We're back. It was a great trip - seven days on the water, two days at the base camp, and a day of travel. We camped six times, portaged 20-30 times, and covered an estimated 117 miles (about 10 of which were portage miles and the rest paddled). One big result - no injuries. A couple of quick impressions --
Get the Kevlar canoes. The aluminum canoes are rugged but I'm sure they were part of the reason we had two injuries on the 2008 trip and NONE on the 2010 trip.
Train. Then train some more. If you show up without training, you'll pay for the lack.
Cardio training. The portage trails are rough and the packs are heavy. You'll be happier on the portage trails if you've trained carrying weight on trails (get some vertical if you can, use stadium steps if you can't get it on trails). All the packs start out at about 50 lbs; the food packs get progressively lighter but the others remain heavy.
Skills training. Paddle canoes and go canoe camping at least once, preferrably twice. Practice the wilderness skills - Leave No Trace. If your crew members can't j-stroke, if they don't have some power in their strokes, they'll fail when the wind kicks up.
Team training. You'll have some crew members who don't get the idea of working as a team. They'll put of their own tent but let someone else struggle with another tent, they'll take care of their personal needs and preferences first and leave the group responsibilities to others, and they will be selfish instead of sharing. Find out who they are and decide if they can be tolerated. One bad apple...
Test skills. Have each team member demonstrate that they have the skills needed. Otherwise you'll have a bunch of sandbaggers who stress all the others.
Have a written duty roster. This cuts down on a LOT of arguments.
Go to Quetico. The Boundary Waters (BWCA) are just plain crowded.
If the advisers like coffee, take a spare stove. I recommend the Starbucks instant coffee in the little tubes.
As an advisor, stand back and let the scouts run the show. There are times when you, the advisor, will have to lay down the law (e.g., no one eats dinner until ALL the tents are up, pads are unrolled, and sleeping bags ready). I say this because otherwise you'll be standing around feeding the mosquitoes while the scouts dawdle with and fuss with their tents.
Make the rules clear, then repeat five times. Shoes mandatory. Life vests mandatory. Buddy system mandatory. For some reason, mail teen-agers don't understand multi-word sentences until many repetitions. Keep the rules simple and clear so that you don't waste time picking nits with some budding lawyer.
For fun, take a gander at this video -- a portage from the point of view of the guy under the canoe.
I had all these plans to reignite this blog by tracking our training for Northern Tier. Ah, it would have been brilliant. People would have been inspired to get up out of their lounges and off their sofas to head out into the wilderness. Didn't happen. So that's the bad news. The good news is that I'm doing my final packing and we leave on Monday.
We catch a flight at the crack o' dawn on Monday morning and arrive in Minneapolis a bit after noon, high noon. This "we" is a group of six teen-aged boys and two teen-aged adults; or at least we have teen-aged dreams of wilderness adventure. We'll toss our stuff into our rental cars and head to the Mall of America for lunch. After that, we head up to the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum. We spend the night at a warmed-up ski center and on Tuesday go to visit the Soudan Underground Mine State Park to tour an iron mine 2,341 feet down. After lunch, we arrive at Charles L. Sommers Northern Tier Canoe Base. After that, we're on our own. We start in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in northern Minnesota but we quickly paddle through Prairie Portage into the Quetico. It will be a while, but we'll return to the US and then head on home.
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We're in full-swing training for Northern Tier. Northern Tier (NT) is the BSA National High Adventure Base for canoeing. We're going to the Charles L. Somers Canoe Base outside Ely, MN in the last week of July and the first part of August, 2010. The base is in or near the BWCA - Boundary Waters Canoe Area - and just south of Quetico. I've been there twice before. The first time was as a college student or recent grad (I'd have to check the dates) and was in 19jasjdhf. Gosh, that must have been a data transmission error. The second time was in 2008 with my older son and a group of Boy Scouts. This time is with my younger son and a group of Boy Scouts. I sense a pattern.
The crew this year is a bunch of 15- and 16-year-olds. The 2008 crew was a bit older and bigger; the biggest guys on the 2010 crew would be the smallest on the 2008 crew. This means we won't go as many miles (109 or so in 2008), but we'll still have a grand time. Although we start in BWCA, we cross over into the Quetico on the first day and don't return to the US until the last day. Yes, we cross an international border and need all the appropriate paperwork.
For training, we started with hikes and bike trips. I divide training into three purposes: cardiovascular health and endurance, skill development, and team-building. Since the water was cold in January, we started with hikes - a weekly 6+ mile hike with increasing weight and irregular weekend hikes for fun. For variety, we also did some cycling - about a 20-mile trip on a suburban bike trail. As the weather warmed in May, we got into canoes. Fortunately, we have a crew member who lives across the street from Cottage Lake, so we are able to use their house as a base and portage the canoes over to the Lake. The paddling started out pretty light, building up to a mile in the early days, but now we're more like 1.5-2 miles (it is a small lake). We also did a canoe-camping trip to Diablo Lake in the North Cascades. We did 13 miles over two days with two nights camped. The weather was great, so this was a good trip for a break-in. Finally, having the guys travel together, camp together, and work together is the best team-building I know, so that's what we do.