Monday, April 8, 2013 will mark a full calendar year since the Expedition’s departure from Dunmore for points north. In the months since our return we’ve shared with many of you a few of the experiences and challenges we encountered along the way. To commemorate our departure, let’s have a look at where we stood in Aprils past:
In April of 2009, Expedition 2012 remained but a twinkle in Keewaydin’s eye. The coming summer celebrated one hundred years of Keewaydin Dunmore, and those of us on the staff for that year (strange to think that some of our number had not yet encountered Keewaydin) focused more upon that event. The idea for the expedition came about on a hike in the Adirondack Mountains in July on a staff day off. Over the course of four miles of hiking and about an hour and a half, the seed of the expedition germinated and expanded to the boat-building, border-crossing journey that came to be.
April 2010, a year later, would have seen most outlandish ideas from the past summer laid to rest as the boondoggles they were. The idea for the Expedition, however, remained planted in our minds, and April 5saw the first actual documentation of our intended route:
An itinerary in hand and a developing web presence ensure that the expedition would not fade, and another year of work saw the development of our plan not only for direction and route, but for fundraising, communication, and contingencies. Two years ago this week the Board of Directors approved our plan, as an email from Johnny attests:
“I know I’ve touched base with some of you already, but just to make the formal announcement…
Yesterday I presented Expedition 2012 to the full Keewaydin board of trustees at their meeting in NYC. After some discussion of the trip’s risks, costs, and massive upside, they voted unanimously to support our venture financially and with the Keewaydin brand. … The enthusiasm for our project is out of control and many board members have already indicated a variety of different ways that they plan to throw in their support.”
All this was a long prelude to the day at which many of us reached the crux of our hopes and dreams for the Expedition:
“Day 1 – April 8th, 2012. Salisbury, VT:
Today we finally paddled out of Lake Dunmore and began the odyssey we’ve been planning for three years. What an intensely satisfying feeling – I’ve been smiling to myself all day. The follow-up to last night’s dinner at this morning’s paddle out was amazing. I’m stoked to have this first day in the bag and sixty-four more to come.”
Friends gathered, families said their goodbyes – some more tearfully than others – Jane Lindholm interviewed us for Vermont Public Radio, and most of us made final adjustments to our boats and gear before lining up at the shore for the official send-off. This was an emotional moment – years of planning coming to fruition in a few short instants – and each of us took away something slightly different:
“Extremely overwhelming nerves made me not really answer [Jane Lindholm’s] questions well… Then it was time.”
“The send-off line was tough, as saying goodbye to my parents made me rather emotional and Diane got to me as well.”
“I think I’ll remember the looks on everyone’s faces at paddle out for a long time.”
“Send off was awesome with the cannon and bell-ringing with the Kway Kway Kway chant.”
The first day was not easy: a short paddle brought us to our first portage out of Lake Dunmore and into the Leicester River. The river, despite the dam release (specially arranged for our departure) remained low, with numerous trees and natural dams to surmount, and our slow progress put us a little behind schedule at day’s end. “All the obstacles put us a few miles behind schedule,” one journal notes, “Group seemed a little on edge about that. Found a nice campsite with super muddy banks and had a nice fire going.”
The ease of the campsite routine put any disquietude to rest, however, as each crew member slid into the familiar assigned tasks around the campsite. “Pete and Kyle were in command for the next few hours; we hashed out an efficient dinner of pasta parma rosa, stuffing, and cole slaw, baking bread and morning bread on the fire in our stand of trees.” The night ended, as so many others would, with ten men standing around the fire, marveling at the uniqueness of their journey thus far and anticipating the ventures to come.
Writing this now, I am reminded by a favorite passage from my favorite author, a few short lines by Graham Greene that gave an impetus to my efforts both in planning and paddling:
And while we other poets sit at winter dusk
And softly whisper each our little dreams,
You’ll rise and with the ardor of your youth
Stride from the warm glow of the flickering fire
To carve your dreams in facts across the world.