natural metaphors is worth the price of the book. He uses the image of the meadow for the first of three stages in a child’s connection to nature — close to home, safe, small explorations with family nearby. For middle childhood, the metaphor is the forest beyond the meadow. Parents and children may explore the forest together, but children may also, as Sobel writes, “follow secret paths to hidden forts, with their friends or on their own.” For adolescence into young adulthood, the developmental focus shifts to what Sobel calls “the rocky ridge,” a place that includes “boulder caves for secret ceremonies,” steep slopes for risky adventures, and pathways to “the wilderness beyond the ridge” — the adult lives they’ll eventually navigate on their own.

Wild Play gave me specific ideas, too: the value of story-telling in building a lifelong connection between children and the natural world; using treasure and scavenger hunts to develop an awareness of the natural world, not only in early childhood but into adolescence; the notion of islands as “intimate geographies” in which children and families can create full worlds.

I especially took to heart Sobel’s thoughts on a transition that girls often make at the end of middle childhood. He notes that the years leading up to adolescence, roughly ages 10 to 13, can be a time of deep connection with the natural world; in adolescence, girls tend to focus more on new webs of social connections. Sobel thinks that some of the clarity and confidence of late middle childhood can be brought into adolescence by making sure that teenage girls continue to have time alone in nature, separate from the social world of peers.

Sobel makes a disarming admission early on: “I had conscious aims in parenting that dovetailed with my work,” he writes — then adds, “There’s nothing like actual parenting to make theories look foolish.” One of the real-life situations he deals with in the memoir is the break-up of his marriage when his daughter and son are 14 and 12. As someone who writes about my own family’s experiences in the outdoors, I’m sympathetic to Sobel’s desire to keep out of the darker glades of his family’s story or off its steeper, scarier slopes.

At times, though, I wanted him to reflect on what he or his family might have traded off or set aside in pursuing his particular vision of a nature-centered and place-centered childhood. Letting us travel some of his family’s rough spots — rebellions, failures, what a connection to nature couldn’t fix — would have harnessed some of the wild energy that makes memoirs so compelling.

But this is a small quibble about a thoughtful exploration of nature and family, deeply rooted in its northern New England landscape.

Learn more
- Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors (Sierra Club Books)

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

FoodCorps on the ground

Three members of the first class of 50 in the FoodCorps national service program were assigned to work in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Erin Taylor had studied environmental issues and public health at Tufts and helped found Boston Truck Farm, a mobile community farm and education project. Sarah Rubin became interested in issues of food access while studying religion at Oberlin College. After spending a gap year at “Maggie’s Farm,” a farm school in Massachusetts, Grace Cherubino studied human ecology at the College of the Atlantic. FoodCorps members receive a $15,000 living allowance, health insurance, and a $5,500 education award. Perhaps more important, they get the opportunity to learn from people who have been helping create the school-garden movement.

Francey Slater is one of those people. At 30, she’s not even a decade older than Taylor and Rubin, the two FoodCorps members she is supervising in Gloucester. (Cherubino is assigned to the Food Project.) In college, Slater spent a semester in Italy, and fell in love with the food culture there. Back home, Slater became drawn to the question of how food is produced in this country. She worked on an urban farm in Philadelphia with the Urban Nutrition Institute, a joint project of public school and the University of Pennsylvania, and became involved in its education programs. That led to graduate school in education and a short teaching career. Then she found out about CitySprouts. It’s a “marriage of both the worlds I’m interested in, education and growing food,” says Slater.

For the past four years, Slater has worked with CitySprouts in the Cambridge public schools, planting school gardens and developing a garden curriculum alongside classroom teachers. For example, in the spring, fourth-grade math students start weekly measurements of pea plants in the gardens. “They keep track of their measurements, graph them, make predictions about them, develop hypotheses,” says Slater. “A lot goes on, from the simple mechanics of operating a ruler to cognitive processes, taking information and making inferences about what will happen in the future.” But this, says Slater, is where the program gets “a little sly.” While they’re doing math, Slater says, the students are also interacting with the plants, watching them grow, flower, develop pea pods.... and eventually eating the peas. Imagine: A math problem you can snack on when you’re done!

Slater started Rubin and Taylor as garden coordinators in two Gloucester elementary schools, Veterans Memorial and Beeman Memorial. Each young woman spends 4 days a week at her school tending a raised-bed garden and making herself available to teachers and students. They also assist Grace Cherubino, who is helping the Food Project develop after-school programs in the gardens. Slater: “You can’t walk into a school and ask teachers to take on more work. Teachers are really busy and under a huge amount of performance pressure. Their entire day — entire week — is often spoken for several times over.” So Slater was delighted to see how interested the Gloucester teachers were in the new gardens. “We built the gardens one week, and by the next, classes were coming out asking questions, getting tours.”

Slater thinks it’s made a difference that Rubin and Taylor are on the job 30 hours a week. CitySprouts could afford only 10 hours a week for garden coordinators. Being on site 4 full days a week has allowed teachers to connect with the FoodCorps workers and trust that they can rely on them.

There’s another component, as well. Drawing on the experience of the Boston Public Schools’ 3-year Farm to School pilot program, Gloucester is incorporating the garden programs in another classroom — the cafeteria. The schools’ food services department is on board to promote new menu items created from produce grown in the school gardens. Kids who might refuse to eat barley in soup or salad might have a different response, Slater thinks, if they’re able to say, “Oh yeah, we grow that in our garden.”

The school year has just begun, and the three FoodCorps members are on the job until next August. Slater imagines a harvest celebration at the schools — letting kids press apple cider and dishes cooked with vegetables grown in the gardens — before the winter comes. She already knows that next spring will be full of activity: planting new fruit, herb, and flower gardens; building new beds and sheds; more classroom visits and more ways to include the gardens in lesson plans. One thing is clear: Much will be learned.

Learn more

- Read "FoodCorps: Beginning the Food Revolution?" and "The Massachusetts FoodCorps Initiative."

Photo by Erin Taylor.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Massachusetts FoodCorps Initiative

You could say that FoodCorps grew from its grassroots. The seeds of the national service program were sown through many initiatives that have been trying to reframe the relationships that children, families, schools, and communities have with food. Some of those initiatives are already national in scope, such as the National Farm to School Network, which includes the Boston Public Schools. Others work on the state level, while many more focus on specific communities.

The new national service program decided to partner with existing nonprofits in order to leverage their experience. FoodCorps selected partners in 10 states for its inaugural year. In Massachusetts, they chose three organizations — Boston Public Schools, Food Project, and City Sprouts — collaborating as the Massachusetts FoodCorps Initiative.

Each of the three partners brings important experience to the kids-and-food table. Through its Farm to School Initiative, which began in 2008, the Food and Nutrition Services of the Boston Public Schools have incorporated local produce into school lunches. The Food Project engages teens and volunteers in planting and tending gardens around the greater Boston area. In 2010, its twentieth year, the Food Project grew more than a quarter-million pounds of food on more than 40 acres, selling some through community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares and donating thousands of pounds to local shelters. City Sprouts has worked in the Cambridge schools for 10 years to integrate school gardens into the elementary and middle school curriculum.

Six FoodCorps service members were assigned to the Massachusetts initiative: three to the Food Project, two to City Sprouts, and one to the Boston Public Schools. The hope among the partners was that the FoodCorps collaboration would allow each organization to expand its existing work, and also to move onto new ground. If they could bring all their work together — the experience of the Food Project in building and tending community gardens, the experience of City Sprouts in creating school gardens and garden-based lesson plans, and the experience of BPS in bringing fresh and local food to schoolchildren — maybe the changes they’ve sought will happen faster.

“I’d love to look down the road in 3 to 5 years,” says Jay Harrison of the Food Project, “and see kids having healthy snacks and nutritious lunches using food they’ve grown themselves. I’d like to see science, literature, history, math being taught using school gardens; to see kids, their parents, their teachers, and others in their community working together in gardens right where they live.”

This is the second in a series on the FoodCorps national service program in Massachusetts. Next: FoodCorps on the ground in Gloucester.

Learn more
- Read "Food Corps: Beginning the Food Revolution?"
- Learn about the Food Project, City Sprouts, and the Boston Public Schools' Farm-to-School Initiative.

Photo courtesy Massachusetts Food Project.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

FoodCorps: Beginning the Food Revolution?

Late last month, as the school year was beginning in Massachusetts, 6 young adults prepared for new jobs in Lynn, Gloucester, and Boston. They attended a training and orientation session. Nothing special there, right? However, their employer and the work they were preparing to do are unusual, indeed. They might, in fact, be a way to solve many of the difficult issues surrounding food and childhood.

We know these problems, and know that they’re knotted tightly together: Childhood obesity has more than tripled in 30 years. Many low-income communities are “food deserts,” where healthy food is difficult to find and expensive to buy. Those communities often also lack green spaces where children can safely play and exercise. According to a recent article in TIME magazine, the cost of weight-related health problems is expected to reach $344 billion by 2018.

Enter FoodCorps, a new national service program under the umbrella of AmeriCorps, which provides about a third of its funding. FoodCorps received more than 1,200 applications for its first 50 service positions — making it harder to get into than Harvard, note the program’s organizers.

FoodCorps co-founder Cicely Upton has been working to bring healthier food options to children since college. Directing youth programs at Slow Food USA, she heard from teachers, food professionals, and parents that healthy-food organizers needed to professionalize their work. “We needed to be able to pay people to give it viability,” she told me recently. Recruiting volunteers on college campuses, she kept hearing from students that they were eager to work in this new field, but could find no entry-level jobs. FoodCorps solves both issues simultaneously.

The mission of FoodCorps is as idealistic as you’d expect from a program modeled on the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps — nothing less than to transform the relationship of the nation’s children to food. “We envision a nation of well-nourished children,” says the FoodCorps mission statement — “children who know what healthy food is, how it grows and where it comes from, and who have access to it every day. These children, having grown up in a healthy food environment, will learn better, live longer, and liberate their generation from diet-related disease.”

Six ground troops in the battle for that “healthy food environment” were deployed in Massachusetts this month. They’re working in classrooms, in school gardens, and with community members. In my next post, I’ll describe the organizations that have laid the groundwork for FoodCorps in Massachusetts.

Learn more
... about FoodCorps
... Read about FoodCorps in a New York Times column and in a TIME magazine article.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sir, the AT cat

How do you hike the Appalachian Trail with a cat? That question has come up recently following a post about “trail angels” who took in AT thru-hikers during Tropical Storm Irene.

When Irene first started battering central New England, “trail angel” Greg Cook took in a pair of thru-hikers. They stayed with him for five days, until the White Mountain National Forest re-opened. One of the thru-hikers was a 4-month-old cat. Like most thru-hikers, he was known by his trail name, “Sir.” And like many thru-hikers, he traveled especially light — in his case by snuggling into an indentation on top of the backpack carried by his human companion, 23-year-old “Magic Mix.”

During their stay with him and in communication since they’ve returned to the trail, Greg Cook learned some of Magic Mix and Sir’s story. Magic Mix decided to hike the Appalachian Trail after serving five years in the Marines. He started in Georgia alone, but before long yearned for companionship on the trail. At an early trail town, he got online and onto Craiglist, where he found a silky black kitten he promptly named Sir. Magic Mix stayed in town an extra day to get Sir checked out by a veterinarian.

At not even a month old, Sir was young to leave his mother. Maybe this made the kitten cling more tightly to Magic Mix, or maybe being together nearly every minute of every day did it, but by the time the feline and the human reached New Hampshire, they’d developed an unusually strong bond. Sir spent most of his time sitting on his backpack cushion; when he wanted to get down, he nudged Magic Mix with his nose or a paw. They carried some dry food for Sir, but mostly he caught his own — mice and beetles at campsites. The first afternoon they stayed with Cook, Magic Mix went into town without Sir and left his pack on Cook’s back porch; the cat waited patiently in his usual spot for his companion’s return.

“I don’t even like cats,” Cook confesses. “But I fell in love with this cat. I hated to see them leave.”

Cook recently heard from Magic Mix’s mother. The young man and the cat were in Gorham, N.H., hoping to catch a ride to Mount Katahdin, the trail’s end, in Maine. From there, they’d flip-flop, hike back south along the trail, taking advantage of a few extra weeks’ good weather, and complete the trail in New Hampshire. There was every chance, though, that they’d run out of hiking season altogether and be forced to finish the trail another year.

It was a change from Magic Mix’s earlier single-minded focus on completing the AT in a single season. “At the beginning of the trip I’d hike in extreme heat and rain,” he wrote his mother in an email. But now that he had Sir, he didn’t want to subject the cat to such weather. He’d also needed to leave the trail for vet visits and to get the cat neutered. The weather, “which refuses to give us more than three decent hiking days in a row,” had also added to the “forced zero” mileage days.

“Still,” he wrote his mother, “I would rather come home without finishing the AT and have Sir than have never gotten him and completed the trail.”

Learn more

- Read "Trail Angels shelter AT thru-hikers during Irene".

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quests and Geocaches

Letterboxing, questing, and geocaching are different takes on a similar theme: treasure hunting in the outdoors. Each form combines the art of navigation with puzzle solving, in which participants follow clues to reach a special spot—and, often, a special reward. The navigation can rely on simple, handwritten notes or clever riddles, or on the standard orienteering tools of map and compass, or on expensive high-tech GPS systems. The thrill of discovery is the same.

Letterboxing, the earliest of the forms, began in England in the mid-nineteenth century. Hidden letterboxes usually contain a notebook and a rubber stamp. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox's stamp in their personal notebook or on a postcard, and leave proof of their success with their personal stamp on the letterbox's logbook.

The first public questing program in this country got off the ground in the mid-1990s in the Upper Connecticut River Valley around Hanover, N.H. "Valley Quest" took the letterbox idea and combined it with clues related to local geography, history, and community lore. "It was like peak-bagging for kids," says Delia Clark, one of the organizers and a member of AMC's board of directors. "They'd say, 'I want to get 20 different ones!' Without being aware of it, they were learning at the same time."

The idea has caught on. Today, you can find more than 200 quests across just New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. Many of them are educational, tied to Colonial or Civil War history, for instance, with clues scattered throughout cemeteries and villages.

Clark offers these tips to families interested in questing:

1. Have children choose individualized rubber stamps before they start their quest.
2. Engage them in the stories behind quests and caches.
3. Ask questions: If you could make a quest, what would you do?
4. Create your own. Back yard or neighborhood quests can be fun and also less intimidating for very young questers.

"Geocaching" takes the treasure hunting into the twenty-first century by using Global Positioning System, or GPS, devices to search for "caches," durable and waterproof canisters of varying sizes that often contain small trinkets as rewards for finding the cache.

This year, John Lennon, naturalist at AMC's Cardigan Lodge, used geocaching to solve a problem. Two nearby trails were not well used, even though Lennon and other naturalists had created self-guided nature walks along them. He wondered if placing geocaches on those trails would create more interest in them.

Lennon, a professor at Plymouth State University, had created geocaches for his students before by hiding containers (often metal canisters) behind boulders, in the middle of swamps, or in the crooks of trees at specific GPS coordinates. The students then used GPS devices, maps, and compasses to locate the hidden containers. "The skills required mean that geocaching is considered an activity for experienced hikers," Lennon says. "I wanted to see if I could make geocaches for children five years old and younger."

He hid five large wide-mouthed jugs "in plain sight" along the two little-used trails. Each jug contained three sets of nature questions, from easy to hard. An easy question from a jug next to a bog bridge: "What are you standing on that protects the environment? The first word rhymes with 'log' and the second word rhymes with 'fridge.'" Other questions covered map knowledge—"What town in England is at 0 degrees longitude?"—and local wildlife—"Why is summer moose scat different than winter moose scat?"

Lennon has discovered that he can use the "cool new technology" of GPS to draw children and families onto the nature trails. He shows them how to read the devices and starts the search for the geocaches by following the GPS. As they search for the jugs, he demonstrates the limits of the devices and why it's still important to know how to use a map and compass. "GPS devices have only about 30-foot accuracy," he tells his searchers, "so when we get within a hundred feet or so, start using your eyes to look for the cache, or you might walk right by it."

"If I'm really lucky," Lennon says, "my battery runs out while we're searching." Then he can pull out a map of the trail and a compass and use them as back-ups. "You can instantly get your bearing," he says. "And their batteries never wear down."

Lennon also explains to his young geocachers that GPS devices rely on information from other sources. While they may work really well on roads and in towns, the information may not be accurate on a trail or in the woods, away from roads. "That's why you always need to add your own intelligence" to any device, he tells them.

The nature trails at Cardigan Lodge have been much busier this year. Lennon likes to think that some young hikers have a better sense of how to find their way in the woods, as well.

Learn more
- Family and educational quests are available around the AMC region, from Maryland to Maine.
- Find geocache sites around the AMC region or search an international directory of sites.
- Read "Geocaching in Urban Parks" by Alex Schwab (AMC Outdoors, August 2011).
- AMC's Cardigan Lodge and Highland Center offer geocaching as a family activity.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

School Lunches 101

New pants the next size up, with knees as yet unscraped or torn: Check. New shirts without food stains or pen marks: Check. New pencils, binders, and protractors: Check. New lunch boxes: Nope.

This year, not only did we not buy new lunch boxes for the kids, we didn’t buy any new containers to go in them. Ursula and Virgil will be carrying their lunches to school in the same bags they used last year, and we’ll pack their food in containers that worked for us last year, as well.

If a recent New York Times article is any indication, we are apparently part of a larger eco-trend. That article, “The Plastic Sandwich Bag Flunks,” focused on a trend toward waste-free packaging: out with the Ziplocs and paper bags, in with reusable sandwich and lunch bags.

Two years ago, we started looking at how we packed the kids’ lunches as much as what we put into them. One of our goals was to reduce packaging waste. That meant looking for containers we could use and reuse …. many times over. In that first effort, I bought the following:
- SnackTaxis, reusable snack bags sewn by a cottage company in western Massachusetts and decorated with pandas, beavers, and turtles
- a lunch bag made out of recycled juice boxes by a women’s collective in the Philippines
- stainless steel containers and bottles

When the SnackTaxi bags arrived, the tag contained information that disturbed us all: Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded worldwide — more than 1 million a minute; more than 100,000 animals in the oceans die after eating discarded plastic bags. We scaled way back on our use of plastic bags of all types and washed and reused those we already had in the house. Our local grocery store also started accepting plastic bags for recycling — all small steps toward decreasing those huge and horrifying numbers.

There was another reason we wanted to change how we packaged our lunches, though —one even more important to us than reducing waste — and that was reducing our overall exposure to potentially toxic plastics: BPA, phthalates, PBDEs, and other endocrine disruptors. I was surprised to see no mention of this issue in the New York Times article, especially as new scientific studies suggest that a much wider range of plastics are endocrine-disruptors than was understood even a few years ago.

Last year, we went to even simpler packaging. While we liked the idea of the SnackTaxi bags, we had trouble keeping them odor-free. Following a tip from a “Great Kids, Great Outdoors” reader, we tried wrapping some food in a cloth napkin and discovered that it worked just fine. For food with more moisture content, we relied on stainless steel “Bento box” containers. We added the following to our collection:
- Pyrex glass bowls in several sizes. The glass is heavy-duty; the lids are plastic, but BPA-free.
- Wide-mouth thermoses for hot soups and leftovers.
- Zippered neoprene bags in bright colors and wild prints to hold everything.
- A thick canvas lunch bag with “L U N C H” in stenciled type across the front that nicely mimics the paper bag of the classic “brown bag” lunch. This became Virgil’s go-to lunch bag. He liked the jokey obviousness of it, and we loved how easy it was to clean.

We know that the kids’ lunches aren’t going to be completely plastic-free, or waste-free. But in the process of trying to give Ursula and Virgil truly healthy lunches, we’ve educated ourselves, too.

Learn more

- about reducing exposure to plastics from the nonprofit organization Healthy Child, Healthy World

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

“Trail Angels” shelter AT thru-hikers during Irene

We were at the edge of Tropical Storm Irene’s serious flooding last weekend here in west-central New Hampshire. As I write this, water is receding from the streets of the closest town center, though we’ve been told to expect several more days without power at home. Luckily, Howe Library in Hanover, 20 miles away, makes a fine home-office-away-from-home, complete with lights, running water, and Internet access.

I’m not alone in appreciating “The Howe’s” resources (locals invariably add “the” to the library’s name). Late last week, as it became clear that Irene was bringing serious weather our way, even as it was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, the good folks at the Howe worried about one unusual community that the library serves: Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.

The Appalachian Trail runs through Hanover, and I mean right down Main Street, where the lampposts are painted with the AT’s distinctive white trail blazes. It’s common to see backpackers picking up packages from the post office or enjoying a “town day” off the trail.

The town has tried hard in recent years to welcome hikers. Some businesses offer discounts, extra servings, and freebies to thru-hikers. Nowhere is the welcome mat out more prominently, however, than at the library. The library entrance contains a guest book, maps, and a complete guide to the town’s services; inside, below a 15-foot long map of the Appalachian Trail, a bank of computers gives hikers free access to email and the Internet. By season’s end, the map is covered with postcards, pictures, and thank you notes from hikers. Earlier this year, Hanover was named New Hampshire’s first “Appalachian Trail Community.” The celebration was held at the library.

So it made sense, as Irene swept toward New England, that Howe Library became a source of information and a refuge for hikers hoping to get in out of the storm. Librarians posted a notice that local families were opening their homes to stranded hikers and that others were welcome to stay in the town’s community center over the weekend.

The local “trail angel” network kicked in. Greg Cook in Wilder, Vermont, has hiked all 48 4,000-foot peaks in New Hampshire. He keeps track of another, quite possibly more impressive, set of numbers, too — the number of AT hikers he takes in each year. On Friday, as forecasters showed the storm tracking inland over New England, Greg opened his home to Magic Mix (thru-hikers adopt trail names), who was hiking the trail with Sir, his cat. The next day, he took in Frosty and Amber, high school sweethearts from Bangor, Maine, bringing his “trail angel” number to 56. Greg also opens his kitchen to thru-hikers. As the storm moved up from New York, Amber and Frosty prepared pot roast and an enormous salad, Magic Mix made a platter of sausage sandwiches, and Sir made quick work of a can of Fancy Feast.

On Monday, young children, teenagers, retirees, and folks like me looking for a place to plug in and work mingled as usual with thru-hikers. One young woman stood at the row of computers, her pack at her feet. On a bench outside the library, several hikers soaked up the warm sun, their packs beside them. “We were lucky to be here” during the storm, one said. They’d stayed at the community center over the weekend and were awaiting information on conditions farther north along the trail. That came late in the day, with a bulletin saying that the White Mountain National Forest would be closed indefinitely while damage to roads and trails was being assessed.

I stayed in the library that evening until it closed. Another thru-hiker, a compact man with a neat gray beard, walked out the door with me. He told me that the Town of Hanover had extended its offer to house AT hikers through the rest of the week, and that the number of hikers staying there had grown to more than 40. “This is as kind a town as any I’ve been in,” he said. Then he picked up his pack, slung it over his back in one practiced motion, and headed for the shelter.

Learn more
— … about the status of roads and trails in the White Mountain National Forest
— … about the Appalachian Trail around Hanover
— … about flood damage and recovery efforts in Vermont.

Photos courtesy Greg Cook.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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