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Survivors


Sun, Sep 24th, 2000
Posted in

Monday, August 28, 2000

This is a story about survivors.

No, it is not about the gameshow/psychodrama that was recently portrayed on CBS, where neurosis is a developmental skill highly valued by artificially created tribal groups.

It is coincidental, however, that on the night a guy named Richard was named the $1 million "Survivor" winner, my daughter and her travelling comrades were at their homes unpacking their gear after returning from Menogyn Wilderness Adventure Camp, which is affiliated with the YMCA.

From a base camp two miles south of the Canadian border, six young women, three canoes, 235 pounds of dried food, and an assortment of camping equipment, were trucked northward 13 hours into western Ontario and dropped off in the Caribou Wilderness Area.

From there, the group made their way westward by canoe across a series of lakes to the Gammond River which eventually flows into the Bloodvein River in Manitoba.

The Bloodvein empties into Lake Winnipeg. There the adventurers caught a ferry, which took them to Winnipeg where they were picked up and hauled back to Minnesota. All in all, the trip took 23 days.

All of the young women, who ranged in age from 15 to 18, were invited to participate in this journey because they had prior experience canoeing in the wilderness. Their leader was a wizened elder at the ripe old age of 23.

Prior to going on their voyage, the group planned their trip, packed the food and supplies they would need and trained in whitewater canoeing, a skill that was essential to travelling down the Gammond and Bloodvein rivers.

On their trip, the travelers saw moose, caribou, loons, bald eagles and a few eccentric fishermen who had flown into a fishing outpost in the Canadian outback.

I watched proudly as my daughter and her group returned to the base camp last Tuesday. They were followed in rapid succession by six other Menogyn groups of young men and women, all of whom had experienced similar adventures - canoeing, hiking, backpacking and rock climbing in different parts of the United States and Canada.

Traveling in the wilderness as a group requires teamwork and discipline. It's about the sum of the parts being greater than the individual components; each part an essential to the whole. There is no room for slackers when you are shooting a rapids miles from civilization or rapelling down a cliff face on Lake Superior.

Since 1965, similar Menogyn adventure groups have explored most of the river systems in Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, and have backpacked as far afield as the Brooks Range in Alaska. Some hikers have survived being chased by polar bears in northern Ontario, and, others have experienced the thrill of canoeing alongside Beluga Whales in the Hudson Bay. But regardless of the destination, every adventure is a voyage in self-discovery.

Someone once said that the "silence of the wilderness speaks to those who are listening".

Every one of these young people who went into the wilderness "to listen" returned changed by the experience.

Each Menogyn journey begins and ends at the base camp in the north woods of Minnesota. A place that seems other-worldly, with its lakes and great pine trees - a perfect place for giving testimony at the end of such an adventure.

And so it was, that on the night that these young people returned, they shared their stories of adventure, challenge and survival. Just like the voyagers of old, they sang and danced, and their spirits soared in the mere telling of where they had been and what they had accomplished.

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