Saco River Canoe Trip
June 10,11 and 12, 2011
In June we did a major canoe trip along the Saco River in Maine with 24 boys and 6 adults. We got an early start on Friday and arrived after dark at The Landing campsite in Fryeburg, ME. As usual the patrols worked swiftly to get the tents set up. For the first time this year the boys decided not to have a campfire Friday night because of the late arrival and the early start we would need in the morning. However after setting up the camp there was still time for a massive game of Ninja.
We woke up early on Saturday and each patrol cooked a hot breakfast. After cleaning up the breakfast dishes and getting the site straightened up we headed up to the Sacobound Headquarters. We tooke care of all of the paperwork and briefed the PLC about the plan and challenges we would be facing then headed over to the boat launch.
At the launch each patrol got equipped with PFDs and paddles and paired off with canoes. We then provided a safety briefing and reviewed the paddling techniques that had been presented at the previous Troop meeting. Each pair of boys did a great job launching their canoes and before we knew it we had all 15 canoes in the water and heading down stream. It was a great start. Although the weather was a little cooler than expected there was no rain in the morning.
At about the 3 mile mark we pulled over and took a quick bathroom break and made a few adjustments to the pairing of the boys to better distribute new and experienced paddlers. Everyone then hopped back into the canoes and we continued down the river.
After another 3 miles, at the 6 mile mark we pulled over to an island in the river and had lunch. The boys had prepared sandwiches in the morning so there was no cooking required for lunch. The only problem was that being an island there was nowhere to go to the bathroom so the boys set up a ferry to the shore. This worked well.
During lunch it started to rain a bit and we all put on our rain gear. We went just a little further down the river before reaching the Swans Falls Dam. This is where we had to portage the canoes. This involved pulling all of the canoes out of the water and walking them around the dam for about 300 yards. Everyone helped with this but the older, stronger scouts really stepped up and helped get everyone to the other side. There was also another scout troop pulling out here as well so we gave them a hand with some of their canoes as well.
As we continued down beyond the dam the rain continued. There were several canoe races and a few battles often dominated by the Red Pearl (a red canoe manned by the Pearl Brothers that was a force to be reckoned with). However as we got closer to the campground everyone was getting wetter and colder.
At about 5:00 pm we reached the pull out at the campground cold and wet. Once the paddling stopped and we stepped onto shore a few of the smaller scouts got pretty cold. We took them immediately to the tents to get them dry and warm.
This is where the older boys really stepped up. After 11 miles of canoeing we were all a bit tired, wet and chilly. And although dry clothes and some rest in a tent was what was on everyone’s mind, the older boys led the effort of getting the 15 canoes out of the water along with the gear. It was a challenge that they absolutely overcame.
The next challenge was starting a fire in the rain with fairly saturated wood. Since the boys had really pushed through and done such a good job the adults decided to take care of the fire while the boys got dry and warm. After a rough start, Mr. DiMartino stepped in and worked his magic to produce a fire the boys could maintain.
Due to the weather we decided to not do a second day of canoeing. 11 miles was a great canoe trip and by stopping there we were able to sleep in a little on Sunday and take our time with breakfast and breaking down camp. On the way home we stopped at a rest stop for lunch.
This was a challenging trip. Not only was a it a lot of canoeing the weather turned out to be a bit cooler and wetter than expected. Several of the boys discovered they had not come as prepared as they should have and they now understand the importance of bringing warm clothes and rain gear. This trip also represented one of the great things about scouting. Challenging trips like this provide an opportunity for the older boys to step up and lead the troop in ways that a nice weather, easy trip does not. It was great to see how well they did working with the younger scouts and pushing through the more difficult times for the good of the troop. I am very proud of the team work they exhibited.