Sunday, June 14, 2009

Backyard Environmentalists

My last blog posting was way back in November, but things about my project keep on going. Over the last seven or eight months, the school bought a van and had it converted to run on vegetable oil, the school's high school Animals and Environmental Workshop has been filtering vegetable oil and taking care of the van, students made artwork and had it put onto the van, and the van has been touring around New England to be at environmental shows. And it even went to the Massachusetts State House for a special award! We call it the Veggie Van.

Another thing that's been going on is that Dan Brielman has been working on a movie about my project, and now it's done! If you want to watch it, click here. It's called Backyard Environmentalists. Do you remember Dan? He and his cameraman, Curtis, climbed Mount Osceola and East Osceola with us last year. Last week he came to our school and showed the students in my grade and some of the high school students the video, and from my opinion, it's awesome. I hope you'll like it too.

Thanks again to everyone who helped me out. I couldn't have done it without you. When I started this project, I never imagined how many people would help me or what the effects would be. But my school is now doing a lot of good, green stuff because of this.

Green Tip #11: Do you want to go green? Plant an organic garden in your yard. It creates healthy habits, good food, and helps the environment. We planted a garden at home this year and water it with rain water kept in barrels, and at school we have a lot of raised bed vegetable gardens outside, and my class did a hydroponics project.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The SSCPS Veggie Van

I want to say "thank you" one last time to everyone who helped me with my fundraising goal. I raised more than $5000.

My school is very lucky that you all helped. I want to let you know what the school and I decided to do with the money. The South Shore Charter Public School, if you didn't already know, is a small K-through-12 school. The school doesn't have any buses or a gym or an auditorium, so we use vans to get groups of students to places like sporting events at far away schools, field trips, and other events. We spend a lot of money on diesel fuel for these trips, which also causes a lot of pollution. So, the school purchased a used van, and the Summits for My School money was used to convert the van to run on vegetable oil. It paid for the conversion kit, a filtering station shed, the filtration equipment, and for the guy who did the work to convert the van from diesel to veggie oil. His name is Lawrence and he owns Cape Green Auto.

The school started using the van last week. The high school science/biology class is going to keep track of the number of miles it travels, how much pollution was prevented, and how much money is being saved. The students from this class have learned how to filter the vegetable oil that we'll get from local restaurants. A local golf club has agreed to donate over 100 gallons of veggie oil a week (during the 6 months that it's open). The school is going to put my project's logo on the side of the van.

Did you know that a car or truck that runs on vegetable oil smells like whatever restaurant it's burning oil from? So, if the oil is from McDonalds, it will smell like French fries, and if it's from a Chinese food restaurant, it'll smell like egg rolls.

Because of my project, the school set up a special "eco-committee" and has started to do things like recycle just about everything, and making sure that lights and computers are off in rooms that are not being used. The teachers are using less paper and more emails to talk with parents. People are trying to use less disposable dishes and utensils. And lots of other great things.

The last thing that I want to tell you is that the school gave me an award and a plaque for my project. It's called the "Make a Difference" award and I'm the first person to get it. Each year a student at the school who does outstanding community service will get the award, and I get to help choose the recipient.

Thank you, so, so, so, so, so much. This has been a very fun year climbing mountains, and I'm really happy with how the project turned out and that it's helping my school. I plan to keep climbing mountains next year. Feel free to visit my blog any time. Happy holidays!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I did it! 10 summits and $5000

I did it! I reached the summits of ten "4000-footers" this year and raised over $5000 to help my school "go green." Before I tell you about my latest hike, I would like to say "thank you," again, to everyone who donated to my project, to everyone who said encouraging things to me, and to all of the companies that sponsored me. And I want to give a special thanks to my little brother Lucas, who is only seven and accompanied me on six of the ten mountains. Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.

We all woke up -- me, my brother, my dad, and my papa -- before 6:00 in the morning, and it was freezing. There was frost on the ground. After some hot cocoa and coffee we got our gear and headed for the trail. It was so cold that we all had to wear gloves and mittens for the first hour of the hike. The trail that we took up towards our first mountain was rocky and slippery. It's called Falling Waters Trail and it goes by a bunch of waterfalls and crosses a stream about five times. I was looking forward to showing my brother Shining Rock Cliff, which is a big cliff with lots of water trickling down, because I did this same hike about a year ago and saw it then. We reached the first summit, Little Haystack Mountain, about three hours after we started. Little Haystack Mountain is 4,840 feet high, but it doesn't count as a "4000-footer" because it's on a ridge trail and the drops between the mountains next to it are less than 200 feet. So, I couldn't count it as one of my project summits.

Then we headed off towards our next summit, Mount Lincoln, which is 5,089 feet high. Surprisingly, Mount Lincoln is not in the Presidential Range. Maybe Lincoln got lost! The trail along the ridge is part of the Appalachian Trail, and it's very rocky. We each made up a code name, because on the Appalachian Trail, you're not allowed to use your real name. My name was Navigator, Luke's was The Ace, Dad's was Smurf, and Papa's was Stone Fingers. We reached the top of Mount Lincoln, my 9th project summit, but didn't stay very long.

On our way to Mount Lafayette we heard an airplane nearby. We looked up and saw that a small plane was towing a glider. This was really cool because I had never seen a glider before. We saw the glider release from the airplane and zoom around the top of the mountain. It was really quiet and when it came around the mountain it looked like it came out of nowhere. Mount Lafayette is about one mile from Mount Lincoln, still along the Appalachian Trail. I was the first one in our small group of four to reach the summit. When I reached the summit -- my 10th and final summit! -- I felt awesome and fantastic. We had some snacks, enjoyed the view, took a lot of pictures, and then started to head down along the Old Bridle Path.

On our way down, between the summit and the Greenleaf Hut, we met a group with a couple of dogs, and they told us that they had lost their white husky. They asked us if we had seen it, but we hadn't. As we kept going down, people who passed us said that they had seen the dog and that it was running towards the hut, in the wrong direction from where its owners were headed. So we started screaming up the mountain, "DOG PEOPLE! DOG PEOPLE! YOUR DOG IS DOWN HERE!" Then we saw one of the dog owners running past us to catch the husky. About a quarter of a mile from Greenleaf Hut we saw the man bringing back his dog towards the summit. We clapped and congratulated him.

We snacked at Greenleaf Hut and then started the final stretch back to the campground, still about 3 miles and a lot of back-braking labor (Greenleaf Hut is at 4,070 feet) away. About halfway down we saw a man carrying crates on his back up the mountain. We asked him what they were for and he said that they were filled with food and supplies for the hut. It looked very uncomfortable.

When we finally reached the end of the trail -- 9.1 miles and 8 1/2 hours later -- I tore off my backpack, whipped off my baseball hat, and started dancing. I call it "The Summits Jig." I felt so great being done and I was proud about what I did for my school, except I have to admit that I was also a little sad because my project was now over. I know that I'm going to keep on climbing mountains. And maybe someday I'll start another project.

If you'd like to see some photos of this final hike, click here.

Also, on the right side of this page you can vote for which one of my hikes was your favorite (I'm not going to tell you which one was mine). You can read about them again if you look at my blog log from previous months. Lastly, my dad did some math and figured out if you add up the distance from these ten summit hikes, it comes to 53.6 miles -- and that's MOUNTAIN miles, with lots of rocks and roots. And if you add up the elevations of the ten mountains, it comes to 44,892 feet, which is higher than Mount Everest (29,029 feet).

Green Tip #10: Take Action! Don't be shy about starting your own project to help your school or your community save the environment. Just look what one nine-year-old kid can do.

Monday, August 25, 2008

More Press and More Mountains

I've missed climbing mountains this month, but it's been a busy month. I went on a vacation to Cape Cod, and I've been going to a day camp. Now that September is almost here, I'm planning to climb my last two mountains for this project (though I might even climb more than ten before the end of the year). The next two mountains are going to be Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette, both on the Franconia Ridge Trail in New Hampshire. These mountains are both over 5,000 feet high. I've actually climbed both of these mountains before -- FLASHBACK: last October -- it was pouring rain when we woke up and started hiking, but once we got to the top and the ridge trail, it was beautiful and the clouds were below us. So I'm looking forward to climbing them again, and I hope my mom and my brother will join me this time.

I was really excited last Saturday morning when I woke up and saw that my picture was in the local newspaper. The reporter that wrote about me last January wrote about me again. Click here to read Saturday's article.

My crazy dad thought it might be cool to mention this neat website for parents called The Green Parent. It gives parents lots of tips about raising their kids and family to be green people and be good to the earth. Click here to check it out.

Green Tip #9: This one comes from the Green Parent blog. A lot of kids are going back to school right now, and they might need some help getting ready. Before you go out and buy everything at a store, look around your house for notebooks, pencils, crayons, and other school supplies that you probably already have. You may even find a backpack in your closet. For more back-to-school green tips from the Green Parent blog, click here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Summits #7 & #8: Mt Osceola & East Osceola

Before I tell you about our exciting hike, I would like to thank you all for helping me get so close to my fundraising goal. I only need to hike two more summits and raise $22 to meet my goal of ten summits and $5000. Wow! My project is supposed to end in November, but it's only July. I think I'll climb more than ten this year, and it would be great if I went above my fundraising goal. Now, I'm going to tell you about the hike.

The hike was 10.2 miles long, it took about 8 1/2 hours, and we reached the peaks of two mountains: Mount Osceola, 4,340 feet & East Osceola, 4,156 feet.

We camped Friday and Saturday night at the Osceola Vista Campground in Waterville Valley. It was really close to Mount Tecumseh, which was my first mountain summit of this project. On Saturday morning we got up really early, ate breakfast, drank cocoa, and waited for the cameramen to arrive. Yes! there were actually cameramen on our hike. They're both professional cameramen for local news stations, and one of them is interested in making a film about me. It might get on TV! The cameramen took some shots of the mountain from the campground, while we got our packs and water ready.

Our hike up to Mount Osceola was fun. The weather was beautiful and the sky was blue. Some of the rocks were slippery because of all the rain they've been getting in New Hampshire (a tornado hit New Hampshire just a few days ago, which is really rare, and someone got killed). We stopped a few times so that the cameramen could set up a good shot. Sometimes we had to walk along the same part of the trail twice, like a do-over. And we had to pretend that the camera wasn't there. We reached the summit in about 2 1/2 hours, and there were already some other hikers at the top, and one of them had even seen my blog site before! The summit from Mount Osceola is really beautiful, and we got great views of the Tripyramids and Mount Tecumseh. We could even see our campground.

We stayed on the summit for about a half an hour and then headed over to East Osceola. The trail to East Osceola is very steep in some places. One spot is even called The Chimney, so you can imagine how steep that is -- it's almost straight up and down about 30 feet. In the spots that weren't super steep and rocky, it was muddy with lots of trees. The top of East Osceola is in the trees and has no view. There is a cairn that my brother and I kept accidentally knocking over, but we fixed it each time.

The trip from East Osceola down to the Greeley Ponds area was a little scary. First, there were more very, very steep sections. Then the cameramen decided to go ahead of us to set up a good shot. But they got so far ahead that we thought that we had lost them, and were really worried that maybe they took a wrong turn somewhere. And then, my dad took a bad fall, flipped over, off of the trail, and cut his leg. We finally found the camera guys near Upper Greeley Pond and were relieved. Then, we took off our boots and splashed around the cold pond for a while. It felt really great on my sore feet.

From Greeley Pond, the trail back to our campground went through a long valley and was pretty flat. But it was also really long -- about four miles. My legs cramped up a little bit just before we reached our campground, but I was excited that we made it! My dad drove the cameramen back to their car at the trailhead and picked up a mother and daughter from Norway and brought them back to our campsite, where their cellphone would work. They were so nice and they gave me $20 for my project.

This climb was really fun, and thank you again for helping me get so close to reaching my goal. If you'd like to see a bunch of photos and a slideshow of our hike, click here.

Green Tip #8: When you're at the grocery store, which should you ask for - plastic bags or paper bags? A lot of people say paper, because you can grow more trees and paper is biodegradable. Really, making a paper bag creates 70 percent more air pollution than making a plastic bag. But, plastic bags are bad too. They're made from oil and they take a long time to biodegrade. So instead of either, you should bring your own reusable bags, such as canvas ones like my mom uses.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hiking Games

My hikes usually take about six to twelve hours, depending on how far they are, so my hiking buddy and I need to occupy ourselves for that whole trip. One of the ways we like to occupy ourselves is by playing games. I'd like to tell you about four of the games that we play.

1. The Letter Game: This one is my favorite. First you have to think of a category, like "animals," "Star Wars," or "cities." Then someone says a name of something in that subject, like "Boston." Then the next player has to think of a city that begins with the last letter of the city just named, like "Newton" or "New York." And so on, and so on, until you get bored or can't think of anything else.

2. 20 Questions: I bet most of you already know how to play this game. My hiking buddy and I don't really ask just 20 question. We just keep asking questions until someone figures it out. I'm very good with the Star Wars character category.

3. Would You Rather: We made this game up last fall when we were climbing Mount Greylock. In the game, a player asks another player something like, "Would you rather be a policeman, fireman, or a typewriter repairman?" Then the person says their answer. Sometimes they're really funny, like "Would you rather be an Ewok from Return of the Jedi, an Ork from Lord of the Rings, or a radio active spider?"

4. The Story Game: In this game we make up a story. Someone starts off by saying a sentence or two, then the next person says a couple of sentences, and so on, and so on, until the story is done (or just too weird to go on). When my dad and I climbed Mount Pierce and Mount Eisenhower -- just the two of us alone -- we played this game a lot. We made up stories about an Indian and a young boy, a small pine needle man, and kids in a flying boat. They were very funny.

Green Tip #7: Try to reduce the amount of catalogs and junk mail that come to your house. Each year 19.8 billion catalogs are mailed in the United States (that's like 61 million trees!). A 4th grade school teacher from Boston wrote me a letter and told me about a project he started in his class to get rid of catalogs. If you'd like to learn more about it, click here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summit #6: Mount Moosilauke

Six of the ten mountains in my goal have now been climbed. Yesterday, I climbed my sixth: Mount Moosilauke. Moosilauke is 4,802 feet high, and is the most southwestern of the White Mountains. The whole trail was 7.2 miles long. My climbing buddies were my papa, my brother, and my dad, so there were three generations of our family on this hike. We woke up about 5:30 in the morning and drove to New Hampshire. Then we had breakfast in North Woodstock at Peg's Family Restaurant, and got to the beginning of the trail at 8:45 AM.

Mount Moosilauke is interesting because it's actually owned by a college: Dartmouth College. The college owns about 4,500 acres of the mountain and also has a big lodge at its base where you can stay. We started our hike at the lodge. The weather was cool, humid, and super foggy. We hoped that the fog would clear by the time we got to the top, but it didn't. If you were standing 20 feet away from me, I probably couldn't see you. There was this one place that my brother and I called the Dark Forest because it was so dark and misty, and it reminded us of Harry Potter.

We hiked up the trail for about 2 1/2 hours, and we made really good time going up the Gorges Brook Trail. It was foggy the whole time. When we got close to the top, there weren't as many trees, and it was just barren rocks, and more fog. We got to the summit at 11:15 AM and there were some other hikers there. We told a few of them about my project. We had heard that the view from the summit of Mount Moosilauke is supposed to be one of the best in all of New Hampshire and the White Mountains, but we never got to see it. But it was still really neat. At the top of the mountain there are some rocky foundations from an old hotel. It was called the Tip Top House and was built in 1860. It burned down in 1942 after a 3-day storm. Me, my brother, my papa, and my dad all sat in one of the old foundations, because it was really windy and wet, and we had something to eat.

Then we started our way back down, but we took a different trail. From the top we followed the Appalachian Trail for about a mile and a half and then branched off onto the Carriage Road Trail. We walked and walked, with my brother and me taking turns being the leader. It took us another 2 1/2 hours to get back to the lodge, but it was a nice hike. The fog never lifted. And when we got back down, we looked up and still couldn't see the summit or most of the mountain.

If you would like to see some more photos of our hike, please click here. You might also notice that my brother and I are wearing Summits for My School T-shirts. If you would like to buy one (or a mug, or a necktie, or a baseball cap....) just click here. They're really nice T-shirts.

Green Tip #6: When we were near the top of Moosilauke, my papa found a candy wrapper under a rock. My dad picked it up and stuffed it in his backpack so that he could throw it away later. So my Green Tip is to please not litter. It can hurt the environment very badly. And if you see litter, pick it up and throw it away. And if you see anybody littering, if it's OK with your parents, you can go over and ask them not to litter.