Leaving Our Mark

The crew has been hard at work fine tuning skills we have already learned from earlier meetings over the last week. Personally, my favorite have been our morning paddles on the Mississippi. We have been fortunate enough to have the Mississippi be smooth as glass, with fog rising off the water as the sun rises. To make the morning paddles even better, the paddling practice we have been doing has really been showing. The guys all seem a lot more comfortable with the different strokes and control of the boat. We have started to adventure towards Little Rock Lake in our paddles more and take "sneak" routes to get there. 

To challenge the crew a bit at our last morning paddle, I had the crew pull up on shore farther downstream from Fred's dock on Pine Point. I wanted to show/explain how you look for portage trails when on trail. Now the "trail" that runs from Fred's dock to the point is hardly there because of its 2-3 uses it gets each summer. However, it was the perfect opportunity to have the guys practice flipping the canoe out of the water and portage on a less than perfect trail, which is more common than not on trail. The first 70 yards or so of the portage was what we call a "bush crash", or when you have to make your own trail because there currently isn't one for us to use. We will have to use our map and compass skills on trail to create a bearing with the compass and make our own trails from lake to lake to portage if there isn't one already established. The last 40 yards of our short portage from the point came out on the old trail that was not good, but better than no trail we had before. The guys carrying the canoe got a real good taste of how hard it can be carrying a canoeup on trail when the trails are not good. The guys were squatting to carry it under trees and constantly being jostled around by thick understory and branches. For their first experience in dense cover carrying a canoe, I was thoroughly impressed and excited to watch the guys tackle bush crashes and portages on trail. 

Another key part to our recent meetings have been our route planning. Since our first meeting, we haven't been worrying too much about our route until now. For many Voyageur participants it is among their favorite parts of the preparation. The guys have enough maps to cover the whole floor in the meeting room in basecamp and the rest is theirs to explore. I wanted the guys to know how to read the maps and see what different features look like on a map, so I showed them how to find steep terrain, rapids, marsh, cabins, and flow direction of water. It made me so excited to see how enthusiastic the guys were getting about our route. The guys seem very adventurous and determined to go to new places Voyageurs have never been to before. A few highlights for the guys seem to be the "X" south of Old Shoes Lake, the "beach" on Lake Winnipeg, and possibly the Etomami River, a river never been done by Voyageurs north of the Berens River. In our last meeting, we used google earth to explore satellite images of parts of our route to see what it looks like. Although our route is far from done, I couldn't be more excited for our adventure ahead this summer.






It has been a busy three days for the Fritz Crew. Starting on Monday, the guys had a brief meeting at basecamp to go over all of the knots we have learned and practiced putting the names to the different knots. The meeting was kept brief since we had our crews parent meeting later that night. It was so great getting to meet all of the parents and show them our crews second home for the summer. 

Tuesday was yet another big day for our crew. It was the first of a few big days we have in our pre-trip preparation for the trip. We had our food packing day bright and early at Cathedral High School and our crew dressed up as Hawaiians as part of our crew "costume". The whole day lasted from about 8am-2:30pm. Jaydon Brattensborg is our food manager, so as part of his job, he let everyone know what food we needed, how much of each kind, and the different weights/quantities of it all. The whole crew was hard at work bagging up all the food and getting everything we need for our upcoming expedition. At noon, we took a short, but well deserved lunch break outside. The lunch was graciously provided by Stacie Rau! It was delicious. After we had our lunch and a short break, the guys the guys dove right into finishing up our food gathering process.

Wednesday's meeting was the perfect way to decompress from our intense food packing day the day before. For our meeting, we went for a nice paddle up the river a little ways to a bay a few hundred yards from basecamp. We were blessed by warm weather and calm water. The guys were given the chance to practice their strokes along the way, but in the bay we had some fun. I taught the guys two fun canoe games; The J-Lean and the teeter totter. For the J-Lean, it is meant to practice your "braces", which you would use in situations like whitewater, or wavy lakes. The high and low brace act as a recovery stroke you can use to push your momentum from leaning too far in the canoe back upright. The objective of the game is to lean the canoe, so it fills up and sinks without the canoe tipping over. It was really fun to watch the guys do a good job with this game! the second game doesn't really work any new skills, but nevertheless, it is so fun. The teeter totter requires both people in the canoe standing on opposite ends of the canoe, all the way on the top and rocking it up and down like a teeter totter. The first the fall off loses. The friendly competition was a great excuse to enjoy the warm weather and water of yet another beautiful night at basecamp.

The guys will be back out at basecamp bright and early at 5am tomorrow for a sunrise paddle.

(Look in the photos section for photos of the J-Lean and teeter totter:))



Paddling, tarps, and Menus. OH MY!

Since our last blog, the crew has had two meetings at basecamp. In our two meetings we have accomplished a lot and learned some new things. Last week, the crew got together to get back on the water again and work on our paddling strokes on the Mississippi. However, this time it was a total 360 from our last paddling meeting. The water was very windy and wavy-perfect for simulating days on trail. This weather also made it harder to keep the canoes straight, but it was perfect practiced. We had an odd number of guys paddling, so some of the guys took turns paddling in the solo canoe, which is super good for learning the J-stroke and paddling in a straight line.  Everyone has now been out on the water paddling and it is something that we will be doing a lot of from now to the time we leave. 

After the paddle, we headed back up to basecamp to work on setting up a nice tarp to accomodate since not everyone had set them up yet. I was extremely impressed by the quality tarp the guys were able to set up. it was also a good time to practice our knots and get a better grasp on them.

In our meeting Monday night, since basecamp was crazy with crews and parent meetings, our crew headed to the woods to practice finding tarp spots and setting up our tarp. We set up our tarp to escape the drizzling rain and so we had a dry spot to talk through our menu and order our food. Jaydon Brattensborg was assigned our food coordinator for his pre-trip job, so he was in charge of filling out our menu and keeping everyone focused and giving their input, so the whole crew was deciding on what food we were bringing. Everyone in the crew will be assigned their own pre-trip job to help us prep for our coming summer. The menu took longer than expected, but it looks like we will have some yummy food on trail. We also made sure to accommodate our trail  birthdays with lots of cakes!! A new way I feel like I can get the guys to communicate with each other more and have a little bit more responsibility before leaving on trail is to have them set up our meetings. Jack Neeser will be in charge of setting up our next meeting and communicating with the guys and figuring out a date and time that works for everyone to meet. At the next meeting he will assign the next crew member in charge and it will keep going. This way the guys can give their input for what they would like to do for their meeting and working together to make sure everyone is caught up with necessary skills before going on trail. 

I am always so impressed with how quick the guys are learning and their involvement with the program already. They are growing so much as a crew and it has been so awesome to see!! 

As always, please contact me with any questions!


Full Speed Ahead

Wow! In just the first couple meetings since our last blog post, the crew has already come so far. Some of the new skills we have learned include: knots, how to set up a proper tarp, how to flip a canoe and portage, as well as paddling. Within these few meetings, I have also started to see our crew become a lot closer and more open with one another. The woods around basecamp is  filled with laughter and encouragement as crews learn new things together once again. 

A lot of these skills are new to the guys in the crew, but they have all tackled them head on and have been excelling together. A huge accomplishment for all is learning to flip the 80lb canoe properly onto your shoulders by yourself. This usually takes several tries to get, but the guys did a fantastic job and wasted no time learning the new skill. The guys even got to practice portaging down Pine Point Rd. to simulate the distance of a portage we will see on trail. The guys portaged in pairs and were instructed to learn the coolest thing their partner has done (Everyone has done some amazing things!!!!). At the tennis courts on Pine Point, the guys flipped the canoe down and switched with their partners as they made their way back. 

A crucial skill that is also used everyday for tents, tarps, or canoes is knots. We have learned a few of the very important knots like the bowline, double half-hitch, tautline, truckers hitch, and clove hitch. To practice these knots more, we practiced around chairs in basecamp, trees outside, and  setting up a tarp at basecamp. We set up a tarp so that if it is ever raining in camp, or even over night, then we can have an area that is dry for packs, or an area to cook. The crew used the truckers hitch to create what is called the ridge line, which is the rope that the tarp will lay over. Next, the guys learned about creating "stakes" with rope, sticks, and rocks, since in the Canadian shield we are unable to use stakes in the ground. By tying a bowline to the tarp and wrapping a stick around the string, and setting a rock on the stick, we can create the same idea as a stake to help hold the tarp in place.  The wind coming off the river gave us a little bit of a challenge, but simulated real life instances, which worked perfectly. 

In our last meeting, we learned arguably our most important skill. Paddling. By no means does this skill come in one meeting, often times taking the whole summer to perfect certain strokes. This is a challenging skill that takes a lot of practice and persistence. The meeting was broken down into learning how to hold the paddles, how the canoe moves, and the main strokes on land. The strokes we have learned so far include: Power stroke, draw, j-stroke, and c-stroke. With these in mind, we partnered up and took off to the river to learn how to properly get into the canoes to avoid tipping. We all got into the canoes and aimed to get to a pontoon lift across the river in a straight line using only the strokes we learned. Getting the hang of the "correctional strokes" like the j-stroke can be particularly difficult, so some zig zagging was done right away. I was fortunate enough to paddle with each guy and help them all get the hang of their strokes and paddle a straight line. By the end, the progress they had made since getting on the water was incredible. To my surprise, some of the guys even brought stuff for s'mores so that we could enjoy them around the fire after getting off the water. We all collected dry wood and were able to enjoy each others company before departing yet another great meeting. 

The guys will be meeting next on Thursday, May 17 at 6:30pm at basecamp. I'm excited to continue to watch their incredible progress as we progress into this summer.

Please contact me with any questions!


The Adventure Begins!!

Welcome Parents and Participants!

With the end of the school year just around the corner and this beautifully snowy springs end no where in sight, we can at least start getting excited about our warm Voyageurs trip this coming summer. All of you will have a truly unique experience this summer, and as your guide, I couldn’t be more proud to share this experience with you.  

I am currently a junior environmental studies major at St. John's University and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to be apart of the amazing Voyageurs family again this summer for my 4th time guiding and 6th trip in total. The crew will be having our first meeting 4/15/18 at 5:30pm at Basecamp to meet each other for the first time and get the tour of their "second homes" for the summer as we slowly start to begin prepping for our trip in July. 

Using the tools on the LVI website, such as this blog, the crew calendar and the photo posts, crew members and their parents will be able to follow along with our crew’s progress while preparing for our trip. We will be posting on this blog a few times a week and keeping the crew calendar updated so that everyone can stay up to date on what our crew has been working on.

As school finishes, our crew will begin meeting more frequently and begin learning and preparing for our journey. I am incredibly excited to begin our trip in the next few weeks! Please contact me if you have any questions.

Looking forward to seeing and meeting everyone at the parent meeting on 4/22/18 :)