"Are we going to have to re-pack this pack?"

Packing day part A and B have arrived. Yesterday, the guys packed all the food that they have been working tirelessly to dehydrate and bag. With as much food as we bring on our trip, it is not always easy to fit everything in the first time. The up side of this is that we will most definitely will NOT be going hungry on trail, but the down side is that the guys had to re-pack the packs a couple times to fit everything in neatly. Nonetheless, they got it done! A big thanks to the Faust household for storing our food over the past month and for providing space for us to pack.

Today we will be packing all of the personal packs. Shared between three guys, the personal packs will hold all of the clothes/gear/personal items that everyone brings. Yesterday, we all went through the packing list meticulously to make sure everyone has what they need. Then today we do the easy part of putting everything in the packs.

After today, a big chunk of the final preparations are finished. The remaining week before we leave will be for some final practice of paddling skill, and some trail simulation activities to ensure everyone is well prepared.

As we are coming down the stretch here, please contact mason or I with any questions or concerns that arise. We leave in exactly 1 week from today, and I hope everyone is getting as excited as I am!

Stitching and Pitching

Today we managed to tick off one of the last big preparation days before our trip, sewing day. Huge thanks to the Miller's for hosting us and providing dinners, as well as to the grandmothers of Talon, Nolan, and Riah for volunteering their time, talent, and sewing machines. The ladies had their hands full showing the boys the ropes. They managed to make their personal bags for things like their toothbrush, soap, and journals on trail. They also sewed the liners for the pockets on our packs and some managed to make the cases for their paddles. 

Our other meetings have largely been a review of skills that we've previously learned. We've taken long paddles as well as repeatedly set up tarps, packed the kettle pack, and pitched tents. The excitement continues to build as we finish the rest of our food preparation and hone our outdoor skills.

Later this week we'll be having our crew date with the Lain crew, as well as varnishing our paddles at the Faust's

23 Days

In just three weeks and two days we will be en route to the adventure of a lifetime!! It may seem like a long time but it'll come sooner than you could expect. 

This past weekend we had our crew sleepover. Before the actual sleeping happened we took the boys out on their longest paddle yet. Their strokes and steering abilities are progressing nicely. While we were in the boats we also played a few games, including J-leaning. The objective of a j-lean is to fill your boat with water without tipping using your leaning and bracing abilities. In addition to being fun, it helps the guys get more comfortable in the canoes. Back on dry land we got some more practice tarp setting with the added challenge of a little rain. Under our tarp we taught the guys how to use our camp stoves we bring, and then had a little fun making hot chocolate and cooking fish brought to us by Riah, Eric, and Talon. The sleepover itself was a fun crew bonding experience. 

On Tuesday we took another huge step in our food preparations. Baking Day. Thanks so much to Sandy Faust for allowing us to use the kitchens at St. Mary's and for providing lunch. We spent over 5 hours baking all of our Hudson Bay Bread for the trip. This is a dense, calorie high granola bar like substance that we eat almost every day for lunch. We also prepared our hamburger, hot chocolate, and bannock. These are all staples for us on trail, and with baking day behind us we are nearly completely prepared to leave. The hamburger is in the dehydrator, but when its finished we'll only have a few loose ends to tie up with food preparation. I know my excitement is growing with first session away!!


Check out the photos link for pics of J-leans and baking day.

Olympics and Preparations

The action is ramping up as the first session crews prepare to depart. It seems like 24/7 there are frantic guides and participants running around basecamp making their last second preparations. And then there is the Halstrom/Lain crew, not in any real hurry to do anything. On Monday the 5th annual crew Olympics were held. The events were portaging canoes, paddling, setting tarps, and packing a kettle pack. Our boys did their best with the admittedly little training they had received from us, and I was very proud of their performance. I was pretty ashamed of their dancing skills but I guess those are nonessential.

At Tuesday's meeting we were finally able to distribute the personal gear that our guys ordered. I'd encourage them to look over the packing list and start compiling their gear. They won't officially need it until packing day and that wont be for a few weeks but it's always good to get an early start. Once again we went through our finalized route and found the UTMs(a global location system similar to longitude and latitude) for all of our campsites. These "campsites are of course not where we will actually camp on trail, but each location is a sort of goal and expectation of how far we travel every day. These coordinates will be given to all parents at the last supper so you'll have a rough idea of where we are in the world every day. The boys packed up some more food that was unavailable on food packing day. The first session crews have a nasty habit of stealing our food claiming priority because they leave in 5 days, whatever. Never fear, we'll get everything we need and then some for trail. As an end to our Tuesday meeting we did our longest canoe portage ever!! Three of the guys made it all the way to the highway from basecamp(a little over a mile), While the rest still set new personal bests. I was very proud of their determination and will in this challenge. 

On Wednesday we gave the guys a break from portaging and instead worked to fill all of our spice bins for the trip. After that we spent more time working on our tarp setting and knot tying skills. Some of the guys still need some instruction with the knots but we've been seeing some tremendous progress. After that we helped to get all of the canoes that the first session crews will be taking ready for trail. This means outfitting them with new knee pads, portage pads, PFD holders, fishing rod bungees, and paddle straps, as well as checking for any dysfunctional parts. It seems a tedious and thankless job but its vitally important to have perfectly functioning canoes on trail.

Looking forward, we've decided to turn our meeting on Saturday into a longer meeting culminating in a sleepover at basecamp. TBD if we will be sleeping in tents or basecamp itself. Regardless the guys should bring out sleeping bags and overnight stuff. The ladies of the Lain crew may be joining us for our crew date, as established on jerky day. Hopefully we will be able to paddle and have a bonfire with them(don't worry, the sleeping will be separate and chaperoned). Dinner will be provided. Sunday is the Last Supper and departure for the first session crews. Of course attendance is not mandatory for our guys but they are more than welcome to come out to Warner Lake Park to say goodbye to their friends and get a taste of what our own ceremony will be like. I believe the festivities start at 1 and the send off will happen in the late afternoon. Also next Tuesday is our baking day. This is one of our most important preparation days and we'll need all hands on deck. More information to follow.

A Busy Week

Wow have the past few weeks been hectic. Sorry for the delay in blog posts but this one should get us all caught up. Our dehydrator has been set up!! This is a huge step in our pre-trip preparation process. Thanks again to the Lenzen's for allowing us to use their garage space. Our boys have been checking the food routinely and sometimes at odd hours. So far we've burned our way through pineapple, applesauce, vegetables, and beef jerky. More on that later.

We have our route finalized!! Both Brady and I are extremely excited for it. There will be some challenging parts and some easier ones. The boys have taken us North out of Lake McCusker down the Keeper River. We will resupply halfway through in the First Nation village of Pauingassi on Fishing Lake. The second half of our trip will largely follow the Pigeon River west from Family Lake to our end point on Lake Winnipeg.

Our busy week kicked off on Tuesday with Beef Jerky day. Our jerky is a vital piece of our diet on trail as we will be eating it every day for lunch! The guys got started at 8am trimming the fat of of sliced of beef and cutting it into thin strips to be marinaded. We made it through the day with a few grumbles but thankfully no bloody fingers. The jerky was then dehydrated and bagged as mentioned before. Thanks to the Lenzens again for providing the lunch.

Wednesday was an unplanned busy day as we scheduled a last moment trip to Savers and the Boot Shack. Savers was primarily to get our outfits for food packing day, but some guys also picked up some of their trail clothes. At the Boot Shack we got our leather boots which we will be wearing every day on trail. The boots will still need to be oiled but only after we break them in a little. Wednesday night Brady and I got to meet our newest crew member Khalid. 

The rest of the boys met Khalid the next day at Food Packing. Again we got started at 8am bagging all of our non-dehydrated food for trail. We were looking great and feeling great in our pink outfits. The guys went until 3 or 4 bagging everything from spaghetti to granola, powdered eggs to brownie mix, and mangos to toilet paper. This is one of our most vitally important days of the year and our food manager Talon did a great job running the show. If were missing any of our food in trail its his fault. I was very proud of the way our guys handled themselves. Thanks to the the Schriefels' for the lunch on Thursday. 

Between Friday and Saturday we managed to get everyone our for our first real day on the water. Just over the course of the hours we were out there everyone's paddle strokes improved immensely. Paddling is the most important skill that we teach and we were very pleased with the boys' first efforts. I can't wait to see how they progress with more practice. In addition to our powerstrokes, j-strokes, and draws, we took advantage of the how weather by getting in the water and practicing t-rescues. A method of righting a capsized boat in the water. The guys on Saturday also had some fun swimming around the dock. We also got in more practice with flipping, portaging, and tarp setting. Every time we portage from now on we push the guys a little bit farther and I've been impressed with the resolve and toughness I've seen from them. 

Looking forward we have very few new skills to teach, it comes down to perfecting our skills that we do have. On Monday the fifth annual crew olympics will be held at basecamp. This is a chance for our guys to show off their abilities in paddling, portaging, tarp setting, and pack packing against other crews. Just 33 days until we leave and I couldn't be happier with the progress we're making as a crew.

The road less traveled

We have had two very productive meetings this last week. On Wednesday, the boys began planning their route. It will likely take a few meetings to finalize the route, but they made a big dent in it. It seems that they are considering two possible routes for our trip. One of which is a more traditional Voyageurs route, but the other will take us into some areas that are rarely traveled by Voyageurs crews. This could be very interesting and would allow us to resupply in a small Canadian village called Pauingassi rather than the normal resupply at Lake Sas. I am excited to see what the boys decide.

On Friday we were lucky enough to include Zak, one of two new crewmembers. We finally have a full crew and hopefully the final crewmember, Mo, will be able to get out to basecamp for our next meeting. Now that we have a full crew, we'll be able to go full speed ahead with preparations for the trip. In the coming meetings we are hoping to solidify our route, get out on the water and do some canoeing, and continue flipping and portaging.

Also, another reminder about the Parent Meeting on Wednesday, May 31st at 7:00. Please park in the driveway of Basecamp which will be off to your right as you approach the end of Pine Pt Rd.

Looking forward as always!

To the tennis courts and back

At our last meeting, we had three of five learn how to flip a canoe on to their shoulders which is an essential skill that we will use for every portage we encounter on the trip. Canoe flipping is not easy, yet everyone was able to do it successfully without assistance. What's more, they all portaged a canoe down the road about a quarter mile without taking a break. Mason and I were both very impressed at how well it went the first time.

The boys also planned their menu for the entire trip. This can sometimes be a contentious process, but luckily we don't have any really picky eaters. Although, I think everyone agreed to eliminate prunes from the menu. Tonight, we will have Talon, our food manager, input the menu into the computer so that the food can be ordered for us to pack on food packing day in June.

Thankfully, we have found a date and time for the parent meeting. Mason and I are very excited to meet all the parents and get any questions that anyone may have answered. Once again, the parent meeting will be Wednesday, May 31st at 7:00 pm and will be located at basecamp. Please let mason or I know of any questions or concerns that arise before the meeting. Unfortunately Roberta will be gone during our parent meeting, but she will be calling each of the parents to do a quick medical information interview over the phone. Then, one of the other guides that is also an RN will be present at the meeting to answer and pertinent medical questions.


First crew meeting, maps, and more

The first full crew meeting of the summer is finally in the books! We got a lot accomplished in a short time, and I'm excited to keep the momentum going. The boys already planned another meeting for tomorrow evening to work on some knot tying and canoe flipping. At our first meeting, we had the crew work together to arrange all the maps of our potential route. It was fun to watch them figure out how to communicate effectively to correctly match up longitude and latitude lines. Luckily, no one was too upset when we told them about the key that is hidden at the bottom of every map. After using the maps to discuss potential trail routes, we worked through some logistics and important dates for the rest of the summer.

All in all, it was a great way to kick off the summer. We are also in the process of searching for two more crewmembers to join us on trail this summer, so please point anyone that might be interested in our direction!

First Crew Meeting

It's finally time for our first meeting as a crew! As is indicated on our calendar, our first meeting will be at basecamp on Wednesday. This will be a pretty casual meeting that is primarily meant to be an opportunity for everyone to begin getting to know one another. However, we will also be hitting the ground running, so be ready to start doing to prep work as well! Specifically, we are planning to get out the maps get a general idea about our potential route, and we might start working on some knot tying and canoe flipping weather permitting. We will also get everyone oriented with basecamp as we will be spending a lot of time there in the coming months.

Mason and I are super excited to get started and I hope you all are as well. As always, feel free to reach out with questions or concerns.


Introductions Mason

Hi all. I hope the parent meeting was an informative and good introductory experience. To echo Brady, the relationships between the crew members are of immense importance, and building those relationships is a process that starts at the first introductions. I apologize for being unable to attend, but can't wait to meet all of the guys as well as the parents. I'm super excited to get started with the preparation process. 

A little bit about myself. My name is Mason Halstrom. I graduated from Cathedral high school last year (2016) and am a current freshman at the University of Notre Dame, studying science pre-professional. Hopefully medical school will be in my future but that's a long way off. During high school I ran cross country, played hockey, and obviously participated in Les Voyageurs. I have been on two trips, my first year trip in 2014 and a far north trip to the Coppermine river in 2015. I come from a family of Cathedral grads, both parents class of '88, sister class of '14, as well as two younger brothers who currently attend Cathedral and a younger sister in 5th grade. We all live about two miles south of basecamp(a location you will soon be very familiar with if you aren't already). I'm super excited to get to meet everyone in a few weeks. Being able to come back and guide for this program which has been so important to me is a dream come true. If you ever have any questions I'm available at 320-266-4038 or mhalstro@nd.edu.

Let's make this summer a great experience for all.

Introductions -- Brady

This coming weekend is the Parent Meeting for Voyageurs 2017. Even though many people have been working tirelessly for months to make 2017 another great year for the organization, in my mind, the parent meeting marks the beginning of trip preparations for both crew members and guides. For mine and Mason's crew, it will still be a little while until we will need to begin what I think of as the raw prep which entails a lot of paddling, portaging, dehydrating food, and packing. However, equally important to ensuring we have ample supplies is building connections with fellow crew members, and hopefully that process can begin as soon as this weekend. To get that ball rolling, I'd like to introduce myself. I am currently a Philosophy major at the University of Minnesota. As long as all goes as planned, I will graduate a year from now and I am planning to go to law school the following Fall. I graduated from Sauk Rapids High School and my first Voyageurs trip was the Summer of 2012.

Mason and I will be posting blogs to this site with increasing frequency as preparations get underway. We will also be posting all events and meetings on the google calendar for our crew that can be found here: https://www.les-voyageurs.org/halstrom-lain.

Stay tuned for more information. I hope you are all as excited as I am!