So last weekend, all of us were preparing for wilderness trip, and Saturday was taken up completely by a trip to the Common Ground Country Fair, where all of the Chewonki students volunteered with the trash and recycling crew of the fair so we could get free admission. It was crazy so I didn’t get to write but here I am again, documenting things.
Common Ground was refreshing for sure. It was the first time I’d been off campus for almost 3 weeks, so it felt pretty monumental. We had about an hour car ride until we reached the spot, at which point we all unloaded and began to explore. It was very much an agricultural fair, so there were a lot of tents dedicated to herbs which made me feel right at home. There were tents selling succulents and mushrooms, a blacksmith shop, vintage clothing, chair makers, you name it. And, of course, there were tons of food vendors. I bought a tiny jar of cream honey and ate about half of it with my finger, and walked around barefoot all day. Surprisingly enough, they require you to wear shoes at Chewonki which is kind of a bummer so the day at the fair was a nice change. Sometime near the middle of the day, I worked for an hour helping people sort trash, compost, and recycling into different containers. My partner at the station was a guy named Pete who talked to me about sustainability. Later, I stumbled upon an artist collective tent outside which hung huge, incredibly detailed and absolutely gorgeous fabric banners advocating for citizens rights, social justice, and the environment. They all told a story, whether it be the history of Mesoamerica or the true cost of coal, and featured insects as all of the characters. The kind of thing you could look at for hours and still not notice every bit. After that, I got a smoothie and walked through the farmer’s market at the far end of the fair. I also played a 7 minute long game of caution to the wind chess right before we had to leave, and ate an apple straight from the tree. That night, we had a bonfire back on campus and it felt very campy and sweet.
Come Monday, my wilderness trip group travelled 4 hours North to the St. Croix river which is an international waterway on the border of Canada. This meant that while we were canoeing, the bank to our left was Canada, and the right bank was Maine. We weren’t allowed to step foot on the left, though, so all of the places we camped were American. Never have I ever seen a less protected country border. There were 5 other wilderness trips including canoeing, sea kayaking, and backpacking, so each group was only about 10 people. This was cool because I got to know people I hadn’t spoken to much before.
We began our journey by packing all of our things into drybags and loading 6 canoes onto a big trailer. I learned several hitches to tie all the boats onto the trailer, and then later when we reached the water I learned how to properly tie gear into the boats so we wouldn’t lose it if we flipped over. This river was not flat water. Our trip was one of the only ones that encountered rapids. I learned how to steer by edging, and how better to steer in general. On our way, we saw 6 bald eagles, and my muscles got crazy sore from paddling 9 or 10 miles every day. We also hit some rocks during the faster water, occasionally got stuck in shallower parts, and banged up the boats a little. One night, we decided to sleep outside the tent because it was so warm, and almost got stormed on at 4 am. Luckily, we made it to shelter in time. We saw regular lightning as well as heat lightning, and cooked with a little too much cheese, but it was all good. Overall, a very cool experience. I could have stayed off the grid for way longer, but surprisingly I was glad to be back on campus. Even though I’ve known people here for less than a month, the prospect of seeing some of them again after a week was exciting.
Also, the picture for this post is me looking at birds on science field trip two Thursdays ago. I wrote a pretty bang up species account, if I do say so myself. Alexis Grillo took this picture and I snatched it off the Chewonki Flickr, so if you want to see more pictures the link is here.
PS: I now can identify hemlocks and cedars in addition to spruces, firs, and pines, as well as several types of seaweed and some snails! Wowza. This kid is learning things.