We are excited to announce the route for the Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester coming in May. For the past decade we have been running this program during the summer, which has limited where we could go to those waterways that had water during the frequent summer droughts. By moving it back to May, it has opened it up to all of the rivers of Maine as they will be filled with spring high water.
We start the four weeks with a week at the field school. We will be getting people up to speed with axe safety in remote locations, cooking and baking on an open fire, knots essential for setting up camp, and a few other camp-oriented tasks. We will also be covering the main points of provisioning and packing food for expeditions. At the same time we are doing this, we begin our Engagé canoe curriculum, with an introduction to paddling, poling, and lining canoes. We start on our pond and on our section of the river, then move on to local waterways for short trips on the Blackwater River, St. Croix Stream and the Big Machias River. Every day builds on the day before it, every day people become more skilled and confident handling our big freight canoes.
The second week of the course we travel into the North Maine Woods to Baker Lake, at the headwaters of the St. John river. We’ll travel downstream the 105 miles to Allagash Village, practicing and gaining experience on the river, setting up camp, and exploring this remote waterway.
After a short resupply at the Field School, we’ll be off to the headwaters of the Aroostook River to float the 60 or so miles back to the field school. Our days are not simply downriver runs. They also include poling back up rapids, fishing, daily naturalist studies, and nailing down the fine details of living out of a canoe for an extended period of time.
It is a great experience living along remote rivers, cooking over an open fire, fishing for trout and, on the St. John, muskies, seeking out wild foods in the form of fiddleheads along the riverbanks, and just living the woods life. To me it means real freedom. Along the way participants will learn to paddle, pole, line and rescue canoes, pack for expeditions, cast a fly, read the sky for changes in the weather, and many other skills for a life lived in remote places.
Every year around this time I start to get excited to get out and live life on the land, with a paddle and pole as my motor, an open fire as my kitchen and an axe as my source of fuel. I look forward to camaraderie of the group and watching them go from strangers to a high-achieving team, as well as watching them as individuals come into their own as capable and confident in the wilderness where they rely on themselves and one another. It’s an amazing thing to witness. One of my common sayings is that skill development is all about the reps (repetitions), and this program gives people the opportunity to achieve those reps along beautiful wild rivers with an enthusiastic group of like-minded individuals. Who could ask for more than this?