Last summer

jamesmguenther:

If any of you are interested, check out the Salty Vols website, where my team and I will be posting updates up until we set off on the Great Pacific Race next summer.

Originally posted on Salty Vols:

As my freshman year at the University of Tennessee ended, my planning for the summer had landed me a job working in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel in Yellowstone National Park.

Almost immediately after moving out of my dorm room I found myself driving 2,000 miles to Wyoming where I would  live for three months- working, hiking, climbing, and making some of the best friends I’ve ever had.  My Yellowstone friends and I hiked over 200 miles of trails in Yellowstone and the Tetons during our first two months out West. But, upon the realization of my massive “must hike,” “must try,” and “cannot go home without doing this” lists, two close friends and myself left our jobs to backpack for the final month of our summer.

From spending four days at the International Climbers’ Festival in Lander, WY to hiking Yellowstone and Teton backcountry day after day, our decision to…

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The Wigwam Project

TN Wild Side did a great job making this video about the time I spent in the woods.

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April 2, 2013 · 12:17 pm

Spring

The cold is finally over! With the temperature reaching over 80 degrees today I think it is safe to say that winter is in the past. School is burning down to its last few months and my time at the wigwam is as well. I’ve been spending as many nights as possible in the wigwam but the past week has been filled with due dates and late nights at work, forcing me beyond exhaustion and to several nights at home in bed.

The woods have in the past month have literally and metaphorically awoken. The bugs have been singing every night and I know it will only grow. I know the trees will begin to grow leaves in no time and I can’t wait to experience it. The warm nights have made sleeping in a sleeping bag almost too intense. Right when I had gotten used to waking up in 30 degree temperatures, I’m now waking up almost sweating.

This is just a quick post but tomorrow I will make sure to put up some pictures and some elaborated explanations on what has been happening as winter switched into spring!

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Tomatoes In January

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while, and I am so sorry for that!

Let me just catch you up on what has been going on in the woods…

The recent weather has been more exciting than ever.  The temperature has bounced back and forth between absolutely freezing and being pleasant.  The coldest night so far was last week at 18 degrees, but just a few days after that the temperature reached back up into the forties.

Every night when I walk into the woods I notice all of the sounds around me (everything from the sound of the creek to sounds of cars on the nearby roads).  When the temperature is below freezing, however, the forest seems to almost be holding its breath.  Last week when my thermometer dropped below 20 degrees, the loudest noise I could hear was the ice cracking around the wigwam and sliding down the sides.  I would absolutely say that I am awestruck at the thought of a time when people not only survived, but flourished during weather like this.  I feel cold just getting out of my sleeping bag to walk to school- I can’t imagine how it would feel to not only live in the wild during winter but to also have to provide food for myself while doing so.

When I started this project, I wanted to experience as many different types of weather as I could in order to understand how the seasons revolve, and even though I’m only half way done I can really see how separated we have become as a society from weather (and from the seasons in general).  Apart from simply wearing a coat and hat when it becomes chilly, we usually don’t experience any other major side effects from the seasons changing.  In the woods, I have seen all of the wildflowers that I came to recognize by name die and disappear alongside the falling of the leaves.  The woods are barren except the plants that are built to tough it out through the coldest months.  In society, though, everything is still available regardless of the time of year.  Television reception doesn’t die off like flowers do when the weather gets unpleasant- it is there all year round just like electricity and heating and air conditioning.  Also grocery stores can provide fruits and vegetables even when it should be biologically impossible for them to be available, giving you access to every ingredient you could possibly need all year round.

When all of this is considered, it really shows the relationship between our society and nature- mostly nonexistent.  We have shut out the “problems of winter” by getting rid of them.  Yes it is cold outside, but because of the magic of indoor heating you would never know it was winter.  And by the look at the grocery store produce department, we have shut nature out of our food production too by breeding foods that will grow out of season.  We have totally gotten rid of any relationship with nature in this way, which is why we desperately need to strengthen the bond in other ways.

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My senior year was supposed to be the easiest year of high school.  What a joke!  College applications, scholarship applications, working, and doing more school work than ever has combined for a pretty tight schedule, but I still find that falling to sleep in the woods is so much more relaxing than at home.  Now that the creek is running full-time, I can’t hear animals like I could in August when the woods were dry, but I do see footprints every now and then on my way to and from the wigwam.

Sometime within the next two months I plan to make some visits to local elementary schools to talk to the kids about my project and to get them interested in spending time in the woods.  I have already had several kids from the local elementary schools approach me with questions and can’t wait to spend time talking to them!

I’d like so say a special thank you to Rick Silberman and all of the guys at Ben Parker for making my wood stove for me.  It really has been a perfect fit in the wigwam and has given me plenty of warm nights even when the temperature is below freezing.  It has worked great!

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The Wigwam Christmas Tree

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Happy Holidays!  So sorry I’ve taken so long to post something, but the past few weeks have been crazy with work and school.  I will write a long post this weekend while I am out of town.  I hope everyone is having a nice weekend!

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It’s About Time!

After spending three weeks working on my wood stove, it is finally ready to use.

Last weekend we put everything together for the second time in order to add an additional pipe to keep the heat of the flue at a reasonable temperature. However, once everything was together, we realized that there was a gap that would allow water into the wigwam. So, the stove was again out of order, which was especially annoying when the temperature dropped below 30 degrees early this week.

Yesterday the stove was again reassembled- this time the right way! (knock on wood). My dad spent the night with me in the wigwam and everything is seemingly ready to go. Also, the stove is working with much less wood than expected, which is great news because the wood I will use will have to be found on the forest floor. I will still be spending a lot of time searching for wood, but I won’t be needing nearly as much as I had thought.

I can’t even explain how great it feels to have people come up to me and recognize who I am and what I’m doing. Just knowing that people are excited about my project and seeing me progress is a great motivation.

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March of the Stove

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Although it was a slight hassle to carry the stove in on our shoulders, the four of us did it with a spring in our step!  After all, we only have to carry it back to the wigwam once.

Special thanks to my dad, Ellis, and Joanne for helping!

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