Thrill Seeker: Jesika Lucarelli Great Mountain Guide Service

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Jesika Lucarelli guides a family over Nesowadnehunk Falls on the Penobscot River.

Few people exude the vibrancy of Maine’s four seasons more than adventure guide Jesika Lucarelli.

This spring, she’s been leading local students on trips with the Maine Outdoor Adventure Program. She’ll soon spend her fifth summer guiding whitewater, kayak, canoe and hiking trips in Penobscot County. Come fall, she’ll be cooking for a hunting camp, and during the winter, she’ll be at Sugarloaf, serving food and being a wilderness first responder.

“It keeps a person young, living seasonally,” says Lucarelli, 32. “I always have the next season to look forward to.”

“The fact that I’m outside telling kids what to do isn’t a surprise to anyone,” jokes Lucarelli, who was the oldest of five growing up on a dairy farm. “But it was a surprise to me that I wanted to start my own guide business so soon.”

Jesika Lucarelli and her husband, Jayson Lucarell

Though she still leads whitewater trips with New England Outdoor Center, she also wanted to develop her own blend of “wilderness wellness,” integrating yoga into the more traditional guide service.

“Yoga is a way to provide something to keep them safe and limber, so they don’t just go all weekend paddling,” says Lucarelli, a certified yoga instructor. “It’s all interconnected. The more you learn, the more can be applied in the next discipline. And lot of yoga has to do with connecting your breath to the movement.”

For Lucarelli, being in the outdoors is joyful. And good times deserve good food. That’s why guests on her three-day wilderness adventures get a lobster bake the first night in camp, with a champagne toast with real glasses.

“The area that I’m in during the summer, near Millinocket, I work seven days a week, and I’m always doing something different,” says Lucarelli. She guides whitewater trips, mostly on the Penobscot River. “There’s an infinite number of things to do in the area. In Maine we’re lucky to still have places that are wild and primitive.”

One day—one very long day last summer—she guided a kayak group quite early, then a whitewater group, then a canoe group. “It’s a short season,” she says. “And in Maine, in the summer, you want to be outside and doing things.”

A rafting selfie during one of Lucarelli’s yoga trips, which included rafting, yoga, wine and cheeseburgers. Photo courtesy of Jesika Lucarelli

One of those things is hiking Mt. Katahdin, for which Great Mountain Guide Service is named.

“Katahdin is a big undertaking, even if you hike,” Lucarelli says. “It can take eight to 14 hours round-trip.”

Sure, a guide knows what equipment to bring, where and when to go and what to do in a medical emergency. But then one time Lucarelli had a group above the tree line on Katahdin and it started to hail with nowhere to take cover.

“You’ve got to expect the unexpected,” she says.

That vulnerability to nature, though not what anyone hopes for on her hiking trip, can be a rush. Certainly, Lucarelli says, “with whitewater, things can get a little exciting and intense.”

Earning a whitewater rafting guide license in Maine requires having had 25 or more runs on at least two different rivers, knowing emergency medical protocols, learning how to read whitewater and getting familiar with the geography. Lucarelli started on this journey the only way you can—by taking the plunge.

“Then come several days of being cold and hungry,” she says. “But then you bond with the people around you and build on your skills. You just get hooked on seeing new people coming in every weekend and hooked on the pursuit of the perfect run.”

Speaking of bonding, last year Lucarelli married another thrill-seeking whitewater guide. Come fall, they’ll be at his hunting camp, Maine Whitetail Adventures, where he guides moose hunters and deer hunters and she makes sure everyone eats well.

Don’t think that means she doesn’t hunt.

“Turkey is my jam,” she says.

JOIN ONE OF JESIKA’S ADVENTURES!

Great Mountain Guide Service offers a three-day wilderness wellness weekend at Baxter State Park. The first night is spent at Roaring Brook Campground. Day 2 involves a hike to Chimney Pond Campground and a night spent in a lean-to there. Day 3 is the big one: summit Katahdin and back to Roaring Brook. The adventure includes eight carefully designed yoga classes and time for journaling. Great Mountain is booking trips for August—or for next summer.
For more info: (207) 265–6208 or greatmountain@greatmountainguideservice.com

MORE THRILLS

Courtesy of Shelley Fleming Wigglesworth

Deep sea fishing: Every Mainer should experience this at least once—and you might get hooked! The Nor’easter steams out from Kennebunk, just steps from Dock Square. The 42-foot commercial fishing boat takes up to 24 passengers out about 35 miles to Jeffrey’s Ledge, one of the richest fishing grounds in the area, to angle for cod, haddock and pollock. U.S. Coast Guard-licensed Capt. Mike Perkins, supplies the rods, reels and all gear, including his own handmade jigs, and will show you how to use them. The mate will fillet your fish for you before you get off the boat (so get your fish fry recipe ready!). Call to make a reservation: (207) 450–1831. $85 per person. 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 every day in the summer, weather permitting. www.noreasterfishing.com

Courtesy of Salt Pump Climbing Co.

Indoor-outdoor rock climbing: If you’re doubtful that a climbing gym can get you closer to nature, check out Salt Pump Climbing Co., which opened off I-95 in Scarborough in 2015. It’s in a stunning location with a deck beside a pond (with trout) that just exudes the beauty of Maine. Salt Pump is a place for everyone, from newbies to experienced climbers, whether you’re all about indoor climbing or looking to build your technical skills to be able to enjoy outdoor climbs safely. You can take an Intro to Climbing Class, drop by for a rainy-day challenge, join a competitive team or take workshops on how to transition from gym to crag. Check it out with a day pass ($17, plus equipment rental). For more info: www.saltpumpclimbing.com

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough.

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