All photos by Zhi Zhu.
Malden teens were in for a treat over February break. The Malden Teen Enrichment Center (MTEC) took 19 teens on a three-day excursion out to Cardigan Lodge in Alexandria, New Hampshire. MTEC announced in January to teens that they were going to be having a winter trip, bringing teens to Cardigan Lodge, and handing out permission slips to teens who showed interest in the trip.
Due to high interest, the teen center had decided to choose teens to go on the trip on a first-come-first-served basis through permission slips. Those who had gotten the opportunity to go on the trip 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.
The Malden Teen Enrichment Center has done 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 helps provide them with training and outdoor gear for use on the trips they go on.
Jacob Mullin-Bernstein (MTEC staff) mentioned that AMC is a “huge organization, but they have a specific section of their organization known as OLT’s, Outdoor Leadership Training.” It is specifically to train youth workers, such as MTEC staff Jacob Mullin-Bernstein, Sheena Lapia-Pappas, and Jay Ortiz to equip them with the tools and skills necessary to lead youth out in nature. Bernstein added that once they have done the training, “we get access to the specific gear necessary to bring teens on trips that we’ve trained for.”
For this trip, Bernstein emphasized that they did a 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. Bernstein said that 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.”
The three-day trip started off with us 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 stop that morning as well.
After emphasizing the task and having a quick talk with the mayor, we started to get going. Many of us helped load the bus and hopped on the bus to settle down in our seats.
Macmullin gave all of us a final wave and we were off.
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, it was then where we actually felt like we were off.
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 all our stuff, we deboarded and were assigned groups to who would be staying in a room together before going inside. 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 was given notice of whom they were staying with, we headed in.
First, we settled in the dining area, we met with the lodge manager Brian, 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.
Soon, 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.
Putting all our things down, we got ourselves settled in our room. Soon after we joined everyone back downstairs in the living space.
After enjoying some downtime, 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.
Making it all the way down near the river, the sounds of water flowing grew stronger. Bernstein, who would always make us all silent when there is a subtle sound of a stream, said that it is the “best sound in the world!”
After a short break enjoying the sights and sounds of the river, we headed back up trekking almost a mile in total.
We took a group photo once we got back to the lodge outside.
Still outside in the snow, we played red-light-green-light and Alaskan Baseball. We all headed back inside right before it got dark and enjoyed some downtime before dinner. Dinner was spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread.
When everyone was done with dinner, we headed outside to enjoy a fire and talk. Then, we got ready for bed.
Waking the next morning, we were met with the sight of snow. Breakfast was served and after we headed back outside for a hike in snowshoes.
Tragically, as we were about to set off, Matteo Tah lost his phone in the snow. Many of us tried to help search for his phone in the snow but ended up unable to as we started to go on the snowshoe hike. Tah was left back at the lodge along with Sheena Lapia-Pappas, MTEC staff, and would stay behind to find his phone. Granted, we were all told that we should keep our phones inside since, if we lost them, they would be gone in the snow. It is our responsibility to keep them safe.
As we made our way back from the hike, Tah had still not yet found his phone. After another hour, we’d all given up, it was impossible to find it in the snow. Especially when the snow got trampled over and over. This was certainly the lowest point of the trip.
Tah stated that he was excited to go on the snowshoeing hike, but before he could even get started, “I ended up losing my phone in the snow.” Tah mentioned that he forgot to zipper up his pocket, a mistake that caused his phone to slip out, losing his phone in the snow.
“I had many friends help search for the phone in the snow, but we ended up not being able to find anything. I was very regretful that I had not been more careful,” Tah emphasized.
However, after lunch, we were all going to head out to go sledding. Everyone was filled with thrilling excitement as they made their way up the hill next to the lodge and sent themselves sledding down. Tah said that sledding got his mind off losing his phone. He said that he climbed up the hill and was still sad about the phone being lost.
Though, as he slid down the hill, he described that he “immediately felt a rush of joy and happiness and stopped worrying about the phone.” This was a very exciting moment for Tah as he lost count of the number of times that he went up and down that hill.
After sledding for hours, it was time to go back in for some downtime and dinner.
Before we went to bed, Brian, the lodge manager, showed us the pet snakes that also inhabited the lodge.
Waking the next morning, we all realized that it was going to be our last day staying at Cardigan Lodge. We had breakfast, then organized our rooms and bags, before going outside for a morning fire.
After we had some s’mores and enjoyed ourselves around the campfire, we took a vote on what we all wanted to do. To no one’s surprise, almost everyone wanted to go sledding.
There were many first-time sledders on this trip. One of them, Cheryl Pidakala, said that this was his “first time sledding and [he] tried different techniques.” He got the hang of sledding the more he sled down the hill.
Soon, it was almost time to go. Bernstein had the idea for everyone to sprint down the hill.
After the final run down the hill as a closing, we all gathered back inside the lodge library and debriefed.
Sadly, we would see the bus come to pick us up. We gathered our things and boarded the bus.
Everyone was sad 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. A special trip, one that we will all remember. We didn’t just leave behind our footpaths in the trails but also our stories.