Outdoor Pursuits Takes Trip to Fryeburg, Maine for Scenic Canoeing on Saco River


Members of Outdoor Pursuits canoeing on the Saco River.

Members of Outdoor Pursuits (OP) paddled 12 miles down the Saco River, enjoying the wildlife and New England fall foliage. The group camped at Swan’s Falls Campground in Fryeburg, Maine over the weekend of October 1 for their expedition.

After the end of classes on Friday afternoon, the group made the trip up North. Stewart Kristiansen ’23, a Student Outdoor Leader Opportunity (SOLO) leader, recalled the preparations needed for the overnight stay. 

We drove up to Maine. We grabbed some firewood on the way up. We got there when it was getting dark, so we all set up camp as it was getting dark, put up the tents and stuff, and then we made dinner. We made quesadillas that night. We hung out around the fire, which was really fun. We got to talk with everybody. We did some stargazing by the river, which was really nice. Then it got super cold, and we all went to bed,” said Kristiansen. 

The next day, the group canoeed down the Saco River while taking the occasional break on the shallow river banks. Faculty Leader Christine Marshall highlighted the variety of wildlife that could be seen from the boat. 

Marshall said, “We paddled downstream for a stretch of almost 12 miles. We stopped just a few times [on] these large sand bars [that are] in the middle of the Saco river because it’s a large river. We stopped a few times for snacks and water and once for lunch. It was pretty cool. We saw a lot of fish, turtles, and a blue heron, which is a kind of giant bird that likes the water.”

Every term, the OP paddling group takes two day trips and one overnight trip. Prior to the Saco River trip was a day trip to the Concord River in Concord, MA. However, in addition to the extensive weekend trips, the group tries to paddle in local rivers two to three times during the week, according to Kristiansen. 

“For canoeing we usually do a short paddle on a river close by or some sort of short hike around campus. Something to get people engaged with the outdoors, but we’re kind of crunched for time on [Tuesdays] just because of how scheduling works. On Wednesdays, since people get out a little bit earlier, we’ll meet again for four or five hours, and then we can really get a little bit farther away. Sometimes we go into Harold Parker [State Forest], that’s probably one of my favorites. We’ll paddle on some of the ponds out there. It’s really fun. It gets students a lot farther away from campus and they get to get a little bit deeper into the outdoors, which is always great,” said Kristiansen.

According to Sonia Appen ’24, members of OP particularly enjoy the program in the fall, in great part due to the scenery. As a boarding student from a big city, Appen appreciates the frequent opportunity to experience the fall foliage and weather on a boat, away from bustling city and campus life. 

“I feel like New England Fall is the best season for being outside. Everything looks so beautiful, and the weather is nice and cool. I would say that would be my favorite season to do Outdoor Pursuits. It’s nice to be able to go out and do that. It feels very different to when I’m at home,” said Appen. 

On top of all the fun trips, OP encourages learning and conversation about leadership, inclusivity, and sustainability. Kristiansen shared the importance of respecting the outdoors.  

“More dispersed throughout the whole term is discussing sustainability, and also how to make the outdoors more inclusive. You’re being in the outdoors as much as you are learning about being in the outdoors and learning about how to keep the outdoors preserved,” said Kristiansen.

The faculty leaders strive to teach members of the program how to prepare for unpredictable conditions, especially leading up to overnight trips. Marshall enjoys assisting students in developing skills that can be used in life beyond hiking and paddling. 

“From my perspective, what I notice them getting out of it is learning how to plan for a trip when you’re not really certain what the weather will bring. I mean let’s face it, New England has weather that will change by the hour, and sometimes in ways that are difficult to predict, so what I see the kids getting out of it is the ability to plan to do something outdoors and to be prepared for unexpected little squalls of rain or an unexpected cold front…. I like seeing the kids develop the skill of being able to plan and execute a trip where they stay comfortable and have a lot of fun, and have really good food,” said Marshall.

According to Marshall, OP trips are also an opportunity for members to connect through different aspects of their identity outside of being an Andover student. Thus, she encourages clear separation from campus life and life in the great outdoors. 

“Sometimes we really try to leave our [Andover] identities behind so that we can just share time as humans in the world. That can be a challenge because [Andover] is our common denominator, it’s a thing we all share. Leaving that behind is sometimes a little difficult, but we really try so that it feels like a true break from campus life when we’re away,” said Marshall.