Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Maine Ingredient
In his book “Desert Solitaire”, Edward Abbey—critiquing the National Parks system—notes:
“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles. Better to idle through one park in two weeks than try to race through a dozen in the same amount of time. Those who are familiar with both modes of travel know from experience that this is true; the rest have only to make the experiment to discover the same truth for themselves.”
This was our Teen Treks Maine Coast adventure. While the vast majority plowed down highways in superfluous fuel injected machines, we meandered northward along the tranquil beaches and crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean; relying on oatmeal, fruit, and turkey sandwiches as a clean burning fuel alternative. Our tents routinely would squeeze into campsites amongst oversized RV’s; concerned with electrical hookups as we searched for ample firewood. Two and a half weeks of vibrant sunrises, rocky shorelines and charming New England towns—all set against a backdrop of picturesque mountains--was our “experiment to discover the same truth”. While our final odometer reading came in at roughly 400 miles—through a reverse Abbey-style calculation—it seems we had experienced the equivalent of 40,000 miles.
I cannot properly emphasize with what facility of written English (or lack thereof) that I possess, the magnitude of joy brought by the experience. It is unparalleled by any other to date. Leaders play several roles: as twenty-somethings, in-between juvenile and adulthood, we are given an awesome responsibility and opportunity. I felt a bit paternal (also maternal) at times, protective of my flock, daring to act responsibly and even struggling at times with the implementation of discipline where necessary. But I also became part-kid, and allowed myself to fully enjoy the naivete and sometimes immaturity of childhood, as we discovered the world through that different filter permitted only by this sort of travel. I enjoyed observing the group dynamics, watching "my" kids establish bonds that will last at least in memory for the rest of their lives. It was incredible to witness each of them as they faced new challenges, growing and learning from their experiences. Most of all I loved all the ice cream and the 'potty' humor.
Even (and especially) as a Teen Treks leader this summer, I found the experience entirely liberating and humbling. In two short weeks, we grew to appreciate the environment we landed in because we worked to get there. We treasured a good meal together, a hidden swimming hole, our afternoon treats, and our frequent stops to discuss something completely random, humorous and/or educational. By being on our bikes and pushing ourselves physically, we grew incredibly observant and appreciative of our midway and, of course, final destination of Mt. Desert Island. Aside from being proud of the trekkers (and myself!), I have never laughed so hard and often with a group of teenagers!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
This past summer, I had the opportunity to lead the Maine Coast Trek. Apart from Maine being a bit hillier than expected, this trip was everything that I could have wanted and more. The group of seven teenagers as well as the two leaders bonded with each other amazingly, and the group cohesiveness and comradery was just fantastic. From mini golf to swimming in the ocean, hiking in Bar Harbor and going sea kayaking, we did just about anything we could think of. Of course there was lots of biking and a few wrong turns, but it added to the overall excitement of the trip. Had I of known about Teen Treks when I was younger, I definitely would have hopped on a trip. Besides being great exercise and enjoying the summertime outdoors, this gave me an opportunity to explore a part of America that I had never been before. The coast north of Boston leading up to Maine is absolutely beautiful – and the people we encountered along the way were probably the friendliest people anywhere in this country. Everywhere we went, we were asked our starting point and final destination, and almost everyone was happy to provide suggestions of what to do along the way. There is something about packing 50 pounds of gear, loading it on the back of a road bike and setting out with a group of kids, with only each other to rely on, that makes this trip truly special.
~ Andy Rein, 2009 Leader
Monday, September 14, 2009
About a year ago a friend of mine sent me a link for this organization by the name of Teen Treks with a message attached which said "we should do this". At the time we were both full time summer camp employees which we both loved very much and found hard to leave. This past summer I wanted to take some summer classes and have some free time to travel so I thought it would be the perfect summer to lead a trip for Teen Treks with the left over time. I can look back at the trip and after scuba diving in Florida, climbing in seven states, and a couple road trips, my trip with Teen Treks still stands out as the highlight of my summer, hands down. I had the coolest group of kids, each bringing their own special touch to the trip. We got to see so many different things, and seeing them on bike was such a different and better experience than seeing them with any other form of travel, it provided us the best opportunity to really take it all in. The people we met at hostels, camp grounds, and periodically on the trail were the type of people I wish I ran into everywhere, we always knew "we belonged" where ever we were. The only tough part of the trip was saying goodbye to the kids that I spent the last two weeks getting to know so well, they truly made the trip so much better than if I had been at it with anyone else, not to mention my amazing co-leader, who rocked as well. I am an adventure seeker and somewhat of an adrenaline junky, and this has opened up a whole nother adventure opportunity for me, and I can't wait to do it again! Thank you Teen Trekkers for making my summer a great one!!
~ Dave Burnette, 2009 Leader