At the End of Wilderness Trips, What’s Left?

Last Saturday, on September 28th, Semester 63 students returned from their five-day wilderness trips. Vans arriving from all different parts of Maine rolled into campus one-by-one from morning until the afternoon, and the following hours were a flurry of activity as we cleaned gear and exchanged our wildest stories. The five different wilderness trips included sea kayaking in Stonington; two backpacking trips starting at opposite ends of the Bigelow range; and two canoe trips, one on the Allagash waterway and the other on the St. Croix. Weeks beforehand, students wrote down their first three choices and turned them into the staff, who then organized us into trips to the best of their ability. 

I had ended up with my first choice, Allagash canoe–though I would have been pleased with any of the others. I was incredibly excited to spend time camping out in the wilderness and exploring a beautiful new place with new people. In the first few weeks at Chewonki, friendships and bonds form surprisingly quickly with all those orientation, cabin, and work program hours; but of course, there were still students and faculty members that I didn’t know too well. The smaller group and rigorous routine of a wilderness trip allowed me to get to know the eight other students and three adult leaders in a unique way. We paddled together in rain or shine, shared tents, and worked in rotating teams of three to keep the trip running smoothly. Wood Crew gathered and split fallen branches for the fire; Camp Crew filtered drinking water, washed dishes, and set up tarps at our sites in case of rain; and Cook Crew prepared our meals of delicious trail food. In addition to our crews, we all stepped into the role of leader-of-the-day with a partner at some point on the trip. The leading pair’s responsibilities included briefing the group on the section of the map we would be traveling, mandating water breaks, and facilitating the evening meeting in which we reflected on our high and low points of the day. 

When I returned to campus that Saturday, I was sad to see this experience come to an end. But I was glad to know that I would keep with me a reminder of it in the form of new bonds, valuable outdoor skills, and memories of laughter and adventure that are sure to remain a vivid chapter of my semester experience.

Erica Erdenesanaa, Milton Academy, Milton, MA

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