By Haley Ferrer
This past month, our teen overnight group, Expedition Champlain, set off from the museum with nine participants and three trip leaders Haley Ferrer, Mandy Smith and Laura Caldwell for an eight-day journey. The group rowed two of the museum’s 32′ pilot gigs, exploring remote sections of Lake Champlain, dodging challenging weather and ultimately reaching the Canadian border.
The adventurers arrived back at The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum with proud smiles on their faces and some sadness at the prospect of of letting go of a group that had bonded on this amazing journey. Trip leader Haley Ferrer kept a journal of their voyage and we’re happy to share it, and the group’s successful voyage, with you today:
Day 1: We rowed to Kingsland Bay, and beat a storm that was rolling through in the evening. Once our shelter was set up, we all sat around the chart and planned a route for the next 7 days. The rest of the evening was spent eating stir fry around the fire and really getting to know each other. The group became really close already just by the first night, which was super cool to witness.
Day 2: We rowed to North Pasture Beach at Shelburne Farms, and got an early start so that we could race another storm. The group had a really strong row, and we ended up getting to our site by lunch time. We ate some PB&Js and watched the storm roll right over us before heading up to the Farms to pet some goats and get some bread from the bakery. The group was really pushed to their limits that night when we “yum yum passed” a huge pot of ramen water with egg chunks in it around the circle.
Day 3: Our plan was to row to Valcour Island, but the heat and the energy of the group made the trip a little more tiresome than expected. The campers stood around the chart at lunch, and the 9 of them had a long discussion which resulted in them choosing to go to Law Island instead (which was a good call!). We camped right on the beach at law, and had some burritos and bean soup before listening to the weather and calling it a night.
Day 4: We had a 5 am wake up call this morning, as storms were expected to hit in the afternoon and we had 18 miles to row to Woods Island. The campers were determined to get the site before the storms hit, so we were pretty fast-moving on the water. We played a lot of games and sang a lot of songs while rowing, and before we knew it Woods Island was right on the horizon. Once there, we set up camp and created a shelter to prepare for the incoming storm. Even with calling NOAA and checking the radar frequently, the storm ended up being a lot more intense and violent than we expected. We were really exposed on our site, which was essentially a tall, rocky point that jets out southward into the lake and any incoming weather. The hail and the wind knocked down a large tree, which ended up falling on our shelter and a coupe of our tents (which were empty as we cleared the campers out of there before it fell). We all huddled in the outhouse and waited for the storm to pass. Once we returned to our campsite, we had to work together to try and lift up the tree using my hammock straps so that we could pull out any smooshed tents and gear. Most of our tents had rips or broken/bent poles, so we worked together to figure out how to make them function (a lot of duct tape and sticks were used in the process). The rest of the night was spent reflecting on the storm, making sure everyone was doing ok, and adapting to the unforeseen circumstances.
Day 5: We rowed to North Hero State Park, yet again trying to race an incoming storm. We ended up just making it to our site in time, but the last 200 yards or so we were fighting pretty intense headwinds and rain. For a little bit the wind was so strong that we were not covering any ground, but everyone ended up digging really deep and we pushed through to get there (it was a very intense scene, but a lot of the campers said that it was one of their favorite parts of the trip!). North Hero was a beautiful camp site, and we finally had the opportunity to relax and hang out as a group for a longer period of time. We did some group activities that night which required reflection and discussion, which I think was really valuable.
Day 6: We made it to Canada!!!!! It took us a few hours to learn the Canadian national anthem, but we were belting it in high spirits as we finally crossed the border! Everyone was really excited and proud, and we were officially able to title ourselves as international rowers. We stayed at North Hero again, had some cake for Wiley’s (Jaqueline’s dog) and Hugo’s dad’s birthday, and looked at the stars.
Day 7: Our last full day of rowing was a long one. We stopped for lunch at Hero’s Welcome, and got some celebratory sandwiches for an almost completed (and by no means easy) trip! We spent the night at a beautiful site on Butler Island, and ate a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. The campers found a ground fruit at the site which was SO exciting (as they are pretty rare these days). We ate the delicious ground fruit and played some group games before calling it a night.
Day 8: We rowed a little over a mile to the Kill Kare ramp, where we were picked up. That last half hour of rowing was definitely bitter sweet. Being able to finish this trip and have this amazing accomplishment under their belts was definitely an incredible and prideful moment for the campers, but everybody was certainly going to miss each other and the wonder of spending 8 full days in the backcountry.
Even though we were faced with some crazy weather and unforeseen circumstances, everyone welcomed the adversity with positive attitudes and determined spirits. I always enjoy those moments of uncertainty and unexpectedness in trips because they push the group to overcome physical and mental obstacles in ways that they may not have thought possible before. Not to mention they are a really powerful source of group unity and cohesion. I am very very proud of this group and everything that they accomplished over the 8 days, and they should be too!