Senior Symposium Students Get Battle Tested in the Great Outdoors

Twelve students in David Hild’s Senior Symposium class on adventure writer Peter Heller, trekked up a mountain, kayaked and canoed, slept in cabins in the woods and roasted s’mores by a lakeside campfire. Although this experience may not have been as on-the-edge as Heller’s own, Hild noted that the students were battled tested with some blisters and sore legs.

Heller’s works focus primarily on the outdoor experience, and many of his early writings were composed for Outside Magazine and National Geographic Adventure. Serving as a river guide, logger, kayak instructor, and fisherman, Heller’s works interweave the idea of exploring your own physical, mental and emotional boundaries within the bounds of nature. Hild explained, “His works revolve around people testing themselves by going out into the physical world. Heller uses the outdoors to seek personal truths.” Most notably, Heller embarked on navigating the Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet, considered to be “the most ambitious whitewater expedition in history” which he chronicled in Hell or High Water.

To activate the students' spirit of adventure and to build the bonds of the class, Hild and teacher Meg Kasprak traveled to his wife’s grandparent’s girls’ camp, Camp Merriwood, located 30 miles north of Hanover, New Hampshire in the foothills of the White Mountains. Heller himself is a native of the surrounding areas and hiked the very same woods and trails as the Symposium Seniors. One Saturday morning, the group climbed Mount Cube, enjoyed a packed lunch on the 2,900-foot overlook, traversed the peak and walked down the Appalachian Trail. Following the hike from the summit, the students paddle boarded and kayaked on white water, allowing the students to personally harken to the experience as they read the author. Part of the assignment upon the student's return was to reflect on what they learned and its importance to them. Hild said, “This was not an easy climb and it had some steep pitches. But, all the students got through it. They learned about themselves individually and about themselves as a group. That’s valuable learning.”

Heller will workshop with the Symposium Students and address the school community in January 2018.
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