By Zhi Zhu
Nineteen lucky Malden teens were in for a treat last February as the Malden Teen Enrichment Center (MTEC) took them on a three-day excursion to Cardigan Lodge in Alexandria, New Hampshire.
MTEC had announced in January that they were organizing a trip for the winter break. Due to high interest, the center chose teens on a first-come-first-served basis. Those selected were Allison Yu, Nikki Blue, Nasuh Kacmaz, Jelani Tah, Matteo Tah, Jason Chen, Emilee Tortorella, Slade Harding, Francis Doza, Julianna Lin, Archer Ou, Makeila Scott, Darian O’Brien, Kaneli Kaukko, Sabrina Dangervil, Cheryl Pidakala, Gurudit Thakur, Hasnaat Khan, and Zhi Zhu.
MTEC has organized many trips before, bringing teens camping in the summer and hiking during the spring. MTEC is able to provide teens the opportunity to go on trips like these through their ties with the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) which provides training and outdoor gear. Jacob Mullin-Bernstein of the MTEC staff mentioned that AMC is a “huge organization, but they have a specific section of their organization known as ‘OLT’, Outdoor Leadership Training.” It is specifically to train youth workers, such as Bernstein, Sheena Lapia-Pappas, and Jay Ortiz to equip them with the tools and skills necessary to lead youths out in nature. For this trip, Bernstein emphasized that the youth workers took snowshoe training last winter which gave them access to winter gear like snowshoes, winter coats, boots, and “all the gear that we use for this trip.” It also gives them access to AMC’s locations such as Cardigan Lodge.
It is a “great partnership and gives the kids an opportunity free of charge, and at a discounted rate for MTEC, to take part in activities that would otherwise be costly,” Bernstein said.
The three-day trip started off with the chosen 19 arriving at MTEC Wednesday morning, the 22nd of February. Everyone arrived there with excitement. Cathy MacMullin who is the MTEC Coordinator said that we will all be learning Malden High’s fight song during the duration of the trip and that we would sing it when we got back. The Mayor of Malden paid a surprise visit that morning as well. After a quick talk with Mayor Christenson, we loaded the bus and settled down in our seats. It was going to be a long drive up ahead of us. As we left Malden, we realized that it was going to be the last time we would see the city for the next couple of days. When we got on the interstate, we finally felt like we were on our way.
For the next two hours, we would drive about 100 miles north, traveling deep into the mountains of rural New Hampshire. Everyone had high spirits during the drive, but as we got deeper into the mountains we started to lose service on our phones. During the long drive, we all noticed that the further we drove north, the more snow we saw on the ground. We drove on the interstate for a while, then we got off onto rural roads.
Soon, without knowing it, we arrived at Cardigan Lodge.
Gathering our stuff, we were given our room assignments. I would be part of a group of five, staying in a room with Jay Ortiz, Nasuh Kacmaz, Hasnaat Khan, and Matteo Tah. After everyone learned whom they were staying with, we headed in.
First, we settled in the dining area. Then we met with Brian, the lodge manager, who explained some of the quick rules and information about the lodge. Quiet hours were from 10 PM until 6 AM, there were showers, and luckily there was WiFi, though we did not have cell service, a constant reminder of how far we were in the forest.
We headed upstairs to our rooms. My group’s room was room 205 called “Fisher”, located at the end of the hall on the second floor. After settling in, we joined everyone back downstairs in the living space. We enjoyed some downtime, then we geared up and headed out to go on our first activity – a hike!
We made our way in a single file line, and hiked towards a river. As we approached, the sounds of water flowing grew stronger. Bernstein, who would ask that we be silent to hear the subtle sound of a stream, said that it is the “best sound in the world!”
The following days were filled by snowshoeing, sledding, morning fires, hot meals, and hikes.
As one would expect in a cold, snowy place, we also spent a lot of time making and eating s’mores. We even had a chance to meet the lodge’s pet snakes.
Tah lost his phone in the snow, but sledding was so fun for him that he “immediately felt a rush of joy and happiness and stopped worrying about the phone. In fact, many in the group were sledding for the first time. Not surprisingly, when our last morning at the lodge arrived, we all voted to go sledding one final time.
During our final moments at the lodge, Bernstein suggested we all sprint down the hill. From there we gathered in the lodge library and debriefed. Our trip was coming to an end. We grew sad when we saw the bus coming to bring us back to Malden.
Everyone was sad when the time came to leave, though we felt as if we all gained something through this trip. There was this special bond between us all. We got to know each other, talk to one another, and most importantly we got to experience what the true outdoors was like. It was a special trip, one that we will all remember.
We didn’t just leave behind our footpaths in the trails but also our stories.
A longer version of this story appeared in the Malden High School Blue & Gold newspaper. Zhi Zhu is a student writer for the Blue & Gold. Zhu is also a member of the Malden Teen Enrichment Center.