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First documented kayaks on Tumbledown

   by Steph Wright


10.15.17 First documented kayaks on Tumbledown.

Oru Kayak | Tumbledown First Ascent from Gretchen Powers on Vimeo.


Have you ever had a lofty dream? The kind people might laugh or scoff at? The kind of quest where people ask you why? Why do you want to do that? They hesitantly nod as you explain but don’t quite get it?

The right answer is because firsts aren’t reserved for mountaineers and professional athletes.  Because sometimes when you think outside the box you, yes you, can do something a little extra-ordinary.  

I’ve summited Tumbledown several times since moving to Maine four years ago and when I got my Oru Kayaks this spring a spark was ignited.  Could we carry these foldable boats up to the pond? It was three miles up a rocky trail that got a bit technical towards the top.  The boats weren’t that heavy I told myself, and we could get the backpacks for them.  We could make it happen, and better yet we could make it happen during peak foliage when the leaves on the trees were bright yellow and red.


Over the course of the summer, I gathered my strongest, bravest, most enthusiastic, type-two-fun-seeking friends and we set off to be the first documented full-length kayaks paddling on Tumbledown. The energy that morning was buzzing as we made pancakes by the fire and prepared for our big ascent.  We were teachers, social workers, photographers, guides, and coast guardsmen, and none of us had done anything like this before.  The furthest I had carried one of my boats was the 20-40 meters from the car to the shore of a body of water.  


We drove to the trailhead, strapped up and headed up the mountain.  We took turns carrying the boats, their weight and bulk making them a bit cumbersome but nothing my team of champions couldn’t handle.  We scaled rocks, ate snacks and affirmed every question we got about “what are those, what are you doing?” with “Yes, these really are kayaks and yes, we are going to paddle them on the pond”.  “Yes really.” We made it to the pond and unfolded the boats in a spot I had backpacked when I had the idea six months prior, ate a few snacks and drank some coffee and my friends insisted I paddle a lap to truly be the first on the water before heading to the summit of the mountain for the photo I’d been dreaming of and it was one of the best and shortest paddles I’ve ever been on.  As I paddled around the corner to where the rocks where most people have their lunches I heard a buzzing of conversations rising as people noticed us in our boats.  I laughed and paddled around the island before heading back to give the others a chance to try.  I grabbed my friend Stephen and we headed to the true summit of the mountain to photograph the boats on the pond.  

After another mile or so uphill we crested the summit and my eyes undeniable welled up as I shouted and yelled and jumped around enough to make Stephen nervous, it’s a pretty far drop off from the top to the pond.  There were my pretty little white boats paddling in circles across the water, and there were the yellow trees just past peak almost as I’d imagined.   

To my friends, thank you for supporting my wild dream of photographing these pretty white boats on this pond during peak foliage, and to you sitting reading this right now I hope it inspired you to take your Oru Kayak somewhere a bit unexpected.  Maybe you too can be the first!