Northern Tier: More Than Just a Canoeing Trip

By Greg Stringfellow

Every summer since I turned 14 my Dad and I have gone on a High Adventure trip. These trips have taken us across the United States and Europe, and thanks to my trip to Northern Tier in 2012, I added Canada to that list.  We’d been planning a trip to Northern Tier since I was old enough to attend the High Adventure Bases, however we decided to save it for last since it was something we both wanted to work towards. At the last minute my Dad had to drop out due to an injury and I was left to go as a solo passenger. To tell you the truth, I was a little nervous. Here I was, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout who has traveled all across the country and the world, and I was nervous about going alone. But the impact that Northern Tier had on me was unmeasurable.

My peers selected me to be the “Crew Leader” so I was in charge of mapping out our route. Since none of us were big into fishing, I decided to go on a sightseeing trip, even if it was more strenuous and required many canoe portages that were much longer (Don’t worry, since it was my decision, I was always carrying one of the canoes). That was, by far, the right decision. For the first day I was still pretty nervous (and to be honest a little upset) about being the only one there by myself, but I quickly got over it when I saw the beautiful Minnesota wilderness. I finally realized that this was not a problem but an opportunity to prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to—and I don’t have to rely on anybody else. This setting allowed me to try many new things, like capsizing a canoe or trying to catch my own food without fear of serious consequences if I failed. I used the remainder of the trip as an opportunity to prove to myself that I could do anything that I set my mind to.

But more than that, it provided something rare: a place where I could totally relax and clear my mind and think. I woke up early to watch the sun rise over the water, spent all day looking at waterfalls and being out on the water, and then gathered around the campfire at night and talked to all of the guys that were on the trip. Without the constant distractions from cell phones, Facebook, or Twitter, it was easy to become relaxed and get to know each other. Northern Tier offered me so many experiences that I could never have found anywhere else. Being a group of 16 and 17 year olds, it was nice to get away from all of the distractions that hang over us in the constantly connected day and age we live in. Not having access to Facebook, or texting or anything like that, we were truly able to bond as a group and got to know ourselves better.

For more information: http://www.ntier.org/

Greg Stringfellow at the Northern Tier High Adventure Base

This article appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Wilderness News

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