AUGUSTA — Benedict Arnold and his men should have had it so good when their 1,100-member expedition ventured into the forbidding upper reaches of Maine’s Kennebec River in 1775.

There, Arnold’s troops faced unspeakably bad weather, ran out of food and endured illness, deaths and countless other hardships in their attempt to sneak through the woods and capture Quebec as part of America’s Revolutionary War against England. The men lacked supplies and proper maps. There was no GPS in those days, not even Doritos. Worse, their invasion failed.

Following the path of Arnold and his men (and a few women) up the 170-mile river route, my band of three was spared the bulky, leaky, 400-pound wooden bateaux the soldiers used, instead taking kayaks, a 1980-vintage canoe and finally a motorboat.

And unlike Arnold’s band, which did the trek in roughly two months, it took me, my son and an adventure-hungry friend upwards of four years to complete it. We had the luxury of tackling relatively short stretches of the river when we wanted.

We also did the trip backwards, taking advantage of the river’s north-to-south flow to push us along. We drove segment-by-segment north, but paddled each section south (leaving cars at beginning and end points). The Arnold expedition had no choice but to forge north the entire way, often portaging the heavy boats around waterfalls and rapids that are now largely gone because of dams.

Not that we didn’t have our little hardships along the route, from south of the Augusta area to the tiny town of Caratunk. That’s where Arnold’s men crossed to what’s known as Carrying Place Township so they could take a more direct route via the Dead River and a chain of other waterways to Canada.

Like Arnold, whose venture was handicapped by inaccurate maps of the time, we too experienced a daunting setback by failing to have GPS or bring along a proper map. This was in Madison, roughly 40 miles upstream from Augusta, where we got tangled up in a nasty oxbow — a conglomeration of tiny islands whose winding waterways form a natural maze. As the sun began its summer descent, I thought we might wind up encamped along the river’s edge — just as Arnold’s men did a few miles upstream at the site of the present-day Evergreens Campground in Solon. But we gradually made our way out of the trap and, following the sounds of logging trucks off in the distance, reached Madison’s landing just before dusk.

We faced another challenge upriver where a dam, which has replaced a steep waterfall Arnold and company had to get around, required an arduous portage of our kayaks through woods and down a steep embankment. It wasn’t easy, but it beat the continental soldiers’ task of hefting their heavy, flat-bottomed bateaux around the cascade.

Wind was our nemesis at a stretch encompassing the present-day Wyman Lake, a 15-mile impoundment along the Kennebec’s path that’s created by a dam. Soon after we set off, a stiff and steady south-to-north breeze nearly locked us in place, kicking waves over the bows of our kayaks as we furiously paddled. A few hundred yards into the river, we surrendered to the elements, turned about and headed for a landing.

The place we chose for lunch was likely near a spot where the Arnold contingent rested before trudging on toward Carrying Place more than two centuries earlier. By then, rations were short for those bedraggled troops who eventually would be reduced to eating dogs and shoe leather. For us, the staples were sandwiches, tortilla chips and bottled drinks.

Defeated by the wind, we tied our boats back onto our cars, vowing to return and complete that stretch of the Arnold Trail. That would come a year later, this time with a motorboat in tow. On a clear August day we motored the length of Wyman Lake, watching bald eagles soar to towering limbs of pines lining the shores.

The powerboat also eased our passage from the ocean’s edge at Phippsburg to Swan Island, the site roughly 20 miles inland where Arnold and his men made landfall after sailing in several ships from Newburyport, Mass., at the start of the expedition. Farther upstream, in Pittston, the 220 bateaux were delivered on the property of Reuben Colburn, whose restored house is open for tours on summer weekends.

Other notable sites along the Arnold Trail include Fort Western in Augusta, Arnold’s staging site for the assault, and Fort Halifax in Winslow, an encampment site for Arnold’s troops. In Norridgewock, we found a Tarzan-style rope swing. The river has good fishing, too.

Five years after Arnold’s trek, it was revealed that he’d secretly switched sides in the Revolutionary War. He fled the Americans and joined forces with the British. His name remains synonymous with the word “traitor.”