Prior to beginning my journey with UEP I had been living in a town of 2,030 in rural central Vermont. It took 10 minutes to walk through town, into the foothills of the Green Mountains, and quickly be engulfed in trees, pine needles underfoot, lost in thought. Since the start of school I have been absorbed in trying to keep on top of reading and research, discovering new passions within the field, and generally acclimating to an academic lifestyle.
On Saturday November 7th, 18 Tufts Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning students set out for a day of hiking and overnight at the Tufts Loj in New Hampshire. The drive to the White Mountains was a relaxing transition out of the city and into the weekend. The car ride provided a space to chat with classmates who are slowly becoming friends and compare notes about classes, assignments, research, and careers. It was at the beginning of our hike, bundled in layers of long underwear, hats and scarves, that I realized just how much I miss being in the woods. I couldn’t have articulated that I needed the space, solitude and silence that the trees and mountains provide: how the vast vistas beyond the peaks helped clear my mind and reset my core. Even while hiking with a group of people, I found the space to reconnect with a non-urban environment.
Between conversation with friends, picking up souvenirs of birch bark and crimson leaves, and traversing up steep passes, we slowly made our way to Lonesome Lake. Navigating our way over planks through bogs and marshes we finally arrived at the docks on the bank of the lake. There is nothing quite as satisfying as lunch after a long hike, and this day was no exception. I made the time to sit and sketch, a passion that I have ignored for the past 8 months. With rusty hand and no expectations- just the joy of being in the moment- I sketched the mountains and enjoyed bouncing in and out of conversation about yoga, food and traveling.
Although the trip was short, it provided enough time to reconnect with art and trees and to make deeper connections with fellow students through hiking, cooking together, setting up an unfamiliar tent in the dark, camping, s’mores, bonfires and silly games. For me the overnight was a perfect balance to the seriousness and intensity of the first semester of school and the relaxed social atmosphere outside of the classroom to get to know my cohorts even better.