Our 7/8th grade class went on a saltwater canoe leadership expedition on September 14-17, leaving from Chewonki Neck and ending our journey in Boothbay. On this trip students focused on honing outdoor skills, learning more about each other, and working together as a group. Back in the classroom this week, students have been working on personal narratives about the trip, as well as creating maps of our route using a quadrant drawing technique.
Here are some excerpts from each of our 8th graders’ writing to give you a taste of what our trip was like from their perspective. Each student chose a few paragraphs that they were most proud of, and I’ve pieced them together below so you get a window into both our trip experience, and the voice and writing style of each of our 8th grade authors. Enjoy!
– Kat Cassidy (7/8th Grade Teacher and Head of Elementary and Middle School)
Noah Arbuckle- Day 1
“Hold on!” Huckleberry shouted, as our cart filled to the brim with camping supplies and food careened down the treacherous hill, catching air over rocks. We dug our feet in deep, wincing as we waited for the inevitable, explosive collision- until we realized the cart was no longer pulling us along. Opening our eyes, we saw a fifteen-foot pine tree mere inches from toppling our cart and sending our gear flying into the stratosphere.
Slowly and carefully wheeling our cart the remaining distance to our gear pile by the water, we sat down for our well-deserved snack. After resting up, we grabbed our paddles and camping gear (over several trips) and hopped in our now-heavy canoes. The 10 mile journey ahead of us, spanning four days and three nights, wasn’t going to be easy, but hey, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be any fun.
Before getting on the water, we were assigned canoe partners, many of whom had never or almost never paddled before today. On the water it was the eighth graders’ jobs to help give advice and be the leader of the boat. Canoeing is inherently a team effort, unlike kayaking. Canoeing works best with two people, so communication and teamwork are incredibly important. On our journey to Ideal Point we encountered our first taste of fighting the tide, something which might just come back to haunt us.
Hunter Winn- Day 1
The river from which we were launching was calm and still. There was barely any current, no birds calling, and no animals crawling; the waterfront was silent except for us talking amongst ourselves and munching on our snacks. Our break was over and it was time to load the canoes. We learned who our canoe partners were and took group gear to take down to the dock. My partner was Franny; she chose the propane and I got stuck with the throne. For some context, the throne is basically a bucket with a toilet seat super-glued to the top.
Loading the boats was easy for me, mostly because it was just a bucket and my dry bag. But there were others who had to carry the Wannigan and the Duluth. Both bags are notorious for their weight. We finally got into the canoes and started heading to Ideal Point where we would spend the night. The paddle there was calm, but there was a current growing and pushing us inward. My canoe sometimes would get farther ahead of Hannah’s boat, which would mean we would have to stop. This would lead us to drifting down into Osprey Point’s shore, but we made it out.
When we finally passed the rock around Osprey, we saw the landing spot for Ideal. We were the third boat to get into the shore and dock. We waited for the other boats to catch up before we started to unload. Once we did, we took everything out and put it on land, but it was not near our campsite, so we had to carry it again to our tent group’s platform. The stay at Ideal was fun- it was the only night I got sleep. That night after dinner we had a dessert of brownies cooked over the fire. It was pretty good, and the brownie would melt in your mouth like ice cream.
Huckleberry Huber-Rees- Day 1
After that, we had a little bit of downtime before we had to go to bed. Noah and I sat on a rock overlooking the water, and observed the stars. It was a clear night, and because there was no light around, the stars were very visible, painted across the sky, piercing the dark cloak of the night. They illuminated the rocking waves, slowly bobbing up and down, bathed in a white light. Then a beautiful shooting star was cast across the sky, a bright flash, an arrow shot from Orion’s bow.
“Whoa!” Noah said.
“That’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen!” I replied.
Nyssa Wilkinson- Day 2
The next morning we woke up to dreary skies and misty rain. A light fog was hiding the land and water like a blanket, keeping the land from the warmth of the sun. Not the best wake-up call, but at least it wasn’t stormy. I started the fire for breakfast. At one point the fire got too big and caught the butter in one of the pans on fire. We had a nice hearty breakfast of French toast and sausages. Then we took down our tents and loaded the canoes. Before we left, we circled up around the map and Hannah showed us where we were going. It looked fairly short to me, and I thought we could probably make it there in two and a half hours at the most (I was very wrong). We pushed our canoes into the water and were off.
The minute I started paddling, I knew something was different. We were moving a lot slower with each stroke than we had been yesterday. Something was different — we had left an hour later than planned, due to how long the French toast took to make. Since we left so late, the tide had changed and become a flood tide, meaning the tide was coming in. As we paddled to the far shore of Oak Island, the wind began to pick up. We went slower and slower with each stroke, as the wind relentlessly pushed us back. By the time we had made it to Oak Island, we were all very ready for a rest. We stayed along the shore of Oak Island for the next 3 miles, so we could be a bit protected from the howling wind.
Huckleberry Huber-Rees- Day 2
We began this passage, and it was immediately incredibly hard. We paddled in this half-mile section for two and a half hours. We were barely moving. Letting up paddling would cost us half an hour at least. We looked to the right of us and saw a downed tree. We paddled for another 25 minutes and looked at the tree again, and we had barely moved past the trunk. This became our goal, to get past the tree on shore, and we used it as a motivator. Eventually, we did get past it, but we were still hardly moving. It felt as though a hand was pushing us back, we were spiders stuck in a jar. We kept making goals for ourselves, passing this buoy, that dock, and eventually, we arrived.
When we arrived, we all noticed the dark clouds were wrapped around our little island, like a cloak of darkness. Swarms of mosquitoes attacked, clouds of blood-sucking vampires. We quickly unloaded boats and set up tents, and right as I finished unpacking, thunder rolled through the bay, met with a bright flash of lightning, illuminating our tent, light bouncing across the walls. Rain pounded our tent, drops bouncing off of the rain fly, pooling on the ground. Another crash of thunder, this time very close to our little Castle (island) of fortitude. I became kind of anxious, thinking that we were stuck on this island, and anything could happen. I calmed myself down quickly, reassuring myself that we were on tent platforms and we would be fine. Then we were called for dinner, and we ate pasta hunkered down in our raingear. Everyone was very quiet, and we were all exhausted from the hard paddle the day before. We went back to our tent, and I quickly went to sleep.
Sinead Bowdish- Days 3 and 4
The next morning we woke up at 6 am and there wasn’t a single thought of wind. We had our canoes loaded and on the water by 8:45. The tide was going with us, so we all felt like we were flying. As we made our way through the Back Door, the tide got so strong that we only had to steer. We stopped for a quick snack at Beal Island then started off again.
As we made the last big crossing to Spectacle Island, which was where we planned to stay the night, a seal popped up next to one of the canoes. The seal followed us all the way to the island, as we sang Christmas carols and laughed. By the time we reached the island, the skies were blue and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. It took us only 2 hours to go the 5 miles to Spectacle.
Seals gazed distantly at us from the water. One of them laid on a cramped island, carefully watching us paddle by. Eventually, our canoes collided with the sunny shores of Spectacle Island. We dragged our canoes into a small path. They rested against each other, sheltered by the lush foliage of the island. In our down time, we walked back and forth across the beaches. Sea glass spilled out of our pockets as we collected thousands of tiny, dull shards that had accumulated on the shore. Brown, white, green, blue, even purple sea glass was piled upon a stump by the fire circle. We climbed upon rocks, lost in conversations. Underneath the sun, we laughed and smiled, sharing what must’ve been the best moment of this trip. After we’d gathered a bag full of colorful shards, we got to work. We had a dinner of burrito bowls and a pleasant fire which we toasted marshmallows over. Our fingers were sticky with S’mores, and we laughed, chattering as the smoke escaped into the sky. Conversations soon died out as we did dishes, and eventually retreated to our tents. Some tried to sleep, while others stayed up talking.
Day 4- Noah Arbuckle
The final day of our trip was an easy one and a half miles, but we were all so exhausted from the many days of canoeing that it felt agonizing. Thinking back on the trip, the parts of our adventure that felt awful at the time I now see in a rosy tint, because there could never have been the great highs of the trip without the bitter lows. Every aspect of this trip has been wrapped up in the Chewonki Mission Statement. The difficult sections inspired growth and perseverance, in our times on the islands we always appreciated the natural world and never left a trace that we were there, and most of all, we strengthened our community of both new and old students through shared challenges and success.