A respite from raw meat. (aka ditty bag day)

Ditty bag day was a welcome rest from raw meat! We met up at the Minnerath’s house where we had a total of 6 sewing machines ready and waiting. I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen a ditty bag day go so smoothly as this one did! A few girls were still in school, so we ended up having two different shifts of sewers. The first shift picked out their fabric, got a quick lesson on sewing machines from Sylvia and they were off. Once the girls finished their first ditty bags and figured out the process, they took off and finished the rest in record time! Morgan and Sonja – I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone power sew quite as quickly as you two! The first shift left to check the dehydrator just before the second shift came in. Again, the girls took to sewing quickly and we were done in no time! Anna even had time to start a pair of mittens! When the second half of the crew returned from the dehydrator we enjoyed tacos in a bag and awesome brownies from Jenn Gerhardt. A huge thank you to the Minnerath's for hosting and Sylvia for the sewing lessons, Jenn for the meal, and Julie Curtis and Nancy Ebel for the extra help with sewing and machines! 

Beef. It's what's for lunch!

Tuesday was beef jerky day, and if we thought we’d seen a lot of meat trying to cook up 70 lbs at our baking day, we were wrong! All 12 crews were camped out in the garage or a large tent set up on the driveway at the Trigg’s residence. The girls spent the morning slicing the fat from slices of meat and cutting them into jerky sized strips. The meat went straight into a delicious marinade where it was pressed down and packed together. All I can say is it was a lot of meat and a lot of cutting - but we had fun doing it! After today, we will never doubt the value of a nice slice of meat with barely any fat on it. We finished slicing meat just in time to clean up before lunch. That was a welcome treat! We had delicious sandwiches and fruit supplied by Julie Curtis and a little time to sit in the shade enjoying it. All in all, a successful beef jerky day!

To bake or not to bake

Sunday was our baking day at the Novak’s. We made all of our Hudson Bay Bread, hot chocolate, bannock, and hamburger. The morning went very smoothly as we had 3 houses along the same street to bake at. A special thank you to the Kruchten’s and Dvoracek’s for allowing us to use their ovens. The girls had a lot of fun thinking up creative flavors for our bay bread and we can’t wait to try it on trail! I personally am excited for the apple cinnamon and s’mores :) The bannock and hot chocolate are dry mixes that we prepare ahead of time. Bannock is a thick bread that we bake on trail for our lunches when we aren't eating bay bread. Each batch had to be mixed separately and bagged, making it a little time consuming. Thankfully, the hot chocolate was mixed in one giant plastic tote. If you've never seen 28lbs of hot chocolate powder being stirred in one plastic bin - it's quite the sight!

We saved the hamburger preparations until after lunch. It’s a bit of a labor-intensive process to prepare the hamburger, as the crew can attest! In the beginning, we designated a few “master meat mixers” to mix seasoning into our meat before we baked it. This meant hand mixing 10+ lbs of raw hamburger with plenty of steak seasoning, pepper, garlic salt, and Lawry’s….yum!! Kenzie and Anna took over this job and could be seen either elbow deep in meat or out on the deck holding the remaining frozen beef up on a fork to thaw in the sun. (Interesting method, but thankfully Cathy Novak pointed us to the defrost feature on the microwave and saved us some time there!) Once the meat was mixed it was spread into pans and baked. Then came the challenge of removing large pans of meat swimming in hot grease from the oven without spilling a drop. Through the skillful use of a turkey baster and over 9 rolls of paper towels we managed to get our meat grease free and ready to dehydrate! We cut the meat into small squares and broke up the chunks to make ground beef. Finally, we were ready to give it one last press with paper towels and leave it on the dehydrator. 

It was a long day of baking, but the delicious food we made will be well worth the time! 

Paddle Mania

The theme of our last few meetings has been paddle, paddle, paddle! This is one of the more important skills we will learn before trail, and the more practice we get the better. We’ve had a grand old time getting out on the water and practicing the new strokes. Saturday night marked our first official paddle – after attempting to make a straight line across the river and under a bridge we came upon a nice calm bay. We spent some time here learning how to turn the boats, travel sideways, and propel ourselves forward in a nice, straight line! I was duly impressed with how well everyone caught on to the strokes. Though we can all agree that the J-stroke is a little difficult, especially at first, I’ve seen great progress. Being able to turn the canoe in flat water is an awesome start!

Our Sunday morning paddle took place on a lovely calm morning, complete with geese, ducks, and a plethora of jumping fish. We traveled a little further this time and found another bay and a few islands. It’s great to be able to explore, and as we become more comfortable with our strokes we will go farther and farther! We have another optional paddle tonight, and we will get more practice and possibly learn how to rescue tipped canoes.

In addition to paddling, we also finished up our route plan and practiced setting up our tents. We will be meeting with Fred on Thursday to talk over our route and see what advice he has for us. After this, we submit it and are officially finished with our plan! It’s really exciting to have our trip planned and picture ourselves at the various locations. It’s hard to believe that in a little under 3 weeks we will be embarking on our journey. We’ll have a busy few weeks up until we leave, but hang in there everyone!

Everything's peachy!

Hello from the Ebel crew! It’s been a bit since I’ve blogged, but I only have more progress to report! We’ve been diligently working on a few new skills, as well as starting our dehydrating.We spent Sunday night learning paddle strokes. After learning the proper way to hold a paddle, we started off with the power stroke. We had a lot of fun learning how to put our whole core into the strokes (complete with grunts as sound effects) and how to properly recover from our paddle stroke!  We also learned corrective strokes that will be used by the paddler in stern. The J-stroke and C-stroke will allow us to keep a straight course while paddling without slowing our momentum. I saw some awesome paddle strokes, and I’m really excited to get on the water! We will of course need practice, but I think we’re going to have a full crew of great paddlers!

On Monday night, we started dehydrating. We set up shop at the Kruchten’s and got straight to business washing, slicing, and drying our peaches. It was important to get them in quickly, as 12-14 hours later they had to be checked and taken off the dehydrator. This resulted in a bright and early crew meeting at 5:30 am. Everyone showed up and sleepily sorted fully dehydrated peaches from the still unfinished remainder. A few girls decided to nap on the floor while waiting for the peaches to be done. Over the course of the next 2-3 weeks we will be dehydrating most of the fruit and veggies that we bring on trail, as well as the beef jerky and hamburger. We might even throw a few oranges on the dehydrator and see what happens!

We’ve been plugging away with our route planning in the mean time as well. We are nearly finished and excited for our plans! We will likely finish it off this weekend and hold a meeting with Fred to look over our route and take any suggestions he has for us. Fred knows the area better than the back of his hand, and will be able to highlight interesting features of our route, give us an idea whether our time estimates are okay, and possibly suggest a few changes based on our interests!

Thursday night was spent learning how to properly set up a tarp. We learned that it’s important to pay attention to small details like the direction of the wind, the distance from the fire, and the height of low hanging branches in order to set up an effective tarp and keep it from getting damaged. We were able to use a few of the knots we had learned previously to construct our tarp. We threw in a nice trucker’s hitch to cinch our ridge-line and keep our tarp from drooping in the middle and used the bowline knot to attach our p-cords to the corners of the tarp and pull it tight. All in all we set up a very impressive tarp. This skill will be really important to know when it comes to setting up our camp at night and for solo day!

We’re in for another busy week here, but we’re looking forward to paddling, our crew sleepover, and purchasing our boots! Parents, it was great to meet you all at our parent meeting this Wednesday. I look forward to seeing you at a few of our events later on!

Portaging, menu, and maps, oh my!!

We’ve had a whirlwind few days as a crew here, working on canoe flipping, knots, our menu, route plan, stoves, and our first portage. And if that isn’t enough to wear a crew out, I don’t know what will! Although the last few days have left even my head spinning, I’ve been very happy with the can do attitude our crew has. I’ve thrown a lot at them and they have done a great job keeping up and putting in solid effort. Our canoe flipping is really coming along, and our first portage yesterday went extremely well. The crew set a goal to have everyone portage the canoe to the tennis courts (a distance of 0.25 miles) and everyone finished this and made it look easy! To celebrate our first portage, we took out the stoves we will occasionally use on trail and made some voyageur hot chocolate. It was a fun treat on a cold day!

After this, we pulled out our maps and started planning our route.  We got acquainted with the basic features of our maps and learned how to spot rapids on a river and tell the distance of a portage or paddle. Additionally, we introduced the UTM system, which is analogous to latitude and longitude and will help us locate exactly where we are on a map, within 10-100 meters. Fred stopped by our meeting and helped us find the Obukwin portages, which we will be doing our first day on trail. He also pointed out a few good cliff jumping spots and helped us picture what we could accomplish in a day. Our goal is to finish the Obukwin portages on the first day of trail and camp on Obukwin lake. These are notoriously difficult portages, and we are setting the bar high with this goal, but with enough practice portaging pre-trip we hope to be able to make it through in one day! We are looking forward to planning the rest of our route in the meetings to come!

Today is our well-deserved day off, and I hope everyone is able to catch up on sleep and spend a little time relaxing. We will learn our paddle strokes tomorrow night and hopefully get out on the water for our first paddle!

Parents, I look forward to meeting you next week at our parent meeting, Wednesday May 24th at 7 pm! Feel free to contact either me or our crew coordinator, Mary Doble with any questions. 

 

17 feet, 70 pounds, and a whole lot of fun!

The crew took on the challenge of flipping our 17-foot-long canoes onto their shoulders today! And as they can attest, it’s not easy. We started out by learning to name the different parts of the canoe to get familiar with our mode of transport for the summer. We also talked about how important it is to treat our canoes gently and keep them in good condition. This means not dragging the canoes on the ground, taking care to set them down gently, and taking them from the rack without scraping them. After this, we walked through the steps of flipping slowly to learn how to lift the canoes up onto our shoulders without getting injured.  Every girl walked through each step before adding the next so that we could build upon our knowledge. We learned that your grip on the canoe, hand placement and hip thrusts for momentum are very important! Canoe flipping is all in the hips (and in the thumb grip as we discovered!). After building the suspense we put all of the steps together and flipped up the canoes! I was very impressed by the crew. It took some hard work and perseverance, but every girl managed to flip up the canoe! It was awesome to watch the girls give each other suggestions and help their crew members until everyone successfully flipped the canoe. Great job on the team work today ladies – encouragement, positivity, and a few suggestions are so helpful. Next time we work on canoe flipping we will try flipping on both our right and left sides and get more comfortable with the process.

After canoe flipping we started planning our menu. We had a great time talking about all the delicious food we will have and deciding between different options. We’re really excited to be creative with our dehydrating and make some tasty fruit roll ups. Planning the menu really made us realize how real everything is getting. It’s easy to get caught up in all the meetings and preparations that take place pre-trip, but in 34 days we will be on trail drinking the hot chocolate we ordered and starting out on the adventure of a life time! We ended our meeting with a little crew bonding and going over a little check in. We each went around in a circle and talked about the rose, bud, and thorn of our day. The rose was the high point of the day, the bud something that is progressing, and the thorn something that didn’t go so well. It was awesome to hear how the rose of so many days was how well our crew is bonding and looking out for each other and the bud to work on a certain aspect of canoe flipping. We will be meeting on Thursday to begin planning our route and we look forward to spending more time together!

Is this map part of Mexico?!

Is this map part of Mexico?!

We spent our evening figuring out a bit of a puzzle. The crew was handed a large stack of maps of the area we will be traveling and told to put them together. They sat down, started unfolding maps, and quickly realized this was going to be a big job! In about five minutes there were maps spread across the floor and lots of suggestions regarding their arrangement. It took about half an hour of collaboration to match up most of the maps and identify a few outliers. After deciding that there was simply no place in Canada for these maps a few girls declared that they had to be a part of Mexico because they just didn’t fit! Nevertheless, they kept going and eventually put all the maps in the correct spot. After the maps had been painstakingly assembled, Gretchen made an important discovery – the key to putting the maps together quickly! The discovery was greeted with a few groans and some laughter, but we learned a good lesson about looking for more efficient ways to accomplish tasks. Now that we know how to put together our maps, we can start drawing out the route we’ve been dreaming up! Overall, we had a lot of fun working together as a crew and overcoming the challenge. We ended our meeting with a celebratory jump in the river and we will be back out at Base Camp tomorrow to learn canoe flipping!

Busy day at Base Camp!

It was a full morning for the Ebel crew today! We started off with a grand tour of base camp and got acquainted with our second home for the summer. This included a little walk down to the river to check out our canoes and the awesome bonfire pit. After we had explored a bit, we sat down to talk about our goals for the summer and the expectations we had for each other. I was impressed by how eager everyone was to challenge themselves, not only in our route but in our day to day preparations. It’s clear that we have a lot of energy and excitement about coming together as a crew to begin preparations and test our strength! We also talked about the importance of finding the positives in a negative situation and not being afraid to fail. Being able to see the silver lining during any difficult task will be crucial to our success as a crew this summer! Besides this, parents you’ll be happy to hear that your daughters proposed having common sense as one of our goals! This included wearing sunscreen, watching out for foot fungus, and most importantly putting safety first!

After setting down our goals and ground rules we started planning our route. All I can say is look out Canada, you have a very determined crew looking to explore places no one has been before and take on some of the most difficult portages! We also will make time for a little fun too. We’re planning on stopping by Fourth of July falls to hopefully swim down the rapids, going cliff jumping, and taking a night paddle to start out in the sunset and be greeted with a sunrise in the morning. In the meetings following we will work on putting these components together and deciding the lakes and rivers that we will travel on. For now, we have a great list of objectives to start from!

We powered through the first part of our meeting and had plenty of time to begin learning our knots. After tying the double half hitch, taut line, and bowline knots we set up successful clotheslines all over our meeting room! I saw a lot of neat knots today and everyone had a good time looking for the “PFD” in the bowline knots and following along with the story of the rabbit to tie it! Overall it was an energetic, successful first meeting and we look forward to getting together next Sunday!

 

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to the experience of a lifetime – Les Voyageurs expeditions summer 2017! In just a few short weeks, base camp will be filled with the bustle of 12 crews preparing for one of the most memorable summers of their lives. Voyageurs holds a special place in my heart as the program that taught me to be confident, gave me the freedom to test my limits, and helped me develop as a leader. I am so excited as a guide to be able to provide you all with that same opportunity!

 

Currently I am a sophomore attending the University of Minnesota majoring in biology and minoring in environmental sciences. I spend my time juggling classes, research, a few odd volunteer positions, and rock climbing. However, as the weather warms up I’ve been itching to get outside! This will be my second summer guiding and I’ve looked forward to this all year!

 

This blog will be updated regularly to keep parents and participants up to date on all of our trip preparations as well as with a few fun photos. In addition to the blog and photos, a calendar of our crew meetings and events will also be accessible through the LVI website. This is a great way to keep up with our crew’s schedule, so please check this often!

 

I’m currently working on the schedule for this summer, so check back soon for calendar dates for all of our pretrip meetings! Please feel free to contact me with any questions that come up!