The Great North Woods…Among Mountains, Lakes and Rivers
At Kawanhee’s core is an appreciation for the natural world and our place in it. Kawanhee’s singular setting, on a pristine lake among some of Maine’s finest mountains, inspires a sense of wonder and respect for what the natural world has to offer. Our primary goal has been to define and strengthen the values we hope to instill in our campers as future stewards of our local lakes and mountains, as well as of our world at large. Some of our campers will participate in the local loon count, and others may be involved with the local land trust in monitoring water quality in the lake or learning about invasive species. The hope is that all Kawanheeans will become more conscientious citizens of the world, walk more lightly on the earth and practice “leave no trace” in the wild.
Kawanhee Tripping Program
Kawanhee is fortunate for having several great hikes within a 15-minute drive of camp. In fact, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s authoritative Guide to Maine Mountains dedicates one of its seven chapters to mountains located in Weld, Kawanhee’s home.
The Tumbledown Range
At the head of Lake Webb rise the several peaks of Tumbledown, Little Jackson, Big Jackson, and Blueberry Mountains. Of these, Tumbledown is best known. It features several trails of varying degrees of difficulty, a strikingly steep and iconic profile and a stunning pond, suitable for swimming and fishing, near the summit. Kawanhee hikers regularly meet groups from other summer camps who have travelled hours to experience what is widely regarded as one of Maine’s most gratifying day hikes.
This is a favorite of younger campers who are tackling their first serious summit, as well as older guys training for more difficult treks later in the season. The summit affords great views of Lake Webb and the Tumbledown Range from the East.
One of Maine’s state parks and the local high school are named after this mountain, located about fifteen minutes from camp. Until the 1960’s, the summit was home to a fire look-out staffed by the Maine Forest Service. These days, the look-out’s cabin is gone, replaced by a sturdy tower that affords fantastic 360-degree views.
There is no trip in New England that surpasses the one to Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain, and declared by experienced mountain climbers the most spectacular and beautiful elevation east of the Rockies. Thrusting its spruce-clad slopes and rocky summit a mile into the clouds, this giant of the East is the first spot in the United States to greet the morning sun. Katahdin is typically a four-day trip, with three nights of camping in Baxter State Park.
Appalachian Trail Trek
We always have some hardy souls who want to test their mettle by spending a few days on the Appalachian Trail, covering dozens of miles and several summits bearing their gear on their backs. The Mahoosucs or the Bigelow Range are among the A.T. destinations Kawanhee trekkers have done in recent summers.
Maine’s primary drainages include the Androscoggin, the Kennebec and the Penobscot, all of which flow to the Atlantic. We paddle all of these, along with the Allagash and the St. Croix.
The Androscoggin and Kennebec Rivers are long waterways offering a variety of paddling conditions, including intermittent Class 1 and Class 2 rapids, a perfect environment for practicing basic whitwater canoeing and kayaking skills. Each summer we also run rafting trips to the Kennebec Gorge, one of the best-known whitewater destinations in the East. We contract with a professional rafting outfitter that provides guides to help us navigate the Gorge’s Class 3, 4 and 5 rapids.
The storied Allagash introduces Kawanhee paddlers to the Maine North Woods, the most remote and unspoiled expanse of land east of the Mississippi River. Through this dense wilderness snakes a storied river long known as a coveted destination for expedition canoeing. Our older boys, participants in the Leadership Training Program, will canoe approximately fifty miles over the course of five days, stopping each evening to set up camp, prepare a fire and cook dinner on the riverbank. Moose, bald eagles, beaver and other wildlife are abundant. This is one of those trips that create lifelong memories and, in many cases, lifelong friends.
The St. Croix
This is a canoe trip of several days’ duration that traces the border between eastern Maine and the western border of New Brunswick, Canada. Like the Allagash, it is a challenging river trip offered to our older campers. The river features intermittent rapids and remote campsites along the riverbanks.
The West Branch of the Penobscot
This is the wilderness river made famous by Henry David Thoreau in the 19th century. In the company of a Native American guide, Thoreau travelled up the West Branch on his way to Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak. Kawanhee’s paddlers trace the same route for three days, enjoying the stunning scenery and idyllic campsites. Lobster Lake, one of Maine’s most beautiful bodies of water, can be accessed from the West Branch and offers a great place to spend the night. The West Branch is an ideal river for poling.
Monhegan Island Trip
The three-day excursion to Monhegan Island, a picturesque fishing and arts community twelve miles off the coast, is the most popular trip we offer and is open to boys of all ages. Given our long history with Monhegan (almost 70 years), Kawanhee is privileged to be the only island visitors permitted to camp in the island’s public spaces. Several generations of campers have fond memories of hiking the perimeter of the island, taking-in the dramatic cliffs, bluffs and crashing surf, visiting the shipwreck, flying kites and playing horseshoes. Years later, they recall their own particular images of this special place. They may include the late-day sun’s soft reflection off the Atlantic, the briny breeze of a Monhegan night, the accumulated heat of our tents, the rhythmic sweep of the lighthouse beacon, the warmly lit windows of the cottages below, the exhilaration of diving from the town wharf into the bracing Atlantic or catching a cod or other groundfish, and on and on.
Campcraft & Junior Maine Guide
For many, “camping out” is one of the great joys of boyhood. Many first-time campers arrive with the dream of sleeping in a tent or under the stars and preparing meals over an open fire. Our campcraft program offers instruction in these arts of outdoor living. Boys learn how to prepare for a trip, choose a campsite and set-up camp, build a fire, use a map and compass, cook a meal, and so on. Skills learned at camp can be applied during overnight trips in the outback.
At a camper’s option, this instruction can include traditional skills employed by Native Americans. Every summer, we contract with the founders of the Koviashuvik Local Living School (www.koviashuvik.com) to offer instruction in the making of wooden spoons and bowls, packbasket weaving, moccasin-making, kindling fires without matches or accelerants, and other primitive arts.
A natural extension of an interest in camping is participation in the Junior Maine Guide program, sponsored by the State of Maine and available to campers at least fourteen years of age. Kawanhee is one of about a dozen camps in Maine that sends JMG candidates to a remote testing camp for several days, to be evaluated by registered Maine guides. Testing camp is the culmination of several weeks of intensive preparation in camp, building skills such as first aid, axemanship, orienteering, wet-weather fire-building, personal shelters, canoeing, menu-planning and campfire cooking, among others. Although JMG is considered a two-summer endeavor, some candidates are able to pass the requisite number of tests and earn their JMG in one summer. Among Kawanhee accomplishments, JMG is considered one of the most prestigious.
Kawanhee’s Challenge Course, which includes a 40-foot climbing tower and various high and low elements, was constructed by Project Adventure almost twenty years ago. In the years since, the facility and equipment has been carefully inspected and maintained. In the fall of 2017, an ambitious three-year expansion of the Challenge Course was completed. The facility is much in demand, not only by Kawanhee’s campers during the summer, but also by authorized off-season groups who drive a considerable distance to experience one of the best challenge courses in Maine.
The Challenge Course is a model of experiential learning that involves participants in a variety of group and solo activities aimed at developing strength, confidence, problem-solving skills, trust in others and cooperation within a team. At various points during the season, those with interest can test their climbing skills by partaking in rock-climbing trips guided by seasoned outfitters.
The camp environment is an unusually rich laboratory for learning about the natural world, with plant and animal life in abundance. Our nature study program is hands-on. Campers spend time in the field in and around camp, directly observing birds, insects, land-based animals and flora and the web of relationships among these life forms. Counselors may take their lodge groups out to the athletic field after dark to watch a meteor shower, practice identification of constellations, and, if the conditions are just right, behold the northern lights. By day, there are the camp chickens and the camp garden that need tending. There are also opportunities for campers to collaborate with members of the Webb Lake Association to participate in the annual loon count, monitor water quality in Lake Webb, and inspect the lake for evidence of invasive plant species. For those interested, John Bell, a year-round Weld resident and life-long fisherman, is available to offer advice on successful fishing in Lake Webb and fly fishing instruction for those who want to test their new skills on nearby streams. Farther afield, boys may take trips to the local organic farm or to the nearby Swift River for gold-panning. Such intimate contact with the natural world inspires campers and counselors alike to become more appreciative and mindful citizens of the world.