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Recently,  I took a four day Voyageur Canoe camping trip with the senior class from the Leelanau School where I work.  In many ways it was a wonderful trip.  The weather was beautiful which is always a gift in late September.  We do this trip every year and most years end up with at least one day of paddling in rain, hail, sleet or snow with a ripping headwind to boot.  This year we had the headwind but sunny warm skies and beautiful water on Lake Huron.  Our students study the life of the voyageurs on this trip.  We read historical accounts of the voyageurs, were visited in camp by Larry young, who has been studying and re-enacting the fur traders for more than 50 years, and spent a day at Mackinac Island, which was an important hub in the fur trade.  On Mackinac Island we spent time writing at St. Anne’s church, which was established in 1670 and has served the community for more than 300 years.

The real learning for our students is the experience itself.  They know what it is like to sit on a hard seat in a 33-foot long canoe and paddle into a headwind for hours, having to work in coordination with a dozen other paddlers.  They experience the generosity of the communities we visit in many ways, and they begin to experience the sense of accomplishment and being part of a team that comes from sharing a difficult journey with others.

I loved this trip.  The seniors this year were wonderful and fun to be with.  I wished that we could have had longer to be on trail.  I wish for them, that they could experience a three week trip at Langskib or Northwaters and know that feeling that you get when you paddle back into base camp tired, smelly, and triumphant.  There are so many things in this world that you can’t learn from the internet and that is one of them.

Good job Leelanau School Class of 2010.  I hope this whets your appetite for adventure, wilderness and great paddling.

Michael Jarvis

NWL Program Director

Click here to view a  google map of our trip.