An essay by Siri Linquist
Fair warning: this is a call to arms; within a short address to the love I have for canoe trips.
This is written in postscript to the 12 years I spent with Camp Widjiwagan, the loveliest of places in the summer hours. The blue sky, the sound of the wind in the pines and aspen, the natural roughness of the landscape, are so etched in as a clear picture today, but are a blur of the many years together in my memory.
Spring is here, and some days there is a hint of summer on the air. Baseball is beginning, and white calves are starting to see the light of day. They say March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb, but it really only behaved appropriately animalistic in the analogy. So in my desperation, my thoughts turn the bend of the year towards summer.
Summer has always meant one thing to me: Trail. For the past 12 years, from ages 12 to 24, I have tripped and led trips at Camp Widjiwagan, leading trips from the Boundary Waters to the Northern Territories. But before you go thinking I’m something that I’m not. I have to admit I am not the most likely candidate to write this article. I like indoor activities. If it’s cold, I like a warm car. I am not your typical intense, the woods-are-the-only-place-for-me trail guide. I love many things that are the very antithesis of being out-of-outdoors. That is why I abhor the terms “inside” or “outside” people. That labels us as one or the other and it is totally acceptable to like both environments. However, my inclinations make me the perfect person to address you.
I am a true advocate for trail. I know how it affected my own development, and those I have led. Everyone can gain essentials to being an individual on trail that you carry with you: confidence, independence, and social cohesiveness. You learn to be satisfied with less, push yourself more, and forgive yourself your shortcomings.
That is why I tell everyone to just get out there. There is no doubt there are things to overcome about going on trail. You may feel discomfort or hunger more keenly than you are typically acquainted with. But there is a sweet kind of balance in it. I have seen sunny days and crappy, crappy weather. Sometimes the sun warms your skin, and then is washed out by hard rain. I felt really hungry. I have laughed in absurdity that is truly unrestrained. I have felt peace. I have fallen asleep to loons, and paddled by a wolverine hunt on the shore. I have been leg deep in mud, and had the best and the most satisfying swims of my life. In those fleeting trips you really learn to feel strongly. You didn’t feel dull or numb, you felt relaxed with an energy that clings around you afterwards, pushing you to do other things outside your natural tendencies.
It may not feel easy or natural. It is way too easy to get caught up in the things that occupy us in our daily lives, I can commiserate with that. That is the root of my un-ease in the lack of interest that many people feel towards tripping and our environment. We need to do things that lie outside ourselves, and get over discomfort. Once we get over that, you learn you can be you anywhere, and removes some seeds of doubt that are so deeply rooted in much of what we do. Do I dare? Should I? You will feel less concerned about how you should wear your hair and what to eat and far more willing to partake in chances to be adventurous. Be more, feel more. That is why, in these summer months, I urge you to join me in my own pursuit, as we find a day, a weekend or more, to find ways to be wild. It won’t be easy.
A trip is a short blip, you can’t always know how smoothly it will go, but you do know it ends. The measurement of our life span is a similarly intangible thing that passes, but it is not an unnatural thing to come to an end. It is just as important to mark it, and gain some good stories. You will have those.
Read more in the Spring 2014 issue of Wilderness News