Rivers, Relics & Treks – One Week Down in Slovenia

It’s hard to believe we have been in Slovenia for a week! We are about to embark on our longest trek of the trip to Slovenia’s highest peak, Mt. Triglav.

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On Saturday morning, we packed up our belongings and said farewell to our hut on the mountain. Our Volkswagen vans hummed to the top of the road, and then we started our long, slow descent down the pass. We wound around switchbacks, taking in stunning views of jagged mountains giving way to a lush valley floor. We stopped to hike to the source of the Soca River and explored Fort Hermann, a WWI military fort.

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Exploring Fort Hermann

Our drive to Kobarid took us along the Soca River. The water of the Soca is intensely blue-green, shifting from emerald to jade as the sun hits the water. Our campsite was nestled alongside the river and a short walk from the town center. The Soca River and surrounding mountains are an obvious draw to Kobarid, but it’s also an important WWI site. We visited the WWI museum in town to learn more about the devastating battles between Astro-Hungarian and Italian forces atop the nearby mountains. For nearly three years, these armies battled in trenches along the ridge line until the Astro-Hungarian forces pushed the Italians west (out of current-Day Slovenia).

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The Soca River

After visiting the museum, we escaped the humidity by jumping into the river. Kayakers passed us as we jumped off rocks, eventually letting the current bring us back to our campsite.

Dinner led to bedtime in tents, which led to a long night of rain. We started our day a bit bleary-eyed and soggy, but once fortified with Nutella, we were able to make the drive to our biggest hike of the trip, Mt. Krn and Mt. Batognica.

The students set a steady pace and made their way to the top of Mt. Krn. We rested at the hut and had a quick lunch before pushing over the summit to Mt. Batognica. We were unfortunately denied a view, but Mt. Batognica is rich in WWI relics. We walked past old bunkers, trenches, and shells. It was incredible to think of the armies hauling all of their weaponry and supplies up the trail we just came. The WWI history still fresh in our mind from the museum, it was easy to picture soldiers in the trenches, enduring harsh winters and miserable conditions on the side of the mountain. We made our way down a glacial basin through rolling meadows to our hut.

I was so impressed with the students—we hiked for eight hours and covered at least 10 miles! We were rewarded with a hot meal and ice cream at the hut. Students slept well following a long day on the trail.

Yesterday, we traveled to Lake Bohinj on a car train. Lake Bohinj is Slovenia’s largest lake, a beautiful glacial deposit of crystal blue water in Triglav National Park. It was quite the novelty to be seated in a car as we passed through a 6 km tunnel on train! We spent the afternoon resting by the lake and preparing for our big trek. We leave today for Mt. Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia. Wish us luck!

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2018 Waterford China Trip: 3 Weeks to Go!

2018 Waterford China Trip: 3 Weeks to Go!

Just three weeks until take off! Here are a couple of quick reminders and updates. We hope you are as excited as we are!

  • Our flight leaves on Tuesday, June 19 at 8:25 a.m. We will meet in the Delta terminal near the check-in kiosks at 6:30 a.m. Please be prompt!
  • In the past we haven’t had troubles bringing prescription medications into China, but as a precaution, we request that you bring any medication in the original packaging, as well as the doctor’s prescription.
  • Charging electronic devices. China uses a different voltage frequency than the United States, but in most cases you don’t need to do anything special to charge your device. China uses 220V, 50Hz, whereas the United States uses 120V, 60Hz, but most electronic devices, including cell phones come with adapters that work within a range of 110V to 220V, 50-60Hz. Most Android phones and iPhones come with chargers that handle this conversion automatically. You can check by reading the small print on your devices’ charger. It should say “110V to 220V.”

“Oh, the Places I Went”

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Tate (second from right) with friends following a performance.

Salud! I’d like to propose a toast to the Summer Term at Waterford. This summer I had the incredible opportunity to travel abroad to Finland, Estonia, and Russia with the Waterford Chamber Orchestra to play and tour in various venues that otherwise, I might not have thought to visit myself. I shared this opportunity with many of my good friends, and my soon to be friends, most of whom are your kids. If your kid was a part of this tour, you’ve probable heard the stories about Eva, and the Russian police, and Nevsky Prospekt, and this yellow building or that yellow building, so I won’t go into depth about those. What I’m here to share with you today is my personal experience being a part of the Summer Term at Waterford, and a couple of pictures to go along with it.

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The first flight was fun. Is that weird? I could be wrong, but usually you don’t say sitting in a plane close proximity to a couple hundred people in seats that are barely wide enough to keep a baby comfortable for 12 hours is fun; but it was. I think a huge part of it was my friends. I think it was because I got to sit next to two of my best friends on the flights. And that is a testament to the Summer trips at Waterford. Sure family is…cool and all. But where else do you get to travel abroad with your closest friends in high school and play music in amazing venues for amazing people. That really is unheard of. I am so grateful for that opportunity for my friends and me.

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We got to travel to places that otherwise we may not have even thought to travel before. I can definitely say that Tallinn, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland were far from the top 10 places I wanted to travel. But I wouldn’t change visiting those places for the world. Our first full day in Finland was also a concert day. We got to perform in an architectural masterpiece of a building/bat cave called the Rock Church, or Temppeliaukio Kirkko. This church is built into the ground, surrounded by huge walls of stone, topped with rings of copper and a glass ceiling. I find architecture amazingly fascinating, so when I found out I was going to play a solo in this rocky church, I was ecstatic. But that wasn’t the most special part of the concert. This was our one and only concert in Finland, which meant we had one chance to play Finlandia, one of Finland’s national songs. This was special. We touched people, and made them cry with our music. The most vulnerable state of the human appearance, and it was because of the way we Utahns played their national song. That is one moment that I won’t forget. After the concert, I overheard some of my friends talking to a member of the audience. The man said in broken English that he travelled on a ferry across the straight so he could watch us perform. That’s incredible! Our next concert was in Tallinn, Estonia in a church right next to the medieval main square. We made our presence known throughout the old town, rapping along to “Humble” by Hip-Hop artist Kendrick Lamar. But if you ask any of the students their favorite part of the concert, I bet you every one of them would say the way the sound rang through the main hall. It was certainly my favorite part. The first time we heard this was while rehearsing Vivaldi’s summer. Every single one of us stopped playing when we heard the way that first D resonated through our bones, and chills ran down our spines. Everyone’s expression held a look of awe, or joy, or both. The last concert I’ll talk to you about today is the one in the Glinka Capella in St. Petersburg. The Glinka has some of the best acoustics in the world, and for a high school orchestra to play in it is actually a once in a lifetime opportunity. This concert hall is a beautiful piece of art. The excitement was rushing through the wooden floored halls backstage. Every once in awhile, a head would pop out from behind the stage door, curious about how many people came to watch us play. Every single one of those red chairs were filled with an eager body ready to hear some music. It was here that we experienced our first true “power clap”, a new way to ask for an encore. Instead of normal clapping, everyone claps at the same beat, producing the sound of a thousand rehearsed soldiers marching down the street.

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Ok here’s my cliche moment. One of my favorite books growing up was “Oh the places you’ll go” by Dr. Seuss. Yeah sure it’s a common gift at graduation parties, weddings, new job offers, Whatever because of the inspiration Seuss offers in his writing. But I liked it for a different reason. I liked the pictures that accompany the story. Mostly because I….well I couldn’t read when I first opened the book up. But nevertheless it’s still inspiring, to me at least. I mean, do you see all the places to where this guy got to travel? He’s going to colorful lands, golden buildings and what not. Is it too bold to say that we pretty much did the exact same thing he did? I mean, St. Basil’s is colorful. Catherine’s and Peterhof and literally every other dome in Russia is gilded. Oh the places we went! And Oh the places we’ll go. The thing about the pictures are that they are necessary to make the words work or visa versa. They rely on eachother to tell a story. Similarly, we relied on music to tell our story. Only Charlie and Clark spoke Russian, and they could only speak to so many people. How remarkable it was that we could play music for them. They knew our thoughts and our emotion and our lives through the way we played many of their national pieces. After every concert, there would be people that went up to the stage and tried their shot at English, and those who couldn’t do that would just speak in their language. Many of us would just respond with *the awkward nod and a “yeah”*, but we knew what they were saying. We knew that they were saying how grateful they were that we could travel from across the globe to play for them. We knew that The Waltz brought chills down their spine the same way it did to us. We knew that Scheherezad and Czardas were songs that this woman listened to ever since she was a young girl in the Soviet Union. We knew that we touched the Finnish people’s hearts with one of their national songs in a way that we might not have been able to without music. Music has no boundaries. Music is a universal language that everyone can understand. No matter gender, sex, race, nationality we can all understand music. How great is that. Music is eternal. And I am so incredibly grateful I can speak it.

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I can’t begin to describe the amount of fun I had travelling this summer. You all made this possible for us. Everyone here, everyone not here; It’s all possible because of you. Thank you for providing me with memories that will last a lifetime. I’m grateful for Craig and the chaperones that helped organize this trip. And a special thanks to Kathy Morris. Thank you for teaching me how to love music, and how to speak such a beautiful language. Best. Summer. Ever.

All About the Journey

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Students ready to board the bus

We wedged eleven students, four instructors, and fifteen bulging backpacks into Waterford Bus #1 on Monday morning. Our destination was King’s Peak, the highest peak in the state of Utah, with an elevation of 13,534 feet.

Three hours later we spilled out into the China Meadows parking lot to have our last taste of perishable food and use the pit toilets. With packs loaded and stomachs full, we hit the trail. We walked through quiet forests, along streams, and across open meadows. The first three miles to camp passed quickly with games and riddles. The last two miles proved more difficult as we climbed the ridge, fully appreciating the weight of our packs. Most of the students had never backpacked, and there were mentions of sore shoulders, blisters, and aching backs. Our break stops became frequent, and I became concerned that we may fall short of our objective. But just as morale was beginning to wane, the fork for Lake Hessie appeared.

 

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Camp at Lake Hessie

We reached Lake Hessie around 6:00 p.m., dumping heavy packs on the ground and congratulating each other on a successful first day. Camp was set up and students took to the lake to swim and fish. In a technology-saturated world, it was refreshing to see students so excited to spend time with their classmates in the outdoors. Students ate dinner together, shared scary stories around the fire, and gazed at the stars before falling asleep in their tents.

Expectations

The next day was more challenging than the first. Gone was the novelty of backpacking; students lingered over breakfast, no one eager to get back on the trail. One student even caught a fish for breakfast, supplementing our Quaker Oats with fresh trout. We began hiking around 10 a.m., leaving behind the comforts of the lake for Henry’s Fork, a six mile journey. The first few miles were steep and long as we climbed out of China Meadows before descending into a beautiful valley. Wildflowers were in bloom and we had a clear view of King’s Peak (our ultimate destination) and the High Uinta Wilderness. Our pace was slow, but students stayed positive and upbeat. As we neared Henry’s Fork, we spotted a bull moose and cow drinking from Henry’s Lake. We decided to pitch tents alongside the moose when tired feet and fast-approaching afternoon thunderstorms begged us to stop.

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Trout breakfast at Lake Hessie

At our leader meeting that evening, we studied the map and came to the grim realization that we were not going to summit King’s Peak the following day. It would be an 11 mile roundtrip with 3000 vertical feet of climbing. Over the past two days, students had barely managed a combined ten miles with an average of 500 vertical feet each day. We decided it was best to adjust expectations and aim for Gunsight Pass, a five mile roundtrip journey with moderate climbing and great views. We gathered students to tell them the news, emphasizing that the trip was not about summiting, but about backpacking with friends and learning new skills along the way. The students were understanding, but disappointment showed on their faces as they returned to cooking dinner.

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On the trail to Henry’s Fork

Summit Day

Our summit day was beautiful. The rains had passed and left the valley verdant and lush. Students ate a simple breakfast of granola bars and grabbed their daypacks, thrilled to be carrying lighter loads. We followed meandering cairns through the valley and then began our ascent of Gunsight Pass. I kept glancing at my watch, impressed by how quickly students were moving with their daypacks. We reached the top of Gunsight Pass at 10 a.m., a full four hours ahead of schedule. The students were thrilled by their progress, and asked if we could still pursue the summit. After a quick huddle, it was decided that we would push on with a firm turnaround time of 2 p.m. We broke the huddle with a, “Hike Yah!” and excitedly rejoined the trail.

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Anderson Pass

Students then faced their biggest challenge of the day: a vertical boulder field to the top of Anderson Pass. The boulder field was a major shortcut, but the rocks were loose and required scrambling with hands and feet. We carefully picked our way up the field, balancing on rocks and hoisting bodies over boulders. The route was more technical than anything we had seen in the past two days and students were nervous. Despite their concerns, students continued climbing until we reached the top. In that moment, I knew we had accomplished something noteworthy, even if we never made it to the summit of King’s Peak. Students had pushed themselves and conquered their fears. We celebrated with sandwiches and high fives. The time was 11:40 a.m.

King’s Peak came into view as we crested the top of the ridge and approached Anderson Pass. Students repeatedly asked for the time, determined to make it to the top. We had decided we were going to summit as a team, no splitting up. We made our way across rocky, uneven terrain, finally reaching the established trail just before 1 p.m. I looked ahead at our final destination, reminding myself of the talk we gave to students the previous night. It’s difficult not to place such value on reaching the top, especially after you’ve spent two days approaching the summit. I could tell some of the students were beginning to lose steam, so I asked them to raise their hands if they had the energy to summit. About half the group raised their hands, the others wanting to summit but unsure if they had the stamina to continue. At Anderson Pass, with King’s Peak in sight, we decided it was best to turn around. I was so proud of the way the students handled themselves in that moment. Not a single student complained or placed blame. We had set our sights on Gunsight Pass and come an extra three miles and 1,500 vertical feet. We may not have reached the peak, but we accomplished far more than we thought possible.

Back to the Bus

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Enjoying the rapids at “River Island”

Morale was high the following morning. Ten miles remained between us and the bus, an unthinkable distance on day one. But after reaching Anderson Pass, students were confident in their ability to make the mileage. We got on the trail early and settled into a comfortable pace, the steady rhythm of footsteps occasionally interrupted by laughter and chatter. By noon we had already covered five miles, at 2 p.m. we had covered eight. We reached our final campsite before 5 p.m., a place we dubbed, “River Island.” As I watched the students swim in the river and set up camp, I was amazed at how far we had come in a single day. We had operated as a unit, supporting one another and offering encouragement along the way.

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Celebrating our final night with Oreo desert

As we sat around the fire on our last night, I thought about all the students had learned in five short days. They learned how to cook on a camp stove, how to set up a tent, how to pack a bag, how to read a map. They learned about the strength of their minds and bodies. They learned about setting objectives and teamwork and adjusting expectations. They learned to respect nature and weather and the things outside of our control.

I was inspired by our students to go and try something new, to get outside my comfort zone, and to be comfortable with not reaching the top on my first try. I think I may buy myself a fishing rod. If I’m lucky, I’ll be eating trout for breakfast.

See more photos from the trip here!

Pushing My Limit

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Hello, my name is Taylor and I am a sophomore this year. In June I went to Tanzania, Africa for 2 weeks with Waterford’s Outdoor Program. We spent one week hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, a little less than a week at safaris, and the last day did some service at an orphanage.

I’ll start with the mountain. Let’s just say it was hard. At first the hiking was fun and easy. Not too steep and starting off in a rainforest climate with not very high altitude. The vegetation was beautiful and we saw monkeys and lots of beautiful wildlife. That didn’t last long. After the rainforest climate zone we reached what was called the Heathland climate zone and the dramatic line that separates the zones was one of the most interesting and spectacular things I’ve ever seen.

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As the days went on the hiking got more and more exhausting. While the hiking itself didn’t change much other than the different views of each of the climate zones it became increasingly harder to breathe and to feel energized. Camp became more and more appreciated and we all liked to hang out in a huge dome tent called the space station. Although we didn’t want to leave camp we would and continued to slowly transition into the Alpine desert climate zone and finally the arctic summit zone. Summit day was the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. I woke up very sick, in pain, and could barely breathe. It was so exhausting to walk you just always wanted to take a break but when u would u just want to get back up and walk again because of how cold it was.

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Despite the struggling I finally made it to the 19,341 foot summit. Having the will to keep going and fighting through all of the struggling really impacted me and made me realize I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I was before. It also made me more confident particularly in my work and in the sports I play. When we hiked down and had finally reached the bottom we all danced with the porters and guides who made the whole thing possible and it was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever participated in. Everyone was excited and genuinely happy.

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In the days that followed we went on multiple Safaris and to Masai villages. We saw the most beautiful animals. We witnessed hundreds of zebras running in and out of a water hole back and forth back and forth. We saw multiple elephants, including juveniles, walk right in front of the car. We enjoyed a lot of beautiful wild life but the most memorable thing we caught sight of was three female lions eating a zebra carcass not too far from the road. They were close enough they would look at you between bites and you could hear the ripping of the zebra’s flesh. It is indescribable how amazing it was watching the top of the African food chain do its work so close to us. It’s incredible how these animals can thrive off the yellow land they graze upon.

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At the villages, we went and saw their huts and their kindergarten and saw how they live. It was super interesting seeing how they live off the land and I was extremely interested to learn that it is actually the women who build the huts. After that we bartered for the jewelry they made.

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The last day was probably my favorite. We all went to an orphanage and did some service. We helped bring buckets full of sand up to a pile near their livestock and we helped start to dig dirt to level the ground on and next to their driveway. When we weren’t working we were playing basketball or soccer with the older kids or playing with the toddlers. The older kids were so helpful to the younger ones and they all participated so much in helping out that it gave me more motivation to be nicer and be more involved with my sister. Doing that work, even though it wasn’t much of it, made me feel fulfilled and gave me a sense of purpose. It made me feel an overwhelming happiness that I hadn’t felt before and showed me how great helping others, even in a small way, can make a big difference on their and my own life.

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Having these unbelievable adventures with my classmates and teachers made the whole thing so enjoyable and fun. I now am super close to them and feel like they, with their stories, have impacted me the most. I made beautiful friendships with people I never would have talked to otherwise. Listening to them open up to the rest of the group or me individually had an immense impact on my openness to others and helped me lose the fear of putting yourself out there to make new friends. The trip gave me perfect memories and built my character and confidence more than any other experience I have ever had. I will never forget the experience or be able to thank my marvelous teachers Dr. Malatesta and Mr. Watkins enough for everything they did for me to make that dream a reality. Thank you.