Images from some of my first experiences as a Wilderness Trip Leader. For those that know me well, they know that throughout my childhood I was lucky enough to attend a summer camp for boys called Camp Nebagamon located in Northern Wisconsin. From 4th-9th grade I was excited about learning essential camping, leadership, and backcountry travel skills like many others I went to camp with. This is where my love for the wilderness and the idea of being a trip leader all began.
I went on dozens of other trips while at camp all over the Northern U.S. but it was the time spent in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and Quetico Provincial Park of Ontario Canada that stood out the most. These are truly unique places… They even have their own measuring system (Rods, the length of a canoe) to show the distance of trails between lakes (portages). We would paddle across one of the thousands of lakes, then carry all of our equipment across a ‘trail’ through the woods to the next lake. It was on these trips that I was challenged physically and mentally, often to a breaking point. Whether it be from the discomfort, isolation, the heavy storms or the swarms of bugs, it was always the guidance and encouragement from the trip leaders that role-modeled what true leadership looked like. As I got older these experiences stuck with me, so much so, that I went back to be a trip leader myself once I finished as a camper.
The experiences I had as a trip leader were even more powerful than going on the trips as a kid. I began to understand the influence I was able to have on the campers and it was exciting to see the process of making an expedition successful and in some cases life-changing. It was here in the BWCA and Quetico that I found peace, inspiration, and confidence. I also started to develop my own leadership style and worked to encourage my students to appreciate wilderness, respect it, and embrace it. We did trips up to 14-days long here and I’ve spent over 100 days paddling and portaging across who knows how many lakes. These experiences will always be a special place in my heart and are essentially the foundation of how I live my life today.