North Star Camp for Boys

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The True Significance of Nine Days in Canada

Tonight, in Southern Ontario, 24 campers, four counselors and two trip leaders are spending their first night in Quetico Provincial Park after their first day of paddling, portaging and exploring one of the great wilderness paddling areas in North America. The Canadian canoe trip has become one of the hallmark moments in our camper's career at North Star. So when our Pine Manor campers loaded a bus and headed to Canoe Canada Outfitters on Wednesday, it wasn't just about the preparation done over the past weeks and even months that were coming to fruition, it was the product of each camper's years at North Star.

When campers come to North Star, they are going to experience a wide variety of things. One of them is taking a wilderness trip with their cabin mates, counselors and a wilderness trip leader. For a camper in Junior 1, that trip will be a two day paddle down the mighty Namekagon River. The trip is meant to expose our campers to the basics of an outdoor trip and give them an initial taste of what it means to go camping. They'll sleep in tents, make pita pizzas on the campfire, and begin plying their paddling and tent building skills. Under the watchful eye of trip leaders certified as Wilderness First Responders, campers are able to begin exploring not only the wonders of nature, but they experience how they themselves fit into the outdoor world. 

As campers progress at North Star, they move through the tripping program. Each trip builds off the previous one and leads to the next. Campers go from the Mighty Nam to the St. Croix River. They'll paddle the Brule and Flambeau and hike places like The Superior Trail in Minnesota. Each trip poses new physical challenges as the rivers become more advanced and the trips themselves become longer. These challenges are all done as a group.
Trips aren't always easy. Weather, paddling conditions and group dynamics are just a few of the elements that will test our groups. It is within those very conditions that our campers grow. The true test isn't in being the best paddler or carrying the heaviest pack, but in how they respond to the challenges that a wilderness trip throws at them. We've come to appreciate the term Type II fun, but it truly is amazing when campers return from the wilderness and focus on the challenges of their trip not in a negative way, but with stories that make them feel like conquering heroes. They faced challenges head on and while it may not have been fun in the moment, they're able to recall how they got through it. More than that, however, is the added sense of self achievement and confidence through their new found strength.

Perhaps the most important part of our trips program is the fact that campers are taking on these challenges alongside their cabinmates and counselors. Often times, cabin groups will go into a trip with various issues and dynamics, but after spending ta handful of days on the river and in tents, groups work together and individuals get a better understanding of each other. And with many of our campers, they will move up, summer after summer with individual and groups of friends, making that trip experience even deeper and more profound.
So, tonight as our Pine Manor campers end day one of the Canadian, they are having an experience that is a true culmination of their NSC careers. They are joined in spirit as well as real envy by a legion of NSC alumni who themselves completed the very same trip and have vivid memories of their nine days in Quetico. We eagerly await their return in just over a week and look forward to hearing their stories and seeing their obvious growth...and ultimately passing that torch to future Pine Manor campers.