For those of you who didn’t know the reason behind my two month long silence, it was because I headed to northern Ontario, Canada for the summer to lead canoe trips. I plan on returning to the USA in the next few days, so before the memories fade too quickly, I thought I’d fill everyone in on my experiences, in a hope it would spur others to share as well.
I’ve been working at Langskib for three years now, the past two as an assistant trip leader, and this most recent one as a full trip leader, which I have learned is a big step up in terms of responsibility and freedom. Not only are you allowed to choose your route, and have the (pretty much) final word for your trip, you are the responsible party for 6-10 young boys on your 10-20 day trip through the Canadian wilderness. Not only can it be very stressful thinking of all those parents blindly putting their faith in your good judgement, it is also a uniquely powerful position to help shape the young boys that go on your trip into compassionate, strong men.
This summer, I led two trips, an Excalibur (10-day) trip consisting of 10-12 year olds and a Viking (20-day) trip of approximately the same age group. The first trip was dedicated to pure fun, and feeling comfortable in the woods, which can be an unsettling place for young boys who are accustomed to the hustle, bustle and creature comforts of the suburbs or a big city. On that trip we took our time, packing in fun events whenever we could on our trip to Maple Mountain, the second highest point in Ontario. The view from the top was worth the journey, and provided a very real view of how far we had gone, as Langskib was only a blot on the horizon. After returning to lake Temagami, we embarked on a treasure hunt in a large 12-person Voyageur canoe, culminating in a feast with all the other Excalibur sections.
My second trip, still fresh in my mind we started on the same route, north to Maple Mountain, however, upon reaching the summit, we instead looked west, in the direction we were to head for the next 15 days. We then climbed the golden staircase, which is a number of portages around beautiful waterfalls on the north branch of the Lady Evelyn River. At the top, we arrived at Katherine Lake, where we were met with a float plane laden with provisions for the duration of our trip, as soon as the floats had left the water, and the engine noise had faded to a low drone, we were again reminded of our remoteness, and that all we had to pull us through was each other, a group of 10 11-13 year olds and Dave and myself. From Katherine, we started heading home on the south branch of the river, a widely known route that is both beautiful and very rugged. There are portages down steep rock walls, campsites just above waterfalls, and some fun whitewater to boot. We took our time and ensured that safety was our number 1 priority, closely followed by having fun. At the bottom of the river, we did a portage known as the Diamond Death March, a 4 kilometer trck ending in about 800 meters of marsh and mud to your hip. I had been fearing disaster on this portage, for it is one of the three famed portages for its challenge. However, I was astounded at how smooth the day went, and how the kids were able to push themselves through limits they had set for themselves, and feel very accomplished at the end. Our last push home was through a route called Satan’s Gate, a trail of about 5-12 portages through deep mud to arrive in Sharp Rock Inlet (where Langskib resides) just 1 km west from home. Having our last circle as a group within sight of Langskib was a truly memorable experience.
As I leave, I say my good-byes to all my good friends on staff, and begin my return to civilization, always an interesting experience. Starting on the 24th, I am starting my senior year at Clarkson University, on the Potsdam Rescue Squad and trying to stay active. I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, and hearing their stories once I am safely back across the border.
Peace and chow,