Backpacking in the Bigelows

Sitting on the Chewonki van, squished between Lilly on my left, diligently working on her eighth friendship bracelet of the week, and Shoshana, peacefully napping to my right, I begin to think back to just five days ago. I recall sitting in the same seat, wondering how my backpacking trip to the Bigelow mountain range would play out. What would my role in this lively group of 11 people be? How would we manage summiting three different peaks all while carrying five days worth of food and all of our gear on our backs? How would I fare being away from all of my cabin mates for almost an entire week for the first time in a month? Well, let me tell you, I was in for a pleasant surprise. Despite my reluctant start, this backcountry trip has definitely been one of my favorite and most memorable experiences here at Chewonki so far. 

I woke up each morning, fully cocooned in my sleeping bag, eager to find out what the day would bring. Every new day in the backcountry brought a new experience. Whether it was learning how to ‘proactively layer’ our clothes (as Hannah would put it), or mastering the technique of folding a wrap for lunch, minimizing any inevitable spillage. I could always count on something, some lesson or helpful tid-bit of information, to make tomorrow’s hike even more successful. 

Spending entire days on trail, never running out of things to talk about with my 11 new best buddies, is definitely something I miss most about my trip to the Appalachian Trail. Hearing stories upon stories about an array of different topics, (including but not limited to Sophie’s backcountry meal horror stories, and Lilly’s in-depth description of her employment at Papa Gino’s Pizzeria), reminiscing about favorite childhood shows, and creating a mental list of all of the different foods we would eat once we were back on campus, are just a few of the many things we discussed while spending time steadily marching in our single file line over the mountains. I found myself growing so close to the nine other students on my trip, it now feels like I’ve known them for years.

While the trip definitely had a few obstacles (broken tents, a hail storm or two, unexpectedly cold hands, and a sadly scarce supply of sunbutter, to name a few), the amazing group of people, and breath-taking views of fall foliage made the five day endeavor more fun than I could have possibly imagined. I will never forget summiting the third peak, Avery, and getting our first glimpses of sun that day, after hiking in a cloud for almost two hours. The collective sounds of excitement and glee we all shared, basking in the warm afternoon sun, munching on a hefty snack of Fritos and pretzels. The memories of our small but mighty group, huddled together reading our daily trip journal entries, and sharing our jokes and findings from the day’s hike each night, are ones I plan to hold close throughout the rest of my time at Chewonki, and beyond. 

-Sophia Kovacs, Morse High School, Bath, ME

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