St. John Valley

Friends make the most of summer break with Maine canoe trail adventure

FORT KENT, Maine — Four young friends who met while studying engineering at Northeastern University in Boston made the most of their summer break by traveling  the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in June.

Ha Neul On, Zach Pierce, Colin Bergmann and Riley Grant put in their canoes at Jackman on June 1 and arrived at Riverside Park in Fort Kent 18 days later.

Bergmann, 22, of Minnesota, who recently graduated with a degree in environmental engineering and will begin working soon at a firm in Boston, described the adventure as “refreshing, like setting a reset switch.” 

The journey included spying seven Maine moose along the way, the friends said.

Ha Neul On tosses a football to his friends at Riverside Park in Fort Kent after they completed an 18 day canoe journey from Jackman. (Jessica Potila)

Ha Neul On of Massachusetts, who still has one year left at Northeastern, said the trip offered the group “a new perspective on the pleasures of life, how different it would be without everything we have now.” 

But the 22-year-old student said he could easily have done without the mosquitos. 

The trip was not without another small struggle.

“One of the more significant misadventures was a hole in the boat,” said Pierce, a 22-year-old environmental engineer from Wells. 

The innovative group of friends managed to keep the damaged canoe afloat by using a long-honored tradition in Maine — fastening the hole with duct tape.The guys kept stuffing the hole with duct tape until the roll ran out, just in time for them to dock in Allagash.

Fortunately, they met up there with Forest Ranger Trevor O’Leary who directed them to Wade Kelly of Tylor Kellys Camps for assistance.

Kelly provided the young men with a fresh roll of duct tape to keep them on their way to Fort Kent. 

“I was taught to help anyone and everyone,” Kelly said. “That small insignificant roll of duct tape may well be a trigger for these young men to do the same.”

The friends arrived to near 100-degree temperatures in Fort Kent, and tossed a football around in the St. John River to cool off. 

Colin Bergmann tosses a football with his friends in the St. John River in Fort Kent on Friday, June 19. (Jessica Potila)


The four friends camped out for two nights at a public site behind the Fort Kent Blockhouse. While in town, they checked out Crossings and First Mile Brewery before packing their belongings in a U-Haul truck and heading back to their vehicles in Jackman. 

The boys said they will always remember their northern forest canoe trail adventure, but were looking forward to seeing their families again before heading off to work and school.

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