Professor Jim Ellefson’s Reading & Writing in the Wilderness class recently went for an invigorating hike in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area. Students also met Ellefson’s farm animals (and received llama kisses) and enjoyed a warm and cozy bonfire.
The hikers took Leicester Hollow Trail, which was a popular carriage trail in the mid-19th century. They spent a few minutes in the ruins of a farm with stone foundations and an apple orchard. Badger, Ellefson’s dog, tagged along as well.
Student Matt Papalionakis enjoyed the bonfire and found the experience almost spiritual. They said all the students gathered sticks and then sat around the fire in pitch blackness, while Prof. Ellefson and his wife passed out apple cider.
Ellefson takes students on this hike every year because he wants them to feel refreshed and inspired, whether they come away with specific writing ideas or not. “What’s good for your legs is good for your head. Often times you get these great ideas and your mood elevates,” said Ellefson.
Several students reflected on their experience:
“One of the most interesting parts of the hike was seeing the history, the connection between the past and present. How different it is, especially in the orchard area. It was once an area that was all plowed and treeless, except for the apple trees. Now it’s a complete forest,” said student Brandon Butsavage.
Student Dane Coen said, “It felt like walking through multiple different continents. It was approaching winter so trees were dying, but there were moments where, if it weren’t for the temperature, it would have felt like a tropical paradise.”
Student Alexa Okane said, “Going on the hike with the wilderness class was a magical experience, and exactly what I needed in the middle of a tough semester. I loved experiencing history and nature in such a beautiful place and coming home with the start to a new short story!”
“[The hike] gives the raw material for us to work with, in the same way a carpenter takes the raw material of wood and makes it into something beautiful and new in their own way,” said student Kyle Harrison.
Ellefson also felt inspired by the wilderness. “I’m not a churchy guy, but I was in church on that hike.”
Erika Skorstad ’21—Contributor