Ten Foundation House residents and staff traveled to Grafton Notch State Park this weekend, to tackle twenty miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT), including the infamous Mahoosuc Notch. This stretch of the AT is known for relentless elevation ascents and descents, making the hike both tiresome and sluggish. The group started off by climbing almost 3,000 feet to the 4,170ft summit of Old Speck Mountain. From there, they descended to 3500ft. to Old Speck Pond campsite where they fished, camped, and held a meeting. The guys woke up early the following morning and descended 1,500ft over 2 miles, finally bringing them to the entrance of the Mahoosuc Notch.
The Notch is a one mile stretch of trail littered with giant boulders, fallen trees, and ice, that serves as the wilderness equivalent to an adult jungle gym. The crew tirelessly scrambled over, under, and around these natural roadblocks putting them through the Mahoosuc Notch in just under two hours. As exhausting as the Notch was, the group remained motivated and immediately began their ascent of yet another mountain. Fatigued and unspeakably smelly, the group arrived at Full Goose campsite with just enough time to set up tents and hammocks, eat a hearty meal of pasta and meatballs, and have their second meeting of the trip. Both meetings on the trip centered around identifying specific issues in our residents lives that they have been aware of but have continuously failed to take any action to combat the issue. By the end of the second meeting, every member of the group seemed motivated to take the steps to address these issues upon their return to Portland.
With eight miles to go on their final day, the crew set off early, and by 10:30am, had already summited three more peaks over the course of four miles. The difficult terrain continued to instill in them the principle of slowing it down and taking it one step at a time. At one point, the guys found themselves battling waist deep mud! In many other instances, the guys could be seen sliding themselves down rocks in a seated position after learning to do so the hard way. Totally undiscouraged, but completely exhausted, the guys made it to their destination by 1pm on their third and final day.
This was a special group. The guys took turns helping each other out, calling each other out, cheering each other up, and at times, the guys literally lightened the load for one another. Their shared attitude of giving and forgiveness, and their actions, which put others needs before their own made our journey a success and made this trip what it was.
Staff members Pete & Ethan and residents Connley, Greg, Kurtis, Josh, Eric, Parks & Carter left for Acadia National Park at 8:30 am Thursday morning. They set up camp at Black Woods campground, hiked the Beehive Trail, and jumped in the Bowl Pond. At Sand Beach, Pete and Carter cliff-jumped 40’ into the ocean.
On day two, the crew met up with professional rock climbing guides Zach and Patty at the South Otter cliffs. After a few warm up climbs, the crew headed to Otter Cliffs for a more advanced climbing session. The guides did an amazing job teaching to guys how to rock climb and the group took their time and practiced patience learning to do so.
The next morning the group woke up at 4:30 am to watch the earliest sunrise in the United States from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. Shortly after, the crew packed up their gear and headed back to Portland. As they debriefed, the guys expressed appreciation for the opportunity to see an amazing landscape, ascend ocean cliffs, and strengthen the Foxhole bond.
The boys departed the Foxhole at 5:45 AM on Thursday morning. Despite an early start, the guys were in a great mood and visibly excited for the day to come. The group met the ice climbing guides at the rendezvous point and were outfitted with harnesses, crampons, and helmets. Everyone was eager to climb as the group set out for trailhead.
The approach to the climbs was only twenty minutes long, but it provided the perfect opportunity to practice walking effectively in the crampons. The 50 foot frozen waterfalls were both stunning and humbling. The guides took the group through an informative safety briefing and skills tutorial about climbing and belaying.
After six hours of climbing each of the four routes, belaying and hanging out by the frozen crag, the group packed up the gear and descended back down the trail to the parking lot. At this point, everyone seemed physically and mentally exhausted in a really satisfying way. There was a sense of group accomplishment and comradery.
The lodge had a very homey feel and after the boys showed up and settled in with warm drinks, dinner was served. Post dinner, the group collaborated to clean the space and we soon settled down to have an AA meeting.
A few themes emerged from the discussion. Many shared their experience of loneliness in using and how they are now grateful for the sense of community found in AA and the Foxhole. Others shared in their appreciation of newfound hobbies in sobriety. Collectively, the space seemed vulnerable and supportive. After the meeting, everyone retired early to bed in preparation for another day of climbing on ice.
By day two, the guys were much more comfortable walking in the crampons and the guides set up a few more challenging routes. A completely vertical pillar of ice provided the more adept climbers the challenge they were looking for.
Overall, the trip reiterated the belief that it is possible to have fun while being sober and it provided a strong sense of comradery and bonding between a diverse group of guys from the community.
On October 5, a team of fourteen residents and staff journeyed to Baxter State Park for a three-day camping and hiking excursion. On the first day, the crew drove to the Roaring Brook Trailhead to test their grit on South Turner, a 3,100-foot mountain planted in the shadow of Mt. Katahdin. The guys quickly ascended the mountain, and stood in awe at the top. With miles of wilderness, mountaintops, and foliage all around, the group held a meeting at the summit and shared on what they were working on, and what they hoped to take with them from the trip.
When the guys arrived at their campsite, they unpacked, and a group began building a fire, while others assisted with the cooking. After satiating themselves in preparation for the following day, the group held another meeting, this time around the fire.
The team awoke at 5:30am the following morning. With headlamps providing the only light, the guys assembled their gear and set off again to the Roaring Brook Trailhead. What proceeded this time was a 12-hour hike to the summit of Mt. Katahdin. Mt. Katahdin is the tallest mountain in the state of Maine at 5,269 feet, and the most prominent mountain in the Eastern United States. Our ambitious crew chose the most difficult route to the top and back; the cathedral trail, a seemingly vertical 2-mile ascension to the summit. Then, in the face of snow and rain, the group traveled across the Knife’s Edge, a beautiful, unique, and dangerous one mile ridgeline which requires patience, mindfulness, and courage to conquer. The crew made it back to the Roaring Brook Campsite at 7pm, cooked dinner, and held another meeting in which they reflected on the trip and spoke about what they would take back from the experience.
During our harrowing climb up Mt. Katahdin, some of our group members thought that they couldn’t make it up. As we traveled along the Knife’s Edge, others experienced a nearly paralyzing fear of heights. Some admitted to feeling bad for holding up the group on the way down. Through each of these uncomfortable experiences, our group stuck together, helped those that were struggling, and those that were struggling learned to ask for help from their peers. It is through challenging experiences such as this one that our newer guys learn to rely on others to guide them, while our more senior residents discover their ability to help their fellows as leaders. In our final meeting of the trip, each of our crew members expressed gratitude for the experience, especially, for the opportunity to get to know some of the guys they do not typically spend time with.
In preparation for our upcoming four-day voyage across Casco Bay, fifteen of our residents undertook a sea kayaking crash course this Friday. From 9am until 4pm the guys were on the water learning everything from technique and balance to rescue procedure for oneself and others in the event of a capsize. It turns out that there are few things more galvanizing than depending on your fellows to pull you back into the relative safety of your boat after it becomes clear that you will not be able to do so on your own.
We took 12 residents to Acadia National Park for a hiking and rock climbing experience focused on the therapeutic mission of processing how each individual feels about their recent life transitions and recognizing our personal approach to transition in our own lives. After arriving at Acadia National Park on our first day, the group found its way to the trailhead over 1500 ft. above sea level spanning a distance of four miles in the shadow of Cadillac Mountain with breathtaking views overlooking Mt. Desert Island.
The following morning our group headed off to meet our rock climbing guides from the Acadia Mountain Guide Company and were educated on the proper belay techniques and climbing etiquette. The residents challenged themselves and applied true effort in each of their climbs. The group as a whole exhibited a willing attitude and developed a genuine understanding of their personal comfort level in challenging themselves and focusing on their feelings around transition.
A group of our alumni ventured to the Carrabassett Region of the to volunteer with New England Maine Huts & Trails. They spent the weekend in the woods together performing service work, blazing new trails and cleaning up existing ones. Activities like these remind our esteemed alumnus what it means to give back – and most importantly to have fun in sobriety.