When this blog was first started, I was not very happy with the name. It seemed kind of bland and ambiguous. Mostly, I didn’t put much thought in naming it. Now I see that the name allows me to keep the blog and move from experience to experience. At this moment, this blog is becoming less as I intended it (as a chronicle of my time in Ireland), and more true to its poorly, but aptly chosen name because there always is another adventure.This post will be longer than most that end up, but that is because there is much to tell, and no great way to split it up.
Monday, June 25th I stepped off the last Cincinnati soil that my body will contact for several months, and what a true part of Cincinnati it is…the Greyhound Bus station. With my prized 65 L capacity Osprey backpack being tossed into the undercarriage of the behemoth bus, I boarded with little to keep me company for the next twenty-two hours of travel except an audio book which regaled Game Six of the 1975 World Series and the Reds eventual victory over the Boston Red Sox, Salman Rushdie’s playful and grabbing prose, a few sandwiches, and hopes of sleep.
Upon arrival in Duluth, Minnesota I was promptly met by Outward Bound staff and taken to the Duluth airport to meet and pick up 27 Intercept students. These kids that come into this program are at-risk-youth and come with the hope (or their parents send them with the hope) that OB and the Minnesota Boundary Waters will help them figure some things out. I haven’t been trained, and I’m not on the clock, but my help is needed to entertain and interact with the kids as the come through the arrival gate until all 27 have arrived.
For the next two days each morning starts with a three mile run and a jump in the lake. Make breakfast, drink coffee (lots and lots of coffee), then on with training. During training myself and seven other Session 3 interns are stuck in the “student model.” For all intents and purposes, we are students, but treated a little bit differently with the understanding that we will move on to a bigger role in a couple weeks. While at base camp (affectionately known as Homeplace) we rock climb, learn paddle strokes, learn how to pack food & equipment, and how to rescue a canoe if it tips. Day 3 at Outward Bound, we depart for a 12 day expedition into the Boundary waters, which begins with a two mile portage known at Angleworm Trail.
All that happened over the next twelve days and nights is too much to remember and retell. A few 18-hour days of paddling make a lot of things run together. By the end of it I was bruised, bug-bitten, smelly, and tired; beasts of sea, sky, and earth had tried to take the blood from my veins (leeches, mosquitoes, and ticks); there were emotional breakdowns (none of my own), and days that we had to paddle by moonlight to find a campsite that was not already occupied. Finally, around 9 AM on July 11th, we raised our paddles (three recent college graduates, one former biology teacher, one military man, one local who had wandered most of her life, one instructor, and myself) touched them to the bridge that marked the gateway to and from the Boundary Waters and paddled a little further down the Kawishiwi River until it dumped out on Birch Lake towards Homeplace to complete our twelve-day, 110 mile journey. I loved all of it. As I passed under that bridge, I took the advice of Kurt Hahn: “When you leave here, look back. Look back, but only look once, and know that you will be back.”
Since returning to semi-civilization at Homeplace, I have continued the learning process. Whitewater kayaking on the day of return, and high ropes the next day. A visit to the dog yard, which houses somewhere around 60 dogs that wait and wait, full of anticipation for the day when the lakes freeze over, and they can pull sleds across the snow-blanketed land. Even on my day off, I hopped into a car at 7 AM to make a drive out to Lake Superior. On that beautiful day, near that beautiful water, twice I allowed myself to be lowered 90-100 feet over the edge of a cliff so that I could jam arms, legs, and feet into cracks to try to make my way back to the top. Fingers grabbed ahold of tiny bits of the rock face while I dangled 70 feet above big boulders and the fresh water of the greatest of the Lakes. A wonderful day off ended with good beer, good food, good frozen custard, and the continued company of good people. Who knows what the rest of the summer will bring.