Chelsea, Trailblazer Outdoor Orientation Advisor, writes about her experience participating in a Trailblazer Outdoor program for her Orientation
Trailblazer Outdoor… Where should I begin? I guess I can start from the beginning with my selection of a Trailblazer trip during summer Orientation. After I sent in my deposit I went onto the website to figure out how Orientation worked and how I could sign up. At first when I saw the Trailblazer option I thought it was required. Which I thought would be absolutely fantastic to go on a trip before Traditional Orientation! I fell in love with the school even more.
Reading through all of the impressive choices for Trailblazer trips made making a decision between them very difficult. I was torn between the community service options, because I loved it so much in high school, and the outdoor options. Initially I looked at the service trip to the Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center (MARC) and the Overnight Sea Canoe Adventure. I knew that going into school as a declared Marine Science major I would have time to meet plenty of other marine science majors that may have participated in that Trailblazer in my classes, so I chose the Overnight Sea Canoe Adventure. One reason I chose to go to school in Maine was to have access to more “outdoorsy” adventures like camping or hiking. This trip was perfect for me because I would find other people on the trip that liked “outdoorsy” things too.
I arrived early to check in because I was wicked excited and nervous for it to begin. Naturally I try to be the first one there. I did not end up being the first one there but I couldn’t distinguish between Orientation Leaders (OLs) and other students because everyone was friendly and smiling so I assumed they were all OLs. I realized one student was actually going on the trip with me and I started to feel less nervous and became more excited. Altogether, OLs and students, we waited on the lawn for the remaining students to arrive. A girl approached me and asked where she should put her bags. She mistook me for OL (foreshadowing perhaps?) because I was smiling at her! I later found out she would be my bunk mate and my tent mate. We ended up being roommates for the past two years!
Everyone going on the trip showed up and we were soon off on our journey. Remarkably it did not take us long to chat with each other in the van and become acquainted. We got to the Chewonki Foundation, which is where the Overnight Sea Canoe Adventure is held, met with our Chewonki guides, and started packing our things into the canoes.
Then we were off! We reached our destination, a small wooded island. We hauled up and tied the canoes to a tree so we could then set up our camp. The Chewonki guides demonstrated how to set up the tents so we would know how to do it ourselves for the remainder of the trip. There were three girls to each tent, two guys in another, and also a tent for our Trailblazer guides. After setting up camp we cooked our own dinners over the fire with the help of the Chewonki guides. Half of us prepared and made the dinner while the other half cleaned up. This rotation switched for every meal so everyone had a chance to do it all.
We sat around the fire, told stories, played icebreakers or team builders, and more importantly laughed! We had a great time. The guys bonded over their love for football and had realized they attended the same football camp. The girls bonded over not wanting to hear any more about football! But it was all in good fun. The next morning we had packed up our campsite, made breakfast, and set out on the canoes and made way to our next island camp! We paddled all day taking breaks for delicious GORP (Grains or Cheerios, Oats, Raisins, Peanuts, and Chocolate Chips). My canoe partner and I struggled against the current but we did not give up. Even when we lost sight of the rest of the group, we eventually caught up and spotted them waiting in a cove for us. It felt so great to persevere through the tide and finally reach the rest of the group. We then reached the island and did our routine of making camp, dinner, and hanging around a fire.
I really got to know other people and make friends through cooking meals together, paddling (or struggling) together, and laughing over the love/dislike of football! The girls in my tent eventually became my roommates because we all got along and thought, “Well if we can live in a tent together we can live in the residence hall!” Not that everyone will have the same experiences I had on my trip, I like to believe there was a great connection and understanding between us that will always be there. Trailblazer Outdoor will always be in my heart, and here I am, first as a student, then as an Orientation Leader and now an Orientation Advisor.