The Damascus Project: Wisconsin River canoe trip

September 26-29, 2019

This 4-day/3-night canoe trip will set the pace for a renewing and formative experience on the beautiful Wisconsin River. It’s wide and clean, lined with trees on both sides, and dotted with sand islands all along the way where we’ll picnic, take rest breaks and camp. The river is shallow, so there’s no industry and few homes. We plan to rendezvous in Boscobel, shuttle together to Sauk City, and spend 4 days paddling the 60 miles back to our original rendezvous point. At some places a road parallels the river, but for most of the trip we see few reminders of the civilized world. We’ll keep our eyes open for sand hill cranes, blue heron, kingfishers, osprey, ducks, muskrat, and beavers. And we’ll keep our hearts tuned to the rhythms and insights that arise from contact with wild nature.

Daily Schedule

We’ll begin each day with breakfast, a guided meditation and some stretching, and a question or reflection for the day pertaining to wilderness spirituality. We’ll canoe until we get hungry, have lunch on an island, then canoe until we find a good campsite, usually around 3 or 4pm. We’ll set up camp, gather firewood, walk the island, have conversations, journal, sleep, pray, meditate, relax. Then we’ll have supper, and when the stars are coming out we’ll light our fire, share from our day, and discuss program themes. On the second or third day we’ll find a good place for an extended period of solitude and silence for personal reflection and creative work.

Your Guide

Aram Mitchell is a Registered Maine Guide and Wilderness First Responder with an M.A. in Religion from Chicago Theological Seminary. Aram serves as the Executive Director of Renewal in the Wilderness, where he spends his days connecting people with wild nature in ways that sustain their spirits and strengthen their impact in the world. And he’s eager to help you prepare for your experience of renewal, so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions as you prepare: aram@renewalinthewilderness.com (207)200-3494

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Common Questions

What if I’ve never done this before?

You need not have any prior canoeing or camping experience. We’ll teach you all you need to know. And you’ll have a personal flotation device, so it is not essential that you know how to swim. We’ll also guide you in the process of setting up camp. (Note: Your guide is available in advance of the trip for one-on-one consultation as needed if you have particular questions or concerns about the wilderness portion of the program.)

What’s the food like?

Really good! And plenty of it. We’ll have hearty breakfasts, sandwiches and such for lunch, hefty hot suppers, and we’ll pack plenty of snacks.  Please let us know about any special dietary needs and we’ll plan our food to accommodate you.

Can I drink the water?

Not recommended. We’ll take all the drinking water we’ll need.

How fit do I need to be?

We will be getting in and out of the canoe a lot, paddling at an unhurried pace, and doing tasks at camp like gathering fire wood and setting up tents and tarps. There are no rapids or portages or hikes on the trip. The Wisconsin River is a friendly river to first-time and accomplished paddlers alike.

What’s the weather like?

In late September it’s likely to be warm during the day and cool during the night. Sometimes there are magnificent storms that form, usually in the afternoon. We’ll “bombproof” the camp each evening in case there are storms during the night. Whatever the weather your guide will help you experience it as beautiful!

How can people reach me in an emergency?  Can I call home?

We ask everyone to leave electronic gear in your car (unless you want a camera/device in airplane mode). The idea is to get away from all those things. Your guide will have a cell phone and satellite communication device in case of emergencies.

How much time do we spend paddling each day? Do I have free time?

We’ll paddle 4-6 hours per day. Weather and travel conditions permitting, there will be time each day for journaling, contemplation, conversation, and just settling into the rhythms of wild nature. Each morning we’ll eat, break camp, pack the boats, have a guided meditation, then paddle—slowly, with lots of time for appreciation—to the next night’s campsite. Our paddling will be broken into roughly two-hour stretches.

How does transportation work?

We will hire a local outfitter to provide canoes, gear, and transportation (included in your course registration fee). The outfitter will shuttle us and our gear from our terminus where we will park our vehicles (in Boscobel) to our put-in (near Sauk City) where we will unload from the shuttle, pack up our canoes, and launch into our experience of wild renewal.

Where do I leave my belongings that I don’t take on the trip itself? 

We’ll leave things in the trunks of our vehicles at our take-out in Boscobel.