In just a few days of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and car camping over spring break, Teona Williams ’12 says she learned more about her companions, seniors La’Shaye Ervin and Mathew Apeseche, than she has about many of her other college friends in her four years at Bowdoin. Especially over their well-earned lunch breaks.
“The three of us come from different backgrounds, so our lunches were full of sharing of life experiences,” Williams said. “We really talked about the good, bad, and the ugly of ourselves and our lives in general.”
The three students spent five days skiing and snowshoeing at Parc National du Mont-MÃ©gantic in Quebec after receiving a grant from Beyond the Bowdoin Pines Fellowship, a program funded by the Benson Family Foundation to “foster the spirit of adventure” and “encourage personal challenges and skill development.”
Each year, the college splits around $3,000 dollars to fund two or three trips. Ervin, Williams and Apeseche were one of three student groups who received grants this year. One student team went whitewater rafting and climbing out west, and another group plans to go backpacking in Banff National Park this summer.
The Mt. MÃ©gantic team received $700, which was just enough to cover gas and food, but wasn’t quite enough to pay for lodging. So the three “roughed it” by nestling in at night in sleeping bags in Apeseche’s SUV. “If I had to pick between a day of skiing versus a night of roughing it with Mat and La’Shaye, I’d definitely pick roughing it!” Williams said.
Ervin agreed that the cramped sleeping arrangement helped foster togetherness. “If you’re going to be in close quarters and be smelly, you have to allow yourself to be open,” she pointed out.
During their five-day trip, they crisscrossed the 55 square kilometers of the park and also summited three peaks in one day, including the 1,105-meter high Mt. MÃ©gantic. The snow and ice made for a harrowing and slippery descent, but even this didn’t detract from the trip.
“I can’t think of one thing that really sucked,” Ervin said, matter of factly.
And the tough hikes and falls down the mountain side helped spur storytelling. “After long and intense hikes we felt the need to collapse on the mountain and unload,” Williams wrote in a blog about the trip. “Soon our stories poured from our lips like the water in our water bottles. “¦ I realized that the people I was with were amazing, and not solely in skiing, they have beautiful souls and even more beautiful visions of how the world should be.”
Ervin said she and Williams have been dreaming of going on an outdoor adventure together for some time. The two, who have been friends since freshmen year, deepened their friendship after they both completed Bowdoin’s Out of the Zone Leadership Training sophomore year. OZLT, an alumnus-funded program, is designed to encourage more minorities to get involved with the Bowdoin Outing Club. “We’re both passionate about the outdoors,” Ervin said.
The two reached out to invite Apeseche to come along, despite not knowing him very well. Not only did he have a big car, Ervin says, but also “he’s pretty chill and can tolerate us and our big personalities.”
For his part, Apeseche says he started cross-country skiing three years ago and likes it, and always wanted to get to know Ervin and Williams better. “I learned a lot about myself talking with them,” he said, reflecting on the time in Quebec. “My personal history is very different from theirs, and this was one of the first experiences at Bowdoin I’ve had talking with people who come from different backgrounds from me.”
He added, “It’s nice to know that I can share a space with people I haven’t known well before and create something really beautiful.”