3-Week Summer Bushcraft & Canoe Expedition Course

2021 Course Info
· Dates: 7/11-7/31
· Length: 3-Weeks
· Sessions: 1
· Max. Size: 10
· College Credits: 5
· Americorps: Yes
· Tuition: $3150

1-Week At The Field School, 2-Weeks On The Allagash.
The Practical Arts Of Life In The Woods, Lived By Hand

2021: Our 22nd Year

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New For 2021, A 3-Week Summer Bushcraft & Canoe Expedition Course

We’ve been running our 4-week Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester for over a decade. This year (2021) we’re changing things up a bit and offering a slightly different 3-week program designed for beginners and those looking to learn to lead their own remote canoe expeditions safely.

The course starts with Phase 1: a week at the field school preparing you for life in on the river with no infrastructure. You’ll learn what you need to know to be safe and live well on the trail: axemanship, wet weather fire starting, campfire cooking, thermal cooking, navigation, intro to paddling, poling, lining and canoe rescue, tree and plant id, knife use, making rope, knots, and much more. A crash course on bushcraft and the back country skills of a Registered Maine Guide.

At the beginning of week 2, we enter Phase 2 and put our canoes in on the headwater lakes of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Then, we paddle north to Allagash Village, learning and exploring along the way. But the time we reach our destination, participants will have significant experience paddling, poling and lining canoes. They’ll be skilled at campfire cooking, managing a remote campsite, and the technical skills of canoe rescue. They’ll experience, first hand, the freedom of the woods life.

Experiential Wilderness Learning Based On The Rivers Of Northern Maine

Wilderness canoeing has changed dramatically in the modern era. While once the vehicle for long-term, long-distance exploration, the canoe has become one of many recreational crafts, indistinguishable from others based on how we use it, while it’s true strengths have slowly been forgotten. Most of modern canoeing has become driving to the headwaters and floating downstream to the takeout. It’s fun, but so much of the heritage has withered due to non-use.

We believe there is still value in doing things the hard way, with minimal infrastructure. It maintains the traditions and keeps the skills and technique – the know how – alive.

To truly know a river, it isn’t enough to just float downstream. Poling upstream, lining, carrying, drinking the water, and living with it until it is forever a part of you; that’s how to truly know a river.

Expedition learning has been a major part of the Jack Mountain experience since the beginning. There’s no substitute to getting out and doing it, learning by doing, and having a life experience you will never forget.

How And What You Learn

Participants learn by doing. This is expedition learning where it isn’t an option to sit on the sidelines and watch. We’re living on the rivers and lakes of northern Maine, traveling day after day. By the end of the experience, they will have knowledge of and experience with:

  • Expedition planning
  • Expedition provisioning
  • Group dynamics and people management
  • Traditional canoe techniques, including poling, lining and paddling
  • Fire lighting (if we can’t get it going, we don’t eat!)
  • Remote campsite setup and management
  • Reading the river
  • Scouting and safely running white water
  • Safe and efficient use of the axe in remote environments
  • And much more.

We’ll be living outside for the entire three weeks, practicing bushcraft skills on a daily basis. If you’re looking to take your skills, experience and confidence to the next level.


This trip will require physical fitness and technical skill beyond what is required for a shorter canoe trip or any other program at Jack Mountain outside of the Boreal Snowshoe Expedition. Anyone can paddle for a day and set a camp once, but to do so day after day for over 3 weeks takes endurance, physical fitness and mental fitness that can only be achieved through training.

Our Educational Philosophy

Knowledge is power, but knowledge is constructed, not received. It is built incrementally, over time. If teaching were simply telling, then anyone who excelled in a field would be an effective teacher of it. But this transmission model of teaching isn’t effective for most learners. Standing in front of someone and telling them what they need to know isn’t facilitating learning. Especially when you consider the differences between visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles.

We subscribe to the learning model of teaching, where the role of the teacher is to create situations where learning takes place. Students build upon their knowledge daily, and by the end of the experience they’ve accumulated a storehouse of information and experiences. But the instructor must also make it relevant. It’s easy to scoff at friction fire since matches and lighters are so readily available. But remove them from the equation and it’s instantly relevant, and the desire to learn the subtleties of the hand drill takes on renewed importance.

Our students are actively learning, immersing themselves in the curriculum by necessity. An example of this is how we teach shelter building. You can learn something about a shelter by making one. You can learn more about it by sleeping in it. But to truly know that specific shelter, you need to spend four consecutive nights in it. In this way you’re forced to deal with the consequences of shoddy construction or not paying attention to details. Maybe the first night is rough, but it teaches you what you need to do before the second night in order to shore it up and get some sleep. The second night is spent learning some of the subtleties that would make it more comfortable. The third night is fine-tuning it to your specifications, and the fourth night is enjoying the fruits of your labor. If you were to build the same shelter again, you could eliminate the learning curve because you’d know what to do from the outset. That’s experiential education.

“Experiential education is the process of actively engaging students in an authentic experience that will have benefits and consequences. Students make discoveries and experiment with knowledge themselves instead of hearing or reading about the experiences of others. Students also reflect on their experiences, thus developing new skills, new attitudes, and new theories or ways of thinking.”  (Kraft & Sakofs, 1988)

In addition to passing on traditional skills, we focus on using them to foster critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, curiosity, and a concern with ethical issues.

Summed up in a single word, our educational philosophy is this:  CAN.

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