A Day on the Trail

Every BOLTer will have a chance to be leader of the day, to cook on a backpacking stove, to set-up a shelter and to practice minimal impact camping. Our BOLT Leaders are there to provide support and guidance on the trail and then support you and to offer group gatherings and events for our fall semester together on campus. With friendships established from our fall program, the support and fun continues beyond the fall on a more impromptu way.

FAQs about the Fall Trip

Early morning: Today’s Leaders of the Day looked over the route last night and chose what time the group should wake up. We get up (remembering rules #1 and #2 of Expedition Behavior (a great article by Howard Tomb), half the group packs up the tarp while the other half takes down the bear bag and we make and enjoy breakfast.

Later in the morning: We hit the trail! As we hike we get to know the people around us, enjoy the scenery and play trail games. Today the trail is pretty steep, so we make sure to take water breaks frequently.

Lunchtime: We put our 40 lbs packs down and enjoy lunch! We found a spot just off the trail that has a beautiful view of the Presidential Mountains. Carrots, hummus, pita, apples, cheese, leftovers, and beyond all come out in a DIY smörgåsbord. As we sit, the conversation drifts from our experiences and goals with the hike thus far to what we would like to get out of the upcoming year and our time at Brown. The leaders of the day gently remind us that it’s time to hit the trail yet again.

Afternoon: As we hike, we come upon a river that must be crossed. The BOLT Leaders tell the group about proper river crossing technique and how to find the best places to cross, and the Leaders of the Day talk with the group to make a plan to cross. We triumphantly make it to the other side eagerly realize that we are approaching the camp.

Late Afternoon: We make it to camp, set up shelter and cook dinner. Over mac and cheese we reflect on a challenging and satisfying day.

Late Evening: After a rousing game of telephone pictionary that has spawned a semester’s worth of inside jokes, we retreat into the warmth of our sleeping bags. The Leaders of the Day fill out the route log remembering the highlights of the day and recording new knowledge of the trail. Meanwhile tomorrow’s Leaders of the Day check out the route for tomorrow, pick a wake-up time, and as we fall asleep we look forward to another full day in the Whites!

FAQs About the Fall Trip

What is the location for the trip? Our fall backpacking trip is based in the White Mountains National Forest in New Hampshire. Our hike group’s travel a span of area covering the the Kinsman Range, Pemigewasset Wilderness Area, the Presidential Range and the Carter Range. The remoteness of our trip means that you will be exposed to one of the most beautiful areas of New England and it allows us to “unplug” from life back at Brown.

What are our living conditions for our backpacking trip? We will sleep outdoors, set up camp, prepare our own meals (rain or shine) and sleep under tarps as a group. Along with having shorter hiking days or day hikes where we may plan a “day hike” without our packs, most groups experience 1-2 long physically demanding hike days. Each BOLTer and Leader is expected to prepare for the physical nature of the trip and to take good care of him or herself while on trail.

What are weather conditions like in the Whites? In late August, the weather in the White Mountains can vary greatly.  In the White Mountains National Forest of New Hampshire, you will see cool nights (30’s-40’s) and warm afternoons (70’s-80’s).  It is usually 10-20 degrees lower in temperature in the mountains than the weather forecasts you will see in reported in town.  You should prepare for temperatures that can be as low as 30 degrees at night. You will be asked to pack clothing and gear that will help you to live outdoors for the week with prolonged exposure to a range of temperatures and weather conditions.  Staying warm and dry helps protect you from hypothermia, which is common in the summer months as people are not prepared for the combination of rain, cool temperatures and wind. Packing layers of clothing that help you to keep warm or allow you to change if you are wet from rain or river crossings will be a part of your efforts to be prepared for our backpacking trip. Please utilize our gear list and recommendations to help guide your efforts in this regard.

What are the physical demands of the trip? For our backpacking trips, we aim to hike at a pace that allows the full group to stay together and able to converse. We are not hard core, by any means; however, this is a strenuous trip for many who participate. That said – If you are a trail god that summits peaks in your sleep — you will be asked to challenge yourself by slowing down to focus on enjoying a new group of people and the view.

We hike a distance in the range of 2-11 miles on a given day. You will be carrying a backpack that may weigh up to or exceed 40-50 lbs on trails with uneven terrain such as rocks, boulders, fallen logs, or slippery surfaces and we ascend and descend mountain slopes that can include changes of about 3,0000 feet. Any efforts that you can make for physical conditioning will allow you to enjoy the group and experience more.

BOLT has a long history of working with students to provide feasible accommodations for special dietary needs, hearing impairments, mobility disabilities and chronic illnesses. There is some variability in the difficulty of the routes and the amount of evacuation route options available, thus, we are able to accommodate a range of abilities. If you have an accommodation need, please communicate these to the BOLT Director as soon as possible to discuss whether there are feasible accommodations that can be made.

What do we eat? We cook as a group on small backpacking stoves with iso-propane canisters. Every has the opportunity to help in the kitchen with preparing meals. Breakfast items include bagels, pancakes, granola and oatmeal. Hot drinks (hot cocoa and tea) are essential for our mornings and evenings. Lunch consists of items that are easy to munch on during breaks such as peanut butter and jelly, cheese and crackers, fruit and GORP (each year’s GORP recipe is a surprise, but nuts and dried fruits are common). Dinners have often included bean and veggie burritos, mac and cheese, stir fried vegetables with lentils and rice, chili and corn bread, and the ever infamous brownie scramble.

What do we do for water? We disinfect all wilderness water by boiling it or by treating it with Aquamira Water Treatment Drops (an EPA Registered Water Treatment product).

Can I bring my Cell Phone? For this backpacking experience, we ask our participants to leave their cell phones home.

If you do choose to bring a phone, we ask that you keep it off and not call out.  This gives us time to form a community within the group, which central to our goals for this experience.  We want to focus on getting to know each other and expanding our network of connections and support on campus.  The experience of working together within a wilderness context separate of the clutter of technology is an important piece of the week we have planned.

A leader in each hike group will have a cell phone for emergency purposes -either to send or receive a call or text.

Cell service can be unreliable in the wilderness region that we will be hiking within due to terrain, atmospheric conditions, and other variables; therefore, we also provide additional resources.

Leaders are also provided with information regarding AMC radio locations to assist with communication to our basecamp or to emergency services.

As a part of the group’s gear, our leaders also carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB’s) with GPS that is registered to the program. When activated, a PLB will send a distress signal via satellite. The distress signal is relayed to New Hampshire Fish and Game (Search and Rescue).

What if I or someone else gets hurt? We will be traveling through remote locations which means that medical care may be significantly delayed based on group location, trail conditions, weather, amount of day light, availability of communication and the nature of the injury and evacuation.

For this reason, each BOLT Leader has obtained their national certifications in Wilderness Medicine at a minimal level of CPR and Wilderness First Aid. Each group also has at least one leader that is certified at the Wilderness First Responder or Wilderness EMT level.

Leaders are also supported by a base camp team consisting of a Brown University staff member and a volunteer group of past BOLT leaders or mentors.

If a medical emergency occurs where additional local support is necessary, we can utilize a network of resources that includes the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), Lincoln Police Department, the White Mountains Ranger District staff or New Hampshire Fish & Game’s Specialized Search and Rescue Team.

There are a number of local hospitals in the area should we need one in the case of an illness or injury.

How can my family reach me for emergency purposes? Families may contact the Office of Student Life at (401) 863-3145 to speak to one of the Deans. For emergencies that occur after offices have closed, families may contact campus police at (401) 863-3322 to request that an Administrator-on-Call be paged at home in order to request their assistance.

The Office of Student Life will be able to contact our base camp team. Our basecamp staff have a few ways available to them to send information into our groups: limited cell coverage, support of the Rangers and Shelter Coordinators (who use radios) or we can send a hike team in to meet up with a group. Our base camp team includes a Brown staff member and a volunteer group of past leaders.

Our base camp is located at a campground in the area. We travel into the town for consistent cell service to allow us to check messages and receive calls each morning from 8 am to 9am and in the early evenings from 5pm to 6pm.  Basecamp can often be reached during the day; leaders are encouraged to call or text as needed for consult or to provide updates.

How are the individual BOLT groups decided? The goal of BOLT is to bring together members of the Brown community that have never met before. Every effort is made to keep participants who were friends from previous years, roommates, and/or students from the same freshman unit out of the same BOLT groups, so each group starts with a “clean slate” in learning to work together as a team. This effort allows students to expand their community of support on campus.

What about equipment? Group gear is provided for group cooking and shelter. For personal gear, BOLT is able to loan some of the required equipment such as a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, and rain gear (jackets and pants). If you own a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, and rain gear, we really need you to bring it! Between what we have to offer on loan and the equipment that people own, we are, typically, able to outfit everyone.

BOLT is able to provide boots and some warm clothing. However, we also encourage you to think creatively about how to find what you need without spending lots of money. (Here’re a few examples: Nylon running pants are equal to hiking pants; warm wool sweaters are fantastic and are equal to fleece jackets; water bottles can be 1 liter sports drink bottles.) This a great time time to be funky in your outfits — matching items not required. Borrow gear and check out second hand stores such as Savers, Good Will, Salvation Army, etc.

We will have an “gear auction” as a part of our Sunday Pre-Trip meeting to help solve issues of missing gear using the collection of clothing items that have been donated to us over the years -otherwise, BOLTers and leaders make a run to local stores for last minute gear purchases.

Please take some time to look at our Packing List to get a better sense of what gear you will need to have, acquire, or borrow from us.