The Value of a Wilderness Trip
I recently drove a Boundary Waters canoe trip up to Snowbank Lake, just outside of Ely, Minnesota, not realizing I was taking my own mental journey. The minute I stepped out of the van and walked to the water’s edge, I felt myself return to all the trips I’d taken over theyears. The water sparkled, and the only sounds I heard were the birds and the girls. I felt the cool, clear lake and thought about how lucky these girls were. I turned to them and said, “ This is the weather I lived for when I was canoe tripping. I don’t think they had a clue what I meant. They were busy getting out lunch supplies, and I think they were a little nervous. At the time, I thought they were about to embark on something life changing.
I’m not sure someone can understand what it means for a girl, or a young woman, to paddle off in a canoe into the unknown, if they’ve never done it. Just the idea that they would carry the canoe on their shoulders along with all the other gear necessary to camp in the woods is really pretty remarkable. I’ve taken 15-20 of these trips, and every time I returned, I felt a renewed sense of capability. I went with only women. We carried, cooked, paddled and played with strength and confidence. We laughed and we cried, and along the way, we became life-long friends.
Taking a wilderness trip teaches a host of skills, but many of the girls choose to take a trip because of the friends who are also going. When they return, those friendships are usually tighter, and maybe even more real, based on hardships shared, confronting strengths and weaknesses, and relying on one another to get through. When they drive into Camp, the horn honks, people run to greet them, and jubilation leaps out of the van. They are so excited to be home, and yes, at this point, camp is home. They can’t wait to sleep in their own beds, but they can’t stop talking about all they went through. The trip stories shared at the final campfire are usually hard to get through, but only because the girls are laughing so hard. The joy of a trip is shared, but the impact is most likely understood much later.
–Mary Jane Curran