Saturday, August 07, 2010

And home again

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 --
  1. 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.
  2. Train. Then train some more. If you show up without training, you'll pay for the lack.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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...
  6. 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.
  7. Have a written duty roster. This cuts down on a LOT of arguments.
  8. Go to Quetico. The Boundary Waters (BWCA) are just plain crowded.
  9. If the advisers like coffee, take a spare stove. I recommend the Starbucks instant coffee in the little tubes.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.