We’ve all had outings we would just as soon forget, but I’m happy to say it’s been many years since a Trail Guard outing went really sour. Trying at times, and challenging; but it’s been a long time since we’ve had a major malfunction. We’ve learned a lot over time.
Our recent BWCA trip was another worth remembering. The group dynamics were excellent, the weather great (despite a lot of rain), and the memories lasting. The kids were fantastic, working together for five days to become a team with a common mission--to get us through an aggressive route in a safe and enjoyable fashion.
When I laid out our route to Michelle Kelly, an education specialist with the Minnesota DNR who would co-lead the trip, she said, “You’re kidding, right?” A thirty-nine mile loop with 27 portages totaling 7 1/8 miles in four days (a five day trip with travel time at each end) seemed like a lot.
The ambitious plan is by design, of course, and has some very tangible outcomes. It is immediately evident that it’s a long way to the end, and that everyone is going to have to not only perform, but add what they can to the group, to successfully complete the mission.
The trip becomes, especially to a young spirit, an epic journey through beautiful and wild country that is lightly traveled by humans, and that presents new and exciting challenges around every bend. It is incredible to watch each young team member find ways to contribute, finally coming together as a functioning, supportive, and fun-loving team.
Each night ends with two very effective procedures. The first is called the BOSS circle, which stands for “Blow Off Some Steam.” The rule of the circle is followed, which means the person speaking has the attention and respect of the others. As each has his turn to speak, they are granted that same attention and respect. It is a safe and effective way to deal with concerns early, rather that letting them grow into real problems.
Part II is called the “Appreciation Circle.” Everyone is asked to remember something someone did for them that day that they really appreciated. It’s amazing what comes out of that, and the affect it has on the next day’s activities.
There is also an emotional check-in after breakfast, our very effective “penny check” to scour the campsite before leaving, and a presentation of the day’s itinerary by that day’s young “Daily Planner.”
There’s a lot more going on than just dipping paddles and eating s’mores, and it adds up to long, fulfilling days capped with good food, healthy camaraderie, and lessons to last a lifetime.
This years brave young adventures: Melissa Hawkinson, Crystal Roberts, Tyler Barkley, Katie Schwalbe, Elizabeth Clawson, and MaKayla and Luke Gottwald.