One of the best parts of my job is greeting trip groups as they return from the wilderness. The Chewonki cheer rings through the Quad all day, as trippers roll back from forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and the sea. When I approach a group to welcome them home, I am grinning ear to ear. So are they. Their excitement is about far more than the upcoming hot showers and cookout. It’s about having completed a journey, accomplished more than they thought possible, learned to appreciate every member in the group–the ones they connected with easily on the first day and the ones they needed some time to understand. On Sunday, we greeted returning Maine Appalachian Trail backpackers, Maine Coast Kayak paddlers, and Maine Coast Mariners (our sailors). Each group spent the night at one of the campsites here on Chewonki Neck. As I walked from site to site, I heard stories of amazing wildlife sightings; epic travel days; and times when trippers laughed so hard, they hurt. Then on Monday, we welcomed back Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail and North Woods Canoe paddlers as well as Umbagog kayakers. These trippers, too, were full of stories, reliving their experiences as they cleaned and returned their gear and started to pack bags for the journey home. Students and leaders from all wilderness trips gathered together for a closing campfire on Monday night. Aaron LaFlamme welcomed each group to the space under the trees, then I told the first story, one about my trip last summer to the George River in northern Quebec. Afterwards, we invited trippers and trip leaders to stand and share an important moment from their recent experience. It was truly a treat to hear their reflections. There were moments of laughter and moments of silence as we listened to each other’s stories in a place of community. I hope this closing campfire helped ease the transition back to ordinary life. Intersession is here; we’re preparing for Session II arrivals on Sunday! Trip leaders are enjoying a few days of rest and rejuvenation before heading out to the wilds of Maine and Canada for three more adventuresome weeks. -Emma Carlson, Director Wilderness Trips Learn more about Chewonki Wilderness Trips for Teens.