April 17, 2013

Boundary Waters Canoe Trip

Who wants to head to the wildreness of Northern Minnesota?  We have a great oppertunity this summer, and still need a few more girls to make the trip happen.  Please take the time to read about a past particiapants life changing expereince and help us spread the word.

Let's start with the details for our trip this summer.
Boundary Waters: Wilderness Canoe Trip Grade: 9–12
Meet at Camp Ken-Jockety, then travel by van to northern Minnesota to discover the beauty of the wilderness by spending five days canoeing the boundary waters. This wilderness adventure will allow time for you to enjoy the eagles and loons as you paddle and portage to new lakes. The group will camp along the lakeshore and have time each day to swim, relax, journal, explore, and get to know each other. There will be plenty of time to stop for some sightseeing as you travel to and from this grand adventure. Previous canoe experience is beneficial but not required.
Date: Sun., Jul. 7–Wed., Jul. 17, 2013 Time: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Cost: $750 per person
Deadline: Fri., May 31, 2013. Register here today!

We asked participants to write about their experience on Girl Scout canoe trips through Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines - Northern Lakes Canoe Base in Ely, MN. Here is what Sarah Gaulke (Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital; Participant, 2011; Guide in Training, 2012) had to say:

Y’all must be crazy up there, Gals."

"Y’all must be crazy up there, Gals. Y’all must be crazy up there!" – These simple words became the theme song for the 23 days that I spent at the Canoe Base as a GIT and the 14 days I spent as a participant. But these words mean so much more for the time I spent up in the North than just a little crazy fun. Don’t get me wrong here; it was the best month of my life because as the days passed the amount of fun and craziness definitely grew, but what I took from all those moments in between amounted to so much more.

Now when you are thrown into a canoe in the wilderness for 10 days with total strangers, you can bet that you come out as friends. I started out at the Canoe base as a participant for a destination which included a 10 day canoe trip with 8 total strangers. However, the bond I grew with those girls was incredible. Now, over a year later we still keep in touch, including a Facebook group, a notebook in the mail, and birthday cards and spontaneous snail mail. They are those friends who don’t care what you wear (because you only have two outfits in the woods anyways), the ones that totally understand how you feel as you portage a canoe up a never
ending hill, the ones that understand how much you love the woods and even cream of wheat, and the ones that you can always count on for good memories when you are having a bad day. Even though we all live on both sides of the US and thousands of miles apart from each other, the distance only makes the memories we share that much stronger. Out of 7 girls on my destination, 5 of us came back as GIT’s this past summer. We counted down the days together and when we were reunited it was like we had never spent a year apart. That friendship is something that I will treasure forever and I am positive that we will go on more adventures together.

Now before you think that I get too sappy, there is always the hard aspect of work involved, but even then you learn so much about yourself! Whether it is setting up camp after a long day of canoeing, a mile-long portage, a swamp to wade through, or a huge bowl of cream of wheat in the morning, you are given many opportunities to learn so many things about yourself while at the canoe base. Learning my limits (I still can’t flip up that darn
canoe!) but also learning that I am capable of so many things I never thought possible. If you told me that before I went on the destination that I would carry a canoe on my shoulders up and down hills, I would have looked at you like you’re nuts. But the empowerment that I felt after accomplishing that feat was so incredibly strong, it made all those moments that I felt like quitting worth it. That feeling carried me all the way home and even now if I think of that memory I smile. Yes, it was hard but that made the accomplishment worth so much more. Out there, you are responsible for your stuff and you can’t just leave a canoe behind because you don’t feel like carrying it or your shoulders hurt. And while that portage may not be pretty, when you reach the other side you feel strong and invincible. If you just portaged that, then you could do anything.

This also leads to another fantastic aspect of life that the canoe base teaches you; teamwork and
the power of unity. Now you may be thinking, oh yeah teamwork, I use it all the time on the soccer field or in a group project. This is teamwork to a whole new dimension. Like I said, you are in the woods for ten days and you are responsible for all of your stuff. That means if you slack off or are lazy, someone else has to pick up your slack. But being a team is so much more than helping each other out physically. It’s the cheering, the laughter, and the friendship as well. It’s the voices that surround you as you portage singing "I’ll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan or telling you that you are conquering the portage and encouraging you every step of the way. It’s the cheers after you hang the bear hang on the first try or when fire lights with only two matches (not over ten the previous night). Teamwork is the core of the whole trip, and it makes the trip that much more memorable and builds those strong friendships I was talking about.

Now maybe up in the north it is different, but over here in DC when people say they are going outdoors, they usually mean the regional park that so well trod that you can’t go half mile without seeing someone. But up north, it is so much more grand and picturesque. I could put up a whole chain of gorgeous pictures but it could never do the BWCAW justice. I love the wilderness so much; the untouched beauty and the crystal clear water. Everyone should come out of their shell just to see it and appreciate what nature and wild there is still left. From the crazy thunder storms that light up the night sky, to the occasional northern lights, and the sunset full of oranges and purples and reds, I can honestly say that I have never seen such beauty in my life. And everything that the beauty brings with it, the peace and quiet, content and relaxation, and the fresh and wild feeling that one gets from every day in the woods is so incredible, there is nothing like it. I always leave feeling so much better and at peace with myself than before. It’s an incredible therapy that I think is much ignored these days.

Another part of this incredible experience is the lack of stuff. And I literally use stuff because there is no better word for it. Technology, piles of clothes, and other amenities you don’t need out in the woods. You take what you need to live, and it’s more than enough! There is no excess and there doesn’t need to be. You don’t want to carry a hair dryer and there is no use for one either. Without everything, it makes life so much simpler and easier. You learn to appreciate what you have; the clothes on your back, the food that you carry, and the water under your canoe. You learn more about yourself and the incredible people you are with. There are no distractions from the woods, the friends, or yourself and it is better than way. It lends itself to a very open and helpful environment where you know everyone cares and you can create lifelong friends. Every time I would lay and look up to the trees, or just looks around at the beautiful world, it reminded me how lucky I was to be there and how lucky we are to have opportunities like this.

Now if you are still here 1200 words later, I applaud you. However, I don’t think I could sum my
feelings or incredible experiences that I have had as a GIT and a participant at the Canoe Base any shorter. It is such a wonderful program that taught me and many others many new aspects of my life. It showed me what’s really important; not possessions but the friendships you make, the wilderness that there still is in this technologically-centered world, and the appreciation for the simple things in life like food, shelter, and canoes. I would highly encourage any girl to go out and try the Canoe Base. Even if you are not the outdoors type, you can make many new friends and experience so many new opportunities that it is very much worth the lack of electricity or mattresses. And besides even if you decide that canoeing is not your thing, I am pretty sure that very few of your classmates can beat a summer story where you carried a canoe on your shoulders or paddled 100 miles.

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