Category Archives: Campers write

Trip Report: ONG BAK

This 2016 trip report was written by Alex S. (age 13). Illustrations by Daniel O. (age 9).

ONG BAK (Oarsmen Now Going Backwards Along the Kennebec) is a 4-day, 3-night rowing trip along the Kennebec River. It covers 40-50 miles and was an extremely exciting adventure.

Day 1

Our journey began with a 30-minute drive to a boat ramp. We drove through Waterville very slowly, for we had five row boats strapped to our trailer. Once we dropped our boats in the water, we had an easy five-mile row to our first campsite. It was a beautiful day, not a single cloud in the sky and the sun shimmering on the water. After we pulled in to our campsite, we hauled up our boats and brought all of our group gear to the campsite. Everyone took a rest hour, and eventually we had dinner, created a fire, and had a very relaxing evening.

Day 2

A second day started with a 7:00 wake-up to breakfast burritos cooked by “Master Chef Noah Brodsky and assistant Jacob Ronson.” We finished breakfast, got in our boats, and began rowing. After eight miles of easy rowing, we arrived at our grassy, “urban” campsite. It was only 11:30, so we had lunch, a dip, and a long rest hour. After the mellow afternoon, we had some fantastic spammies for dinner and entertainment provided by a band playing in the town of Hallowell right across the river. It was great weather and a very enjoyable day. We wound down the day in high spirits, played some Frisbee, and danced until sundown.

Day 3

Our third day was strenuous. It commenced with oatmeal overloaded with M&Ms and almonds. We started with a leisurely row. As the day went on, the wind started to pick up, and by mid-day there were whitecaps on the river.   The last four miles was the most difficult day of rowing I had ever had – until the next day! Though we hugged the shore, there was still a large headwind that was extremely hard to row through. We even had to cross the river multiple times and had to row as hard as we could through the waves and wind. Eventually, after hours of battling the wind, we arrived at our magnificent campsite called Swan Island. We stayed in lean-tos along the edge of a lawn. We played Frisbee and had gado-gado (peanut pasta) for dinner and prepared for our last day, the most challenging of all.

Day 4

We awoke at 5 a.m., for we had a long day ahead of us.   Our pickup was at 1:00, and we really wanted to make it on time. We loaded our boats and left camp at around 6:30. We rowed along Swan Island, and as we approached the end of the island, the river started to open up more and more and the wind started to pick up. The river continued for many miles of brutal wind. Getting closer to our pickup, we reached the Chops, a narrow strip of river surrounded by radio towers, with whirlpools in the water. The river continued around island and in curves along the land. As our glorious adventure came to a close, there was still one more arduous section of our journey to complete, the Bath Iron Works. There was one last mile of the biggest headwind and monstrous waves. The kept rowing through the tempestuous waves. Our blisters were bleeding, but we just had to keep going, for we had no choice. Everyone was screaming words of encouragement. Finally, after hours of rowing, we reached our destination. We put our boats on the trailer and were treated to lunch at Fat Boy’s, a famous drive-in in Brunswick. It was an awesome trip and and a fantastic experience.


My Helpful Horse Henry

Written by camper Tom S. and published in the 2017 winter edition of the Pine Needle.

I volunteer year-round with an organization called Horseability. My love for horses began at Horseability when I was a toddler recovering from a birth injury. My success in traditional physical and occupational therapy was slow and difficult. My parents, looking for something different to help with my strength and mobility, found a program offering hippotherapy. “Hippos” is the Greek word for horse. Hippotherapy translates as therapy with the use of a horse to promote motor planning abilities. It also stimulates the central nervous system and activates weak muscles. Therapy can be done with or without a saddle and is given by a physical or occupational therapist. The goal is to improve the rider’s posture, mobility and balance. The greatest gains in my recovery came from hippotherapy. For the first time, the therapy I needed did not hurt. My therapy horse, Henry, became a beloved teacher and I could not get enough time in hippotherapy.

As I healed, I moved into therapeutic riding (actual horseback riding instruction) and now I am an equestrian and compete on the IEA team for my home barn. I have never forgotten how it feels to be in hippotherapy. It takes a tremendous amount of courage. I work in any capacity needed at Horseability but I am always drawn to hippotherapy sessions.   In my role as a sidewalker, I provide both physical and emotional support to the rider. If I am working as a leader, I am guiding the horse through the session.

There are of course many barn chores to be completed. Often my time is spent working in the barn grooming horses and tacking them for their lessons. One of my favorite chores is working when there is a 15-ton hay delivery to the barn. The hay is sent up to the loft on a conveyor belt from a tractor-trailer. The bales are very heavy and we work as a team to catch and stack the hay.

Horseability riders in the therapeutic riding program have the opportunity to showcase their skills in the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities. I enjoy assisting at their competitions and celebrating their successes.

As soon as I return home from Pine Island in August, I volunteer at Horseability’s week-long camp for individuals with special needs. It’s a great week sharing the joy of horses through equine-centered activities!

I work at Horseability every weekend and during school vacations. My favorite horse in the herd is named Gunther. He’s a chestnut Belgian Draft horse born in 1992. In his past he was a jousting horse. He is a gentle soul and a blessing to everyone at Horseability.


Summer Photos and Stories

Pine Island’s 115th season was another great one! Our campers earned ranks in their favorite activities and built solid shelters in woodcraft, well-crafted projects in the workshop, and most importantly, a community in which each boy’s participation and energy was needed. They also logged an impressive number of miles on the trails and waterways of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Sixteen boys earned their 50-mile patch, 13 earned their 100-mile patch, 10 earned their 150- and 200-mile patches, 12 earned their 250-mile patch, and 11 boys passed their 250 career mile mark this summer. That’s a lot of miles! It was an incredible summer and we’re grateful to our campers, parents, staff and volunteers for making this season such a success.
For some more insight into our summer, you can view photos from camp and the trail and read the Mid-Summer Pine Needle, a terrific collection of camper articles, poetry, and art.   Enjoy!

Outside the Box by Henry S.

The Pine Needle is on its way to mailboxes around the globe.  Here’s another preview, this one from the Campers Write section.  This was written during the 2013 season by Henry S., a 12-year-old camper.

Most kids go to camp to learn about water skiing, tubing, and other types of activities that include the use of modern technology.  Pine Island campers receive something more. We learn about how life used to be by doing more with less.  When my friends from home tell me about their experiences from camp, telling them that I spent six weeks living in a tent with no electricity or running water probably won’t sound like much fun.  I think the reason people don’t think it sounds fun is that it’s different.  When I decided to come to Pine Island, I considered it a leap of faith.  I knew that it was either going to be spectacular or mediocre.  My risk has paid off, and I am having one of the best times of my life.  When I go home and tell my New York City friends of my summer hiking mountains, learning to kayak and sail, and making so many new friends, I think they might have trouble thinking of a comeback.  Pine Island gives kids the fun that they want and also something that they don’t always realize.  Pine Island makes kids better people in the long run.  Pine Island has made me a better person!