July 19, 2017

The Boys are Back!

It was an historic day here at Arowhon; after 6 years of careful planning, our first trip to the Missinaibi River since 2005 returned to the hollers, whoops and excited cheering of the entire camp! 9 brave point men and 3 trippers paddled into the trip fingers in perfect ‘V’ formation, after 15 days of adventure in northern Ontario. While it will take some time for all the stories of hijinks, wonder and (minor) calamity to enter into the camp’s oral history, the early reports from our tripping team are very clear; this is just the beginning!

The question of “why long trips?” is frequently posed to me in my role as Tripping Director, and my answers are as numerous and diverse as our camper populations. Chief among our reasons are that trip facilitates the formation of social bonds; it promotes and develops a sense of awe and reverence for the natural environment; and it challenges us to find new strengths and abilities in ourselves, building our self-confidence and sense of self. Shorter trips, such as our ‘Burnt and Back’ Junior Trips (which are leaving tomorrow!) certainly serve these purposes, but as our campers get older, often their trips are finished, and our campers back in the familiar environment of Arowhon, before the natural ‘deep learning’ of the tripping environment can take hold.

Longer trips help us push into new areas of learning, in more remote locations, more unfamiliar environments, and into new challenges.

Every year, as part of our pre-camp training for canoe trippers, I share a number of readings – poems, anecdotes, short stories – to give voice to, and to share, my passion for tripping. I always end with the same poem, from my very favorite poet, Robert Service (of Sam McGee fame!). It’s called the Dauntless Quest, and though it speaks of mountaineering, not canoe tripping, it echo’s one of my core feelings about the reasons why canoe trips are important; adventurous learning, and adventures more generally, are never certain things, but we stand to gain so much from the experience of them. In the face of this understanding, the answer to the question “Why Canoe Tripping?” is simple – “Because we can!”.

 “Why seek to scale Mount Everest,
Queen of the air?
Why strive to crown that cruel crest
And deathward dare?
Said Mallory of dauntless quest:
“Because it’s there.”

“Why yearn with passion and with pain
To storm the sky?
Why suffer, – sullen goals to gain,
And fear defy?
“‘Tis not for glory or for gain
We darkly die.”

“Why join the reckless, roving crew
Of trail and tent?
Why grimly take the roads of rue,
To doom hell-bent?
Columbus, Cook and Cabot knew,
And yet they went.”

“Why bid the wooly world goodbye

To follow far,
Adventures under evil sky
And sullen star?
Let men like Mallory reply:
“Because they are.”


– Robert Service


One response to “The Boys are Back!”

  1. Lili Tomovich says:

    Love all the updates on life at camp! Thanks for taking the time to share!!

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