The Tour de Salt

The Tour de Salt

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At Camp Chewonki, there is a pocket of time between the end of Session I and the start of Session II that belongs exclusively to seven-week campers. It’s one of the long haulers’ perks, sort of like unlocking a special bonus round of summer.

During the intersession last week, Heron campers (ages 11 and 12) from South Hall cabin undertook a never-been-done-before adventure, something counselor Shane Killen dubbed the “Tour de Salt”, while Gordy Hall cabin seven-weekers explored North Woods waters by canoe.

The Tour de Salt was a five-day saltwater canoe expedition down the Maine coast, featuring salt and vinegar potato chips, saltwater taffy, and a land-based finale at the Salt Pump Climbing Co. rock gym.

Herons Hudson, Jessie, James, and Arthur recently reflected on the trip before dinner: 

“It was a great trip,” said James. “I loved the variety of wildlife we saw: eagles, herons, crabs, ospreys, horseshoe crabs, lots of fish…” His voice drifted off with contentment. 

Hudson enjoyed setting up camp on a Sheepscot River island that showed no sign of human use. “We had to clear our own campsite there,” he said, eyes gleaming. “I felt like we were really far away from camp.” Arthur chimes in, “We actually weren’t too far from Chewonki but it felt so different.”

They paddled under three bridges, one dotted with birds’ nests; swam in the cold, salty Sheepscot on a roasting-hot day; and feasted on pita pizzas and brownies. They outlasted gnats and greenhead flies and managed to overcome the tide when it ran against them as they paddled from campsite to campsite. Jessie recalls the challenge and ultimate satisfaction of completing an 8.4-mile paddle one day. They got up at 3:30 a.m. another day in order to reach a special spot from which to watch the sunrise.

On the last day of intersession, the boys stepped back on land and tried their best to scale a 40-foot-high climbing wall at Salt Pump Climbing Co. in Scarborough. Stopping at a well-known gelato shop (salted caramel, anyone?) was the perfect way to end this adventure.

Harrison Chapin (Boys Camp ‘12-’15; Boatbuilders ‘16; Maine Appalachian Trail ‘17; Gaspe Expedition ‘18 and one of our 2019 counselors) also gave a detailed account of their Tour de Salt adventures, beginning with departure from the waterfront and the first night, on Ideal Point, and ending with gelato. Chapin described the fascination of watching horseshoe crabs burrowing into the mud at low tide and how campers who have been active in the Outdoor Living Skills activity applied their training in the field. 

Chapin is a veteran Chewonki camper and wilderness tripper and says he is “super, super, super glad” he chose to return as a counselor. “I wanted to feel young again, to have that curiosity and enthusiasm, to feel that thirst for adventure,” he says. A New York City native, he is passionate about the outdoors and appreciates the strong camp community. “I have made my best friends here,” he says. 

He especially enjoys the seven-week campers because “They are really dedicated to being here. And we really get to know each other well.”

Meanwhile, the Gordy Hall Ospreys (ages 13 – 15) were relishing their own intersession experience. Cabin representative Stuart (Boys Camp ‘14-’19) described their journey to Chewonki’s Big Eddy Cabins and Campground on the West Branch of the Penobscot River and Fourth Debsconeag Lake site, both in the heart of Maine’s North Woods, the perfect place to enjoy the true wilderness and refine one’s canoe paddling skills.

 

The group also visited Baxter State Park’s Blueberry Ledges, where Katahdin Stream runs in shimmering sheets over a series of granite shelves, an ideal place for cool sliding on a hot day–and wearing a hole in your bathing suit. 

Stuart, a Charleston, South Carolina native, is a longtime seven-weeker, and it’s clear that Camp Chewonki belongs to him as much as to any counselor. He’s done five intersession trips and sees them as an extra adventure and a transition to Session II. At this point in his life, “I’m very at home here,” he says, noting that, being a Charlestonian, he barely blinked at last weekend’s hot Maine weather.