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LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The best day of my summer fell on July 8 when I got to join a Maine Trails cabin on their hike up and down Mt. Katahdin. For fuel the night before, we ate alfredo pasta out of a pot in the soaking rain. The next morning, we feasted on a breakfast of Pop-Tarts in the predawn darkness. We watched the sunrise from above the treeline on the Hunt Trail. And we celebrated the pinnacle of their camper years on Katahdin’s summit, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
For me, those 36 hours spent with Maine Trails served as the perfect reminder of why we do what we do. We help kids connect with nature, grow more resilient, and forge lasting bonds by persevering through challenges in the wilderness so they can become inspirational role models for a world that needs them.
After the climb, I returned to camp reenergized, and as if on cue, I received an incredible message from a member of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC):
For the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of your campers on the Appalachian Trail. I’m one of the trail maintainers that looks after the Logan Brook to Whitecap Mountain section. I love meeting all the hikers on this rugged part of the AT. Their happy gratitude is one of the biggest reasons I come all the way from Nova Scotia to do maintenance. And your campers are some of the happiest and most grateful I’ve encountered. Last year we were repainting white blazes (to mark the trail) and a couple of your counselors ran back to ask us to paint blazes on their shirts. I took this photo and have been meaning to send you the story. This year, on the very same day, we met another group from Wavus. They all knew exactly who I’d “blazed” a year ago. She must be famous!
After we finished our trail maintenance last week, we traveled to Abol Bridge to start hiking south to do the Hundred-Mile Wilderness. We met a different group of your hikers every day. Did you have eight groups on the trail!? They were perfect young ladies and gentlemen — all of them. On the second night of our trip, we arrived late to the Wadleigh Stream lean-to and your crew gave us their shelter. The next morning, I had extra hot water and filled each kid’s bowl of oatmeal.
As a crotchety 77-year-old woodsman, sometimes I worry about who will look after the world next, but if these kids are our future, and I’m sure they’ll grow up to be movers and shakers, then I think we’re all going to be okay.
Congratulations on a great program, and even greater kids.
You can imagine the pride I felt reading that message. And it’s so true: Kieve and Wavus campers hone their self-reliance on the Allagash portaging the vaunted Mud Pond Carry. They exhibit kindness when using a precious Maine Trails rest day to help rangers build a stone staircase on the Appalachian Trail. They practice consideration as they follow leave-no-trace ethics in the beautifully rugged Maine wilderness. It all shapes them into counselors who will lead our next generation of campers.
KWE’s influence, of course, extends beyond the 1,200 campers we welcome every June, July, and August. For the other ten months of the year, The Leadership School’s 23 full-time educators spend the academic year here fostering social- emotional learning, environmental stewardship, and academic and outdoor exploration with students at more than 50 Maine schools. This summer, for the first time ever, every single one of those educators remained on Damariscotta Lake to lead our camps, enhancing a continuity of curriculum, community, and culture that is truly unique to Kieve and Wavus. There’s a magic to the transformational experiences here, and we could not create that magic without the young role models who give their summers and school years to serve as counselors and leaders. I am so thankful for everyone who contributes to KWE’s magic and eager for more in 2024!