Monday, July 14, 2014

St. Regis Paddle Trip

Last summer I briefly mentioned the summer camp that strongly influenced my life.  I hiked my first 9 high peaks while being affiliated with the camp, both as a camper and later as a counselor.  I made lasting friendships while we worked through initiatives, trust falls, low ropes courses,high ropes courses and went on overnights that ranged from one to 4 nights.  Much like what I do as a Montessori teacher,  we were supervised and guided but often left to communicate with each other to problem solve on our own.

When I was told they would love to have me come back as a teacher,  I was stoked.  I then spent the rest of the year looking forward to those two short weeks to be back at a camp.  I spent the week teaching an orienteering class, getting to know my campers, and simply loving being around such a great community.  My campers were kind to one another, worked well together, and organize played games fairly.  

They were such a great kids, that I knew that week two would be awesome.  What's great about this summer camp is that after a week of games, ropes courses, capture the flag, gold rush, cooking classes, first aid, orienteering, survival and general awesomeness, we put all of our learning to good use and head out for a camping trip.

My camp was the paddle challenge which we packed up 4 canoes & one kayak and we headed up to Floodwood Pond in the St. Regis area for 3 nights and 4 days.

We got a bit lost on the way up so we didn't make it to the water until about 1pm on Tuesday.  We had a lot of  gear for those 4 canoes and a whole bunch of kids who probably had never been in a canoe without their parents. It was slow, but I didn't hear anyone complain. After an hour and a half we made our way to a portage between fish creek and Follensby pond.  It was a lot of work to portage, but we carried those boats and gear about .25 mile to the other side. Initially the plan was to go further up to Polliwog Pond, but the group was tired, and I could sense the weather was changing so we opted to stay on Follensby instead. The site we found was great, it had benches, shelves, and an outhouse- all luxury when camping.   We put tents up quickly and collected firewood.  Unfortunately around that time a storm also rolled in with strong winds.  The cheap matches we had made it nearly impossible to start a fire so dinner plans changed quickly to a non-cook meal before the storm landed.

Shortly after everyone ate, the rain came.  Initially we had a nice lean-to set up via tarp but the wind ripped it away, we also found that one of the tents was very much not water proof so the tarp was thrown over that tent to keep the kiddos dry.  We were stuck in a band of storms for a while and everyone retreated to their tents.  I powered up my phone (which had service- Woot!) to first check the weather and second to see if my nephew was born (he was!)  By the time the storm passed, it was wet and late, and the winds were still strong so we called it a night and hung out in our tents.
my view for most of the evening

No one slept well the first night, while the severe thunderstorms had passed, the winds were fierce which kept myself and many of the campers awake.  By 6am, most of us had given up on sleep and were out milling around the camp ground.  Despite the wind, I got the jet boil to work to get water going for hot cocoa and oatmeal. After breakfast the kids organized themselves into a variety of games to play around our campsite.  Manhunt, camouflage, and capture the flag kept them going for a while before an intense card game of spoons and BS started.

After lunch, the winds had calmed down some, so we set out for the general store on Fish Creek.  It was a good ride and the campers enjoyed buying loads of candy.  I bought more useful items like firewood, a lighter, and more hot cocoa.  We enjoyed the afternoon swimming and eventually I got a fire started despite the constant wind.  That night I put the campers to work to make their dinner, man the fire, clean the dishes and eat the 1lb bag of marshmallows (I'll let you guess which tasks they like the least) Everyone went into tents at 10pm and by 10:30, while reading, I realized that everyone had stopped talking and fallen asleep.  I went to bed around then and slept like a champion until morning.

On Thursday we had a slow start but eventually packed up camp and set out to find a campsite closer to Floodwood Pond to make for an easy departure on Friday morning.  We were a seasoned group of paddlers by then cruising through the portage, navigating the waterways easily and staying closer together as a group than before.  It certainly helped that we had eaten most of our food by then and were all traveling with a lighter canoes. 

The campsite we found was more primitive than the previous two nights, it didn't have benches, or built in shelves.  If it had an outhouse we never found it.   A brief lesson on cat holes was given and it seemed that they all took to the challenge without complaining about it too much.  With the weather being calmer, I let the campers start and maintain their fire without any help from me and was only briefly involved in the dinner process. The last night was great, we had a nice fire and enjoyed telling stories.

While it was exhausting to be "working" for 4 full 24 hour days,  I would be ready to do it again in a heartbeat.  I can only hope that my campers were able to make some of the memories I made as a camper.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds awesome, both for the campers and you!