“Alone I shoulder the sky & hurl my defiance & shout the song of the conqueror to the four winds, earth, sea, sun, moon & stars. I live! – Everett Ruess (1914-1934)
Seeing this primal exhilaration, this barbaric yawp in a camper’s smile after he just summited a mountain or completed a hard paddle has been the proudest achievement of my summer. Birch Rock’s trip program provides the unique experience for each camper for this triumph. Regardless of age or skill level, every camper is given the opportunity to spend a few nights out of camp on a backpacking or canoeing trip in the wilderness (7-weekers get to go out twice!). These trips include their fair share of hardships, whether it is an exhausting hike or inclement weather, but overcoming these challenges are some of the touchstone moments of cabin bonding and personal achievement and growth for each camper. I have been overwhelmingly impressed with the way campers get motivated and overcome what they thought impossible while lifting and supporting each other along the way. Campers leave trips with new skills and a newfound appreciation for the serenity of the Maine woods.
Birch Rock offers a variety of wilderness trips for each age group. The youngest campers in the Otter age group (8-10 years old) go on overnight trips to the nearby Crooked River or Kangamangas River. For many of these campers this is their first time spending a night in the woods. They really get a kick out of cooking hot dogs (and S’mores) over a fire, swimming in the gentle rapids, going on a short day-hike and playing in their tents and sleeping bags.
The next oldest age groups, the Bobcats & Wolves (11-13 years old), venture out on three-day, two-night excursions that allow campers to start to fully immerse themselves in the wild and challenge themselves with some more substantial and physically demanding trips. This year, we took these age groups on canoeing trips to Flagstaff Lake and the Androscoggin River and backpacking trips to Carter Dome, Saddleback, Bigelow, and the Mahoosucs. This was also the age group that came with me on Birch Rock’s first EVER sea kayaking trip to Chewonki Neck near Wiscasset, Maine. This is a beautiful part of Maine and we were able to experience it from our boats on the water as we explored the surrounding inlets and coastline. This was an incredible trip and I hope to continue to take out more sea kayaking trips and expand this part of our program in future years!
Campers in the oldest age group, the Bears (14-15 years old) accomplish our most challenging and ambitious trips. They leave on four-day journeys to the Presidential Range and Rangeley Lake. Many of these campers have been at camp for multiple summers and some are often veterans of the Maine Wilderness Adventure. They appreciate the time out of camp to seek out new challenges as well as relish their last weeks together. I was also able to take those campers from this age group that were interested on a mountain biking trip to Bradbury State Park.
Trips were some of my most memorable moments as a camper, and it was truly a privilege to be leading trips for Birch Rock this summer. This was a fantastic summer for the trip program and I am grateful for the opportunity to be out in the wilderness with every camper. I would like to thank all of them for their effort, helpfulness, and positive attitudes that made each trip fun, safe, and successful. I hope to see you all next year! Seek and you shall find!
– Joe Cohen, Trip Leader
“I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities.”