St. Croix River
August 24 to 28
My three best friends and I have kept this annual tradition going for four years now, going back to about when we graduated college. Although it’s not that long, these trips and the associated memories are still very special to me.
I always find it so sad that as people grow up and their lives become busy and hectic, they lose connection with some of the people they were close with growing up. This yearly summer vacation/camping trip was our way of combating that and making sure we didn’t drift apart amidst all the hustle and bustle of life. And this is another reason why I love the wilderness: it creates a bond like nothing else.
This trip was another first for my friends. We did a week-long canoeing trip down the St. Croix river in Maine--my friend Danny’s idea. I had done this trip two times before with my scout troop and we all thought it was the perfect idea. I had all the connections to get it set up; I reached out to the outfitter who works with my former scout troop and we were able to rent the boats and plan out our course.
Over four days, we would cover 70 miles of the river while fishing, battling rapids, and navigating our way, all the while catching up and creating new memories of a fresh yearly trip.
This trip started on a beautiful Monday morning at the end of August. We arrived in Maine a few days early so we could acclimate, relax, and not have to stress about the long journey ahead. We spent the day eating delicious local food, I ate lobster for lunch and dinner that day and I was even surprised that the pizza out there was good too(nothing compares to a slice from NYC). As well as seeing a few of the sites frequented by tourists, and mentally preparing ourselves for a week in the elements.
The day of our departure was an early morning. We didn't say much to each other as we did our final packing, making sure we had everything we needed for the trip. Packing is alway a fine balance between bringing everything you'll need to be prepared but without bringing too much. There’s nothing worse than carrying a bunch of extra weight with equipment that you end up not using the whole trip. But the good part about a canoeing trip is you can bring some extra gear without having to worry about carrying all the extra weight.
We arrived at the boat port where the outfitter had two canoes waiting for us at the drop point. We loaded up our boats and spent about 20 minutes chatting with Bobby, our boat outfitter about our course, different emergency exit points, and a contact number that I could call on my satellite phone in case we needed help. After all our bases were covered we were off!!
All of us were full of excitement and energy, while shouting, yelling, and poking fun at the pair in the other boat. About then the calm started to set in, the soothing motion of the river along with the quiet scenery in the river banks, where we spotted some eagles and a blue heron started to get us in nature. Funnily enough that's when my anxiety started to set in amidst the calmness as I started remembering the morning when I packed my bag to make sure I brought all my essential gear.
Questions like I have my rain gear, but I can't remember where I put it...did I pack it at all? And did I bring enough snacks for myself? What if I start to get hungry and we run out of food? all flooded my head.
But I knew these questions couldn’t get answered until we set up camp. As my anxiety mounted, Jakub pointed towards a yellow sign hammered to a tree and asked, “What's that over there?” This snapped me back into the moment to take in the beauty around me. The sign was a campsite marker.
Our first day on the water was a success. Covering roughly 10 miles, we had some fun fishing and setting the pace for the rest of the week. We were fortunate to catch a lot of fish, they were all small and not cooking size but it was fun to catch and release. We finally got to our goal site and thankfully the perfect set up for the four of us. I was happy to be done with the boat for the day and back on dry land where I could stretch my legs. We set up a beautiful campsite together and I was very impressed with how the guys carried themselves. Last year's trip when we got to the campsite, I remember all the guys laying around as I was trying to fill them in on all the work that needed to get done before night fell. I asked them to collect firewood and they came back with a handful of twigs and punky wood.
Don't get me wrong: it was one of their first times camping in this fashion and I had a blast showing them the ropes, but it was also a lot of extra work for me. This time around was a different story. After we decided this was a suitable campsite and got our gear and packs out of the boats, the guys got right to work. Jakub grabbed an axe and saw and started gathering firewood. Dom was setting up tents and shelter. Danny was by the water securing the boats. I was so shocked I almost didn't know what job to do myself. As we set up camp I found relief seeing I had brought everything needed.
Or did I, We'll see how it plays out in part 2..........