At Chewonki, the George River Expedition is the ultimate. It’s for our eldest students, 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds who have extensive outdoor experience and the desire and grit to travel 1,400 miles north, battle galaxies of black flies and mosquitoes, and paddle more than 400 miles along a remote river running north through Quebec’s boreal forest and subarctic barrens into Ungava Bay. The George is truly an expedition, in a breathtaking landscape that hosts caribou, wolves, and relics of ancient native encampments. Every one of the adventurers on this summer’s George River trip is a veteran of multiple Chewonki experiences, which makes Director of Wilderness Trips Emma Carlson very happy. Co-leaders Nate Smith and Jen Adams sent word a few days ago that the group was paddling through a chilly downpour but Carlson is confident that these students are up to the challenge. Four of the students have now been on three Chewonki Wilderness Trips together. Gabe Moldenhauer of New York City, Ellie Jacoby of Maine, Liam Duran of Connecticut, and Stella Moreno of California landed on the Maine North Woods Canoe trip in 2014, and as they paddled the West Branch of the Penobscot and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, they “forged a strong friendship” and hatched “a plan to stick together,” explains Carlson. In 2015, with the George River in their sights and the desire to strengthen their paddling skills, they signed up together for the Umbagog Whitewater Kayaking trip. Jacoby had three summers of Chewonki girls’ programs (and three older siblings who all did the George River Expedition) before she began tripping. Moreno also did three summers of girls’ programs and was a Maine Coast Semester student last fall. Duran had a year of Boys Camp and our West Branch Explorers trip under his belt. The other two expeditioners also know Chewonki well: Jesse Federico is a four-year alumnus of Boys’ Camp and went on the Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail trip last summer. And Kirah Despres-Bowman spent four summers at Chewonki girls’ camp, two on girls’ trips, and one on the Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail trip. In short, these expeditioners were packing a wealth of field experience as they prepared for this summer. “These long-term relationships with Chewonki are wonderful,” says Carlson. “They allow students to get the most out of their time with us. And we love getting to know them deeply and watching them learn and grow. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of these George River alumni become future trip leaders.” This weekend, she’ll be welcoming home six students with yet another Chewonki adventure in their backpacks.