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April 3, 2020

Dear Parents:

We are happy to report that we’re still here, still healthy and still diligently working in anticipation of operating this summer.  We will leave it to you to interpret the larger news and confine our comments to the current status of our organization and the anticipated conditions in Ontario.

Northwaters and Langskib are members of the Ontario Camping Association which has about 450 member camps in Ontario. During normal times this professional association accredits member camps insuring we all meet rigorous standards of safety and program quality.  In times such as these the OCA provides us with strong industry representation with the Federal and Provincial government.  As you might imagine, the OCA and its various representatives and committees are in active dialog with various government entities to develop plans for camps to operate safely this summer.  Hours of zoom meetings and discussions can be distilled to the following points:  1) There is a general recognition by government of the value of youth camps and the importance of the experiences they provide.  As such it is highly likely that camps will be allowed to operate this summer.  2) There is a possibility that we will need to move the start of our first session back several days. 3) The key decisions affecting how and when camps will be allowed to operate in Ontario will come from the Ministry of Health, most likely in late April or early May.

So, we are going to lean into this uncertainty by continuing to prepare for summer and to contemplate how best we can accommodate your children given the various possibilities.  We are fortunate, and in many ways, equipped to handle this challenge.  We have 4 full time and 5 part time directors and administrators; over the past few years we have invested heavily in equipment, facilities and seasonal staff; and we have a loyal and devoted group of families and participants.  In addition to contemplating how we might need to modify program, we are thinking about ways in which we might work with families to overcome particular financial or logistical challenges.

Although we don’t have all the answers, we’ve had some great conversations and correspondence with parents and alumni over the past several weeks.  It’s wonderful to connect with people and feel like we are all in it together.  Please feel free to reach out any time.

When we last wrote, Springs arrival seemed imminent. It appears to be taking its time on this cloudy day in the Champlain Valley.  Gazing out the window, one sees a palette of gray and brown—a few small, red maple buds are the only hint of the change in seasons.  The annual miracle transforming the bland landscape to a cacophony of rich, green life in the next few weeks, never fails to fill us with awe and wonder.  We wait, with anticipation.

Here’s to hoping you find wonder in your world, whether it’s inevitable or not.

Teeth to the Wind!

C.G. & Jodi

March 20, 2020

Dear Parents,

Here at the off-season headquarters of Langskib and Northwaters we are surrounded by the sights and sounds of Spring arriving in our little corner of the world – melting snow, birdsongs, maple buds, deep mud, and daily deliveries of the myriad items to prepare for the coming season – tents, packs, paddles, maps of Northern rivers and epoxy for canoe repair. It all seems so familiar as we prepare for our 50th season. But it’s quiet here, the rest of the crew is working from home, office banter is limited, there is a sense of uncertainty.

Fortunately, the nature of our work is to prepare for uncertainty. Before a canoe trip leaves our dock we prepare for all kinds of possibilities – high water, low water, windstorms, medical emergencies, equipment failure, wildfires etc. Being well prepared, training staff and participants, outfitting them with good equipment and supplies goes a long way to mitigating unexpected challenges. Often though, what caries the day is resourcefulness and everyone’s willingness to set aside their comfort for the collective good. If you’ve ever seen a section return to basecamp and work together to put up their canoes and gear you know exactly what we mean. So, a big part of the growth a young person experiences with us is a result of meeting the challenges presented by the uncertainty of life on the trail. And these experiences help prepare them to meet challenges in other parts of their lives.

We expect it will be some time before we are able to accurately predict the conditions and challenges which might impact our operations this summer, so we’re keeping a steady hand on the helm and an eye on the horizon. Additionally, we are exploring options and considering possibilities in the event we need to adjust our plans. We are prepared to go to extraordinary measures to provide young people with incredible adventures this summer.

With three children now home from school we are quite aware of the challenges parents and their children face as they struggle with disrupted routines and unstructured time. We hope that you and your kids will be able to take advantage of opportunities made possible by these disruptions.

Please remember that our commitment to you and your children is year-round. We are only a phone call or email away. We are optimistically expecting to greet your children on the dock in Temagami come summer. Here is a poem by Wendell Berry, plucked from the wall of the office.

Teeth to the Wind,
C.G. & Jodi

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-Wendell Berry