Day 69 – 23.8 km (total – 1394.6 km)

One of the many portages in Wabakimi Provincial Park

One of the many portages in Wabakimi Provincial Park

Today’s run was dedicated to my good friend Emily, as she donated a marathon to TMO in her name!  I’ll have to owe Em a few miles as today was cut short by significant fatigue, cold and a strong headwind that my legs just didn’t want to contend with.  Since my friendship with Emily started at Outward Bound I thought I’d share today’s thoughts about my time there.

If you talk to any Outward Bound Instructor, they can tell you some good stories.  They call tell you about the most grueling portages.  They can tell you about trips where the bugs drove everyone to the brink of insanity.  They can tell you about strong headwinds where hard paddling leads to covering barely any distance at all.  Visits from bears, close encounters with lightning, food stress… there are a lot of adventures on any 3 week canoe trip.  But let some time pass, and you’ll find that when asked about their trip, most instructors will talk about their students.  They’ll talk about how 3 weeks in the wilderness changed those students.

I instructed for Outward Bound for 3 summers in Northern Ontario about a decade ago and my last trip was with an all boys groups.  11 of them – 14-15 years old.  They came from different backgrounds.  Some chose to be there, some were forced to come.  But as we set out for a 3 week course that was part of their high school credit, they realized quickly how to rely on one another.  They learned how to cook.  They learned how to do dishes.  They learned how to set up and take down and keep a clean living area.  They learned a lot of skills, but mostly they learned about character. You wouldn’t think so on that first day… they always seem so hardened.  But spending 3 weeks in the wilderness does something to them.  Spending part of those 3 weeks on a “solo”, where they are given minimum necessities and spend this time alone and isolated for a couple of days does something to them.  It builds character.  In fact, a lot of us who instructed agree that everyone should have a “solo” experience in nature at some point in their life.  I can tell you how it challenges you.  I can tell you how it pushes you into a place of unfamiliarity.  I can tell you about all the noises you think you hear outside your shelter.  But mostly, I can tell you how it builds character.  And it does so by connecting you with nature.  The reality is that most of us are often disconnected from nature. (I am currently sitting in a Chapters in Moncton that attaches to an indoor amusement park.  I can hear children screaming on the roller coaster I see whizzing by.  I am surrounded by lattes and ice cappuccinos.) We are surrounded by amenities that can prevent our minds from sitting still.  Not that these amenities are bad, but again, it’s about balance.

At the end of any Outward Bound trip, there is a pin ceremony.  Every student receives a pin, but not before the rest of the group proceeds to tell that student why they deserve the pin.  And then that student has an opportunity to share with the group what they gained from the course.  I still remember sitting just up from the beach on Sturgeon Lake and seeing these teenage boys weep.  Emotions poured out and for a brief moment, that shell was removed.  They had learned a lot about each other and more importantly, they had learned a lot about themselves.  Can that sense of character be built in schools and at home?  Absolutely.  But we shouldn’t underestimate the profound affect that nature can have on us – all of us.

No Replies to "Day 69 – 23.8 km (total – 1394.6 km)"