By Natalie Weker and Sajni Shah
Trailblazer Day. The day when 300 Upper School students and teachers totally don’t get traumatized as they try (and often fail) to lead the way through the wilds of New Jersey and survive until lunch. A right of passage for any Kent Place student in the past three years, but what makes Trailblazer Day so special? Is it the complete lack of wildlife due to around 70 loud teenagers scaring them off? Is it the dread you feel when you realize that you dressed completely inappropriately for both the weather and the hike? Is it the sense of fulfillment you get as you cherish the past while blazing a trail into the future? Or is it the ✨friendships✨ you build whilst your legs burn?
The writers of this article think not. We, as upperclassmen who have been blazing trails for the past three years, believe the true spirit of Trailblazer Day is the inevitable grind to a halt as your line leaders realize that this is not where you are supposed to be. That you are, in fact, lost. To ensure that future generations of Kent Place students experience this (soon-to-be) tradition, we have composed this helpful handbook for you. In just ten steps, you too can get lost in the woods like us!
Step One: Orienteering 101
The first, and most crucial, step in this process is to carefully choose your line leaders, for as the Boy Scouts always say, ‘leaders make a difference’. From experience, we can confirm that the one and only Mr. Biddulph is a solid option, as he will likely help you feel even more disoriented. However, Mr. Biddulph is quick to find his mistake, so if you are looking for the chance to get abandoned by the side of a highway for an extended period of time, he might not be the one for you. The other option is Mr. Largo, who for the past three years has witnessed his group get lost; though this year was able to use the app “AllTrails” to get the group “unlost”. Sadly, this plan does not come without its drawbacks. Its use of the line leader as its primary way of getting lost means that the entire line will then proceed to get lost. For introverts reading this, we suggest you skip this step.
Step Two: Please Don’t Stop the Music
It is no secret that there will inevitably be music playing from at least one person’s phone/speaker/portable live band/boombox while on the trail. So why not take advantage of that and lull yourself into a stupor! We recommend the Little Einsteins theme song as you traverse the rocky paths. If you are opposed to keeping a single song on repeat, we can also recommend listening to the entirety of the Frozen I and II soundtracks just like what your favorite journalists did as they penned this article. Not even the bright yellow blazes of the Lenape trail will be enough to snap you out of your daze as you wander aimlessly through the woodlands.
Step Three: Chumley has Broken a Leg
If you were born any time after 1960, you probably played The Oregon Trail. If you didn’t, you were living under a rock and we feel sorry for you. We suggest, for this step, pretending you are ON the Oregon Trail and manifesting your OWN destiny. This works especially well if Mr. Maset is hiking with you. Many people along the Oregon Trail got lost and got dysentery, and you can too! If you are unable to imagine your own Oregon Trail, store-bought is fine. Whip out the ole HP Time-Shared BASIC running on an HP 2100 minicomputer, and start a game. Hopefully, you’ll walk into a tree and fall into a ditch. One junior who is choosing to remain anonymous said “I’m gonna do that next year” when informed of this option. We hope you do too!
Step Four: Manifest Destiny
For some, the appeal of getting stuck in a ditch is there, but they have noodle arms, and carrying around the 230 lb HP 2100 minicomputer (who gave this thing the title ‘mini’) while hiking just isn’t an option. Luckily, one can fall into a ditch without needing to play The Oregon Trail, even if it’s not as fun. We recommend clumsiness and tripping so you fall down the sides of the slope. However, other methods include cannonballing, swinging from a vine, and somersaulting into the abyss.
Step Five: Follow the Leader
If you remember, the very first piece of advice given was to “carefully choose your line leaders”. This is true not just for making sure you get lost, but for making sure that you aren’t going in the right direction. Ms. Hager, Ms. Iannuzzi, and Mr. Seid are all reportedly “excellent” line leaders, so we suggest you run a mile in the opposite direction they’re walking in. If you spend too much time around them, you might absorb some of their hiking expertise, making it far harder to get yourself lost. For example, our favorite multi teacher, Ms. Iannuzzi, was, unfortunately, able to get the junior class back on track, causing them to miss out on the experience of truly getting (as Kristoff would put it) lost in the woods.
Step Six: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
Our sixth step takes a page out of Kent Place’s handbook. To be even more Brave and BrilliantTM, we suggest that you be a true trailblazer, and forge your own path through the somewhat-discovered thickets of the greatest country in the world. The beauty of this method is that you don’t need any experience, much like everyone else braving the woods alongside you. In fact, the less experience, the better! This is truly ironic, as you do lead the way like a true Kent Place student, yet are unable to find your way into the (un)known, unlike the values our beloved Kent Place tries to instill in us. So our advice is that you blaze your own trails and never stop, not even when you realize you have no clue what you’re doing.
Step Seven: Kill Nothing but Time
As we all know, being a screenager is a terrible disease that has been inflicted upon us youths. Because the writers of this article are obviously quite benevolent people; we aim to look after the general health and well-being of Kent Place students. To do this, we are promoting anti-screenager policies that may make the previous step more difficult. True trailblazers do not need to rely on technology as a crutch, instead using solely their instincts to survive. This step advises you to get in touch with nature by avoiding the use of any mobile devices. Leave your phone at home or in your locker, so you can truly focus on your surroundings. Or better yet, chuck your phone into the first stream you pass by. Google Maps aren’t necessary when you have an amazing sense of direction.
Step Eight: Always Winter but never Christmas
Though if you are feeling the need to use a map, we advise you to print one out. But not just any random, confusing map of the trail. Print out a map of Narnia! Will you get to your destination? Probably not. But will you get the full KPS TrailblazerTM experience? Definitely. It’s a perfect way to make sure you end up in a happier place where you don’t have to worry about that one history test you have in two days.
Step Nine: Take a Pic
As anyone who has ever traversed the tamed wilderness of New Jersey would know, the trails we walk through are populated with picturesque views such as an aerial view of the majestic town of Maplewood. These breathtaking spots are perfect for those who desire to fill their phone storage with awkward pictures of sweaty, tired teenagers and the beauty of nature. However, many of these secluded selfie spots are off-trail, so in your search to take the perfect picture, you may find yourself unable to relocate the paths. Because of this, we advise you to keep your eyes peeled for any areas with noteworthy views, whether they are on top of a mountain or on the other side of a road you definitely were supposed to walk past. Then, embrace your inner brave, brilliant, and bodacious self to do whatever it takes to get that photo.
Step Ten: Bee Puns are Stupid
The last part of our ten-step process really gets you up close and personal with the environment. The mighty Anthophila, more commonly known as the “bee”, is abundant on these paths, and you are more than likely to encounter one. Running away from that singular bee hovering harmlessly next to you is a surefire way to completely lose sight of the trail and end up deep, deep into the woods. You’ll even be able to escape your certain death!
With that, we have come to the end of our ten amazing pieces of advice to give you. We are sorry to say that we are out of time and ideas, but we hope you find this handbook useful as you set off on your trail-blazing adventures.