Aspen native learns to get closer to the land | AspenTimes.com

Aspen native learns to get closer to the land

John ColsonThe Aspen TimesAspen CO, Colorado

Katrina DeVore photo

ASPEN Aspen native Katrina DeVore might well have been exploring the haunts of the indians in James Fenimore Coopers famed novel, The Last of the Mohicans, in the fall of 2008.Thats when the college junior and a dozen of her classmates at St. Lawrence University spent approximately three months living in a solar-powered, rustic camp in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, learning about living close to the land and living in touch with nature.They slept in canvas and wood structures known as yurts, which are patterned after the pelt-covered shelters used by nomadic tribes in the steppes of Central Asia. Cooking all their own meals, making their own yogurt, hauling water from nearby sources and using a composting toilet, the students and their instructors generally lived an environmentally non-intrusive lifestyle while taking classes in such topics as philosophy of the environment.The course, which is called Adirondack Semester, included learning how indian and white cultures successively interacted with the environment of the region, something that DeVore hopes to use as the basis for further exploring the Rocky Mountain region when she returns home.Ive grown up here, she said in a recent interview, and theres so much I dont know about Aspen the local ecology. She said she plans to come back and get involved in a variety of aspects of life in her native region.The mountain range, with its tallest peak at 5,344 feet, is contained in a national park of the same name more than six million acres of more than 100 summits and countless streams and rivers.Although located in one of the original 13 colonies of British-controlled America, and the site of military battles during the French & Indian War (1754-1763), the area was considered too wild for white habitation through the Revolutionary War years and afterward.In fact, until the mid-1850s it was not known on British maps by any other name than deer hunting country, according to the online information source, Wikipedia. The mountain range was formally named the Adirondacks in 1857, according to Wikipedia.DeVore, daughter of the late photographer Nicholas DeVore and his widow, Karinjo, graduated from Aspen High School in 2006 and upon entering St. Lawrence immediately immersed herself in the schools Outdoor Program. For one semester as a sophomore she enrolled in a guide training course that certified her to take other students on outings in the back country.She viewed all this as a natural extension of her interest in the environment and nature, which included taking a National Outdoor Leadership Studies course at the age of 16.The Adirondack Semester began in late August, she recalled, when it was still nice and warm and the students could use the nearby Lake Masawepie as their combined bathtub and swimming hole.As the autumn progressed, the students learned to operate the wood-fired sauna for its health-giving warmth, and plunge into the lake to clean off.Then it started to get cold, and people started to get smelly, she laughed.The students were taught woodworking skills, learned to identify plants and herbs for food and medicine, and grew accustomed to a contemplative life.We wrote a lot of letters, because that was our form of communication, she said, noting that there were no cell phones or computers in the camp and that all course work was handwritten, on paper.They would get fresh produce and grains from nearby farms, some of them organic. Those who were vegetarians could stick to their diets, she said, but one day they went to a farm and watched as a student helped to slaughter chickens for an evening meal.I watched, said DeVore, a vegetarian. It was interesting. I choose not to eat meat, but I have no problem with others who eat meat.Looking back on the experience, she mused, My goal with the Adirondack Semester was to learn to live a little bit more lightly on our planet, and she plans to use her lessons when she comes back to Colorado.Id like to get more involved in our own community. I feel like people are just so disconnected what where they are, she continued. And though she feels she would like to help others get more connected, too, she is not quite sure yet how it can be done.It seems like people are catching on, she said. Even the skeptics are acknowledging that global warming is an issue now … people recycle. Of course, our worlds not going to be saved by a select few recycling, especially if it stops people from taking collateral action. People just need to not consume so much, and know that you can be happy with less.With a major in environmental studies and a minor in outdoor studies, DeVore said she plans to spend the fall semester of her senior year in Kenya, Africa, then return to Aspen.Then, Im not sure what Im going to do.jcolson@aspentimes.com

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