The falling leaves of warm colors interrupt the stillness of the Moose River. The water falls off my paddle as I take it out of the water and then back in. A kingfisher swoops through the air from one side of the river to the other. Laughter from my new family surrounds me as I paddle my way down the Moose River in my canoe.
The mouth of the Moose River was very shallow and almost dry. We paddled over beaver dams and pushed our canoes through a shallow, sandy stream for what felt like a half a mile. Each day felt a little longer.
When I look back on the trip, I remember when I paddled in the solo canoe for 12 miles on the third day. I remember the smell of the fall leaves and the ferns shriveling to the ground and rotting into the earth. I remember the stories and conversations we had and shared throughout the day. I remember how my hands and back ached from doing the same movements for hours on end. I remember the reflections in the stillness of the river, revealing the underwater world just below the hull of my canoe. I remember the joy I felt that spread throughout every inch of my body.
The last morning, we woke up at 5:00 am, ate breakfast, packed up the campsite, and left by 6:00 am. We had to load into the van and get on our way early because we had to be back on the Chewonki campus by noon. The ride back to Chewonki was music-filled and sleepy. My friends and I sang our lungs out to “American Pie,” but we wrote our own chorus lyrics that told the story of our wilderness trip:
Sigh, sigh, We wake up at sunrise,
Took our boats down to Moose River,
But Moose River was dry,
Gordy girls paddle until we cry,
Singing this will be the day that we die,
But yet another day we survived.
After a 4-hour van ride back to campus, we unloaded our gear and boats, and said our goodbyes to one of our wilderness trip leaders. An unexpected feeling of sadness came over me as I unloaded my dry bag into my cabin. It was amazing coming back to Chewonki and talking to other students about their trips, but it was also sad to realize that I will never be able to have that amazing, laughter-filled canoeing experience with the same people ever again.
Wren Fraser, Washington Academy, Perry, Maine