Our Epic Mud Rove Tradition

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"I love the way Chewonki smells at low tide in the summer. Where else can one grow to love mud so much? Kenne-bec-bec"

Joe Selle

The tide is out, the sky is blue, and a large group of Chewonki participants is gathered at our Waterfront. They toe the line where dry land transitions into squishy brown clay. Some faces tremble with anticipation, others look timidly across the mud expanse, and nearly everyone’s nose twitches (the mud flats produce a strong marine scent).

Suddenly, a call rings out, and together the group plunges into the squelching mire. Some run and gleefully hurl themselves with a big splat! Others tiptoe with careful deliberation, trying mightily to remain clean-ish. Their care is for naught, though, because the mud spatters and splatters everywhere. The group lets out happy shouts and laughter as even the most cautious let their playful curiosity take hold. What happens if I hop in the mud? If I grab a big handful and squish it through my fingers? Can I draw mud designs on my arms and legs? How does it feel to lay down? Will I sink? Soon, the group is completely coated in brown mud, each with a big smile.

Is this scene familiar to you? If so, you’re not alone. The Mud Rove began in the late 1970s, and hundreds (maybe thousands!) of Chewonki campers, semester students, and staff have embraced the mud since.

“In the beginning, the rove was about exploring Chewonki Neck on foot while crossing trails, but never following them,” explains former Chewonki President Don Hudson. “We ended the experience by getting a little muddy and then going for a swim. Somewhere along the way, the hour-long exploration of the neck got lost, and the event became exclusively focused on the mud rove,” he continues.

The mud rove isn’t just about getting dirty, though. A recent student writes of his experience: “two weeks [prior], we studied salt marsh ecology. So, for us, this wasn’t just a pit of mud; we could identify every species around us and understood the pieces, patterns, and processes that drive the success of this ecosystem.”

Plus, even the most skeptical have to admit that there’s something undeniably fun about getting much dirtier than adults typically allow. Another student writes, “Before coming to Chewonki, the idea of covering my entire body in mud would have sounded worse than spending an entire day at the dentist. But the Mud Rove last Friday was one of the most enjoyable and liberating experiences I’ve had at Chewonki so far!”

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