Day 28: Spirit Animals

By: Kelly McG (with a lot of help from Google and Tim “Grooble” Gruber)

Spirit Animal: a representation of the traits and skills one yearns to have embodied in a living creature

While Apogee students and leaders are our spirit animals here in the office, they’re spanning the globe encountering (and sometimes avoiding) incredible real-life animals. So, in the spirit of becoming better antiquated with the places we visit, today’s blog post will center around a creature from each trip’s location. Who knows… you may even find your spirit animal below!

Maine Coast College Essay (MCCE2): Spirit Animal – Fox. One Maine animal you may encounter throughout the Pine Tree State is our good friend, Fantastic Mr. Fox. Known for their didactic ways, quick-thinking, and adaptiveness to overcome adversity who fits the fox better than our MCCE2ers? Perfecting those quick-thinking interview strategies when put on the spot, with senior year just around the corner and college on the horizon these foxes have savviness and skill to their name.

MCCE doing service today with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust on a gorgeous summer day.

Cape Cod & the Islands (CI2): Spirit Animal – Phoenix.* With full hearts and eyes brimming with tears (of joy) our CIers bid each other a farewell in Boston and went their separate ways. Though the trip comes to a close here, the memories will linger forever and will rise into the forefront of each Apogeer’s mind from time to time, just like the Phoenix! The time CI2ers shared with each other is a reminder to us all of the everlasting memories created on an Apo trip. Bonus points to anyone who snags a personal pic with a Phoenix!

[*Ed. Note: Ahem, we thought this whole Spirit Animal thing was limited to actual animals…]


New England Mountains & Coast (NEMC2): Spirit Animal – Moose. One of the coolest things about New England? Knowing that you could see a moose at any point! Indigenous to Canada and northern United States, moose have been said to remain true to themselves and have strength in their decisions. Strength and confidence reigned over our NEMC2ers today while hiking (half of) Mt. Washington – perhaps a moose wandered across their tracks?NEMC NEMC2

Caribbean Service Adventure (CSA2): Spirit Animal – dolphin. Striking a balance between work and play is essential, and something we here at Apogee take very seriously! To that end our CSA2ers found a balance, commonly associated with dolphins, between their service work and relaxation  took to the streets of San Juan for a little exploration. Akin to dolphins, our CSA2ers have found balance while bringing humor and joy to all those they come in contact with! CSA CSA3 CSA2 CSA4

Vermont to Montreal A (VMA2): Spirit Animal: Pegasus. With incredible poise, speed, and beauty, our VMA2ers flew up to Montreal these past ten days. With the strength, devotion, and loyalty of the mythical Pegasus, our VMA2ers bonded over their time together. We hope their trip has heightened their senses to the beauty of Vermont, Canada, and all the nature that surrounds us.

Maine’s Downeast Explorer A (DEXA2): Spirit Animal: Black-capped Chickadee. Patience, strength, and an awareness of our surroundings remain crucial for our DEX2Aers as they climb the highest mountain in Maine, Mt. Katahdin!  Black-capped Chickadee, the state bird of Maine may have been heard, whistling our DEXA2ers today on their summit! [Note: service is spotty at best in Baxter State Park so we’re excited they squeaked one picture out, but know that the whole group made it to the summit and we hope to have a full group pic soon!]


Maine’s Downeast Explorer B (DEXB2): Spirit Animal: Sea Turtle. While our DEX2Bers (or not to be) sea kayaked on their way to community service, perhaps a school of turtles swam underneath their vessels! Spiritually defined as one who takes a break from the humdrum of daily life for introspection and seeks long-lasting solutions when needed, what better description for our group as they round out a second day of community service! Unfortunately time has not been moving as slowly as these animals, as today marks DEX2’s second-to-last day!DEXB DEXB2

Costa Rica Language & Service (CRLS2): Spirit Animal: Sloth. Name an animal that sleeps up to 20 hours a day and moves so slowly that algae can grow on its fur. What’s that you say – a sloth? Why yes! Sloths are notorious for their slow-motion movement which, to the surprise of many, has contributed to its survival over the past centuries. Not only do their limbs blend in with tree branches, but their lack of movement makes them hard to detect with the naked eye. With two extra vertebrae in their necks, they’re able to turn their heads almost all the way around, which probably helped the sloth below keep an eye on our CLRS’ers who spent the day exploring Manuel Antonio National Park and shopped for souvenirs in Quepos in very un-slothlike fashion!

This is, without question, the best sloth picture we’ve had. And it’s in a circle because the guide is holding the camera to his telescope.


California Mountains & Coast A (CMC2A): Spirit Animal: Bighorn Sheep. Don’t let the St. Louis, err, I mean Los Angeles Rams confuse you for a Bighorn Sheep! They are actually one in the same, the former being the name for a male Bighorn Sheep. Easily identified by their curled horns, bighorn sheep tend to evoke sentiments of youth and simpleness – both are aspects Isa and David’s group have encountered in spades over their trip. Surfing in Santa Cruz today – San Francisco tomorrow.CMCA3 CMCA

California Mountains & Coast B (CMC2B): Spirit Animal: Green Sea Turtle. The Green Sea Turtle, the most common California sea turtle, may be born measuring only 2 inches, but can weigh over 700 lbs when fully grown! Nonetheless, these creatures are designed to swim, and their aqua-dynamics allow them to reach speeds of up to 35mph – coupled with their ability to hold their breath for hours at a time, they can cover some serious distance! Our CMCB’ers had to channel their inner Green Sea Turtle as they hit the waves this morning for a surf lesson, becoming one with the swells as they developed their sea legs. CMCB

Montana Service Adventure (MSA2): Spirit Animal: Mountain Goat. Don’t be fooled by the name – Mountain Goats are no goats and are actually a member of the antelope family. Found in the Northwestern US (Glacier National Park included!), these 100-300lb creatures love two things: tall heights and salt. The largest mammal in many alpine and subalpine environments, Mountain Goats are quite hardy and their “kids” are expected to start scrambling up rocks just days after being born. Our Montana “kids” got closer during their 33 mile ride today (conquering their first significant uphill in fine fettle on their way…), but will have to keep their eyes up towards the ridgelines as they near the Continental Divide and enter Mountain Goat territory later on their trip! MSA

Northwest Explorer (NWX2): Spirit Animal: Peregine Falcon. Trivia question: what is the fastest animal on the planet? If you need a hint, don’t limit your thinking to land-bound creatures. This bird is known for its speed, dive bombing through the sky at up to 240 mph. Still stumped? Ok, fine… it’s the Peregrine Falcon! Our Northwest Explorers may have done a hike in Olympic National Park today, but will have to keep their eyes peeled for the duration of their trip if they want to catch a glimpse of these rapid raptors.NWX NWX2NWX1NWX2NWX

Pacific Coast A (PC2A): Spirit Animal: Humpback Whale. As they ride along the coast – today’s 20 miles included – our PC crew will have to keep their eyes peeled for Humpback Whales off of the California coast (only when they’re not riding, of course – then their eyes are on the road!). Weighing a mind-blowing 40 tons, they’re one of very few species where females tend to be larger than males, but both genders can breech completely out of the water – a prime opportunity to wave a fin at Bonnie & Mike’s group as they bike by!PCA2 PCAPCA4PCA3PCA2PCA

Pacific Coast B (PC2B): Spirit Animal: Albatross. What’s that – a bird? A plane? Superman?! Ok fine… it was a bird after all. If our PCBer’s keep their eyes peeled, they might have glimpsed an Albatross on today’s 31 miles – or may later this summer! With the ability to live 60-70 years, these birds can have a long life unless they get caught by one of their (perhaps surprising) top predators – the Tiger Shark. Because Albatross spend much of their time perusing the ocean’s surface, they make a tasty meal for those swimming just below. No tiger sharks for Lindsay and Spencer’s group today – just gorgeous coastal miles. [Service struggles prevented us from getting a photo before going to press, but stay tuned for more tomorrow!]

Scottish Highlands Explorer (SHX2): Spirit Animal: Mountain Hare. Matt and Midge reported that they “crushed their first day on the West Highland Way!” and are happily at their bunkhouse along the coast of Loch Lomond. One animal they most likely saw along today’s trek? The Mountain Hare! Once only found in the Scottish Highlands, it has translocated to Wales, England and some Scottish Islands as well.To help it camoflage, the Mountain Hare remains brown in the summer but turns white during the winter – our Explorers would have to look closely to get a glimpse of these chameleons!  SHX

Oh, just the Matterhorn in the background… NBD.

Alps Explorer (AX2): Spirit Animal: Marmot. “These creatures are highly social and prefer to live in mountainous regions, such as the Alps, and communicate with loud exclamations including shouts or whistles.” Who does this describe, you may ask? Not only our Alps Explorers, but the marmots around them! However the similarities end there, as marmots are known to lose ⅔ of their body when they hibernate. That does not work well with our “six meals a day” plan!AX3 AX

Europe Coast to Coast (ECC): Spirit Animal: Italian Wolf. Three countries in one day? When you wake up in Austria, ride through Switzerland, and wind up in Italy, you are indeed on the move! In honor of their first night in Italy, they are having pasta and we’re going to serve them a side of Italian Wolf to go along with it – wolf facts, that is. The unofficial animal of Italy, the Italian Wolf was once dangerously trending towards extinction in the early to mid 1900’s, but has made an impressive recovery with their population increasing by an estimated 7% annually. Fortunately, they tend to be found in the Apennine Mountains – south of where our wolfpack set up camp!ECC8 ECC2 ECC5 ECC3 ECC

America Coast to Coast 1 (ACC1): Spirit Animal: Roadrunner. Once they continue to cruise across New Mexico after today’s well deserved rest day in New Mexico, our Abby and West’s crew will have to keep an eye out for the state bird. Although capable of flying, Roadrunners tend to move by foot and have even clocked the fastest running speed of a volant bird. Despite their speed, our group could beat them in a race as they have been known to occasionally surpass 25 mph as they travel from Charleston to San Diego. Bonus points to anyone who can name the fastest non-flying bird! (Hint: it can run up to 43 mph) [Photos to follow!]

America Coast to Coast 2 (ACC2): Spirit Animal: the Bald Eagle! We can’t talk about America Coast to Coast without giving the Bald Eagle a shout out! Despite its misleading name, the bird is best identified by its white feather capped head and large talons, which come in handy as they scoop up fish, smaller birds, and rodents (not bikers!). These creatures live to be up to 30 years old and can be spotted in any state across the country so our ACCer’s will have plenty of chances to catch a glimpse of our national bird – maybe they even saw one during today’s 96 miles into Carrizzozo, New Mexico!ACC2 ACC22