For $5 and a homily, University of Maine students gained the chance to ricochet off rocks in the Souadabscook.
Lifelines Ministry, a Christian student organization at the University of Maine, took three boat-loads of students on a white-water canoeing trip on the Soudabscook Stream in Hampden on Friday.
Lifelines Ministry’s mission is “to use the outdoor experience to help students grow holistically; in their relationships with each other, with God, and in leadership and character,“ according to its website. The group was started in Maine by a group of religious people who loved the outdoors.
The trip was led by UMaine alumnus Joseph Cousins, the head of Lifelines and an experienced rock climber, rafter and outdoorsman. At the outset of the excursion, he said the group’s goal is to combine God and the outdoors, but he did not dwell on religion while on the water.
The trip to the launch left from the Steam Plant parking lot. Although Lifelines has a trailer that can carry up to eight canoes, only three canoes were hauled to Hampden.
“We used to have to turn people down from trips,” Cousins said, “due to the amount of people that signed up.”
He suspected the approach of finals week inhibited people from signing up for the trip. Since the Lifelines program has all the equipment they need for adventures like this, the cost of the trip was only $5.
“Our goal was to be able to do these trips for next to nothing for students, and we finally can,” Cousins said.
Extremely low water levels left Cousins and Rebecca Strickfaden, an intern in the Lifelines program, a bit discouraged on the white-water lessons that were supposed to be conducted. But the two leaders were able to improvise in order to give the group somewhat of a white-water experience.
Techniques were taught, such as keeping a straight chest when kneeling in order to maintain a center of balance in an unsteady canoe. Many safety procedures were also taught, like the “nose and toes” method of keeping those two body parts above water after capsizing. The water, however, was hardly deep enough to practice.
Cousins is an outdoors veteran and has traveled the Souadabscook many times.
“Most of these rocks I’ve never even seen before,” he said, referring to exposed rocks that are usually underwater.
Some rapids were too-dry for canoes to maneuver safely, which meant the group had to portage its boats. However, there were several rapids that could be attempted by the group.
Cousins showed the paddlers how to keep the canoes straight while going through the rapids and how to steady themselves by keeping paddles in the water. He also taught the group to gain momentum before taking on a rapid, which helps keep the canoe straight when negotiating the white-water.
Cousins said Lifelines tries to do an adventurous trip every Friday afternoon. The trips are usually low-cost due to all the gear the Lifelines program has acquired.
“We do all the fundraising for gear ourselves,” Cousins said.