Bigelow Mountains Expedition, Maine

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With no roof over our heads, we slept in a new campsite each night, carried and made our own food, and continuously moved ourselves and our gear for seven days by human power alone! The men of Youth Excellence Project (YEP) covered over 40 miles of terrain on our recent expedition to Maine, crossing the Bigelow Mountains and paddling back to our start via the great Flagstaff Lake. We endured crazed mosquitoes, rain, wind, heat and cold. Though, as the Norwegian proverb says, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

While a new experience for some, the guys hiked and paddled themselves well, mastering skills quickly, often arriving in camp with down-time to spare. Cards were played, footballs tossed, cannon ball jumps perfected, and Smore’s roasted. Perhaps most impressive though, was that the guys spent the entire trip without any of their technological devices! We didn’t hear complaints or even passing statements of missing the connection. Like a return to the past, perhaps a childhood you remember, we spent the trip in the moment and living life to the fullest.

No expedition is truly complete without a good dose of character-building rain. On a particularly memorable day later in the trip, we got doused! After spending the morning packing up, we canoed most of the day in a chilly rain. The break in the clouds after lunch was a joyous moment! The late afternoon was spent playing games, completing a fire-building contest and writing letters to our future selves (which will be mailed in a year). As the sun set that night, the morale of the group was jovial as folks took an evening paddle and leaped into the lake practicing water acrobatics. It was the kind of day that makes a person feel like they are in the right place at the right time.

A sunrise hike up Avery Peak, requiring a determined 4:30 am wake up, marks a final big trip highlight. Climbing in the dark, we enjoyed an amazing 360 degree view of red, orange, and purple clouds, views of distant mountain peaks and pristine lakes below. Additional rewards for our efforts were a peaceful and serene nap on the summit and some freshly cooked up oats. You can’t beat breakfast in bed with a view like that!

This trip provided incredible opportunities for the group to sort out interpersonal challenges, personal struggles, and to push outside of comfort zones.  This experience was a rite-of-passage journey, a return to nature and a leadership challenge that promoted personal growth and strong group cohesion. It was not an easy or comfortable experience, but it was fun and exciting. We did NOT spend the week camping…. we went on an EXPEDITION! 🙂

It was such an honor to work with Damion, Ryan, Jim and The CT Youth Excellence Project (YEP) on this expedition. YEP’s support and belief in Outside Perspectives from the start has been incredible and working with their youth has been a perfect match. These young men worked really hard on this expedition and pushed themselves beyond their own beliefs about their personal capabilities at times. It was really amazing to see them work as a team and to support each other through physically and emotionally challenging situations. Most memorable for us, was the emergence of the leadership skills we observed.  We look forward to seeing this group and the returning youth leaders again next year!

Until next time….. CHEERS from co-founders and instructors, Shannon & Nicky

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