When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was fortunate enough to participate in Canoe Trails, an outfit dedicated to teaching skills and traditional ways of a time that has long since passed – the time of the Canadian Voyageur. Candidates trained over the course of a few months on weekends, learning skills such as chopping wood, fire building, tent-raising, outdoor cooking, map and compass reading, general survival tactics, and of course, canoeing, in order to participate in a week-long adventure up north. I enjoyed many summer trips to the Canadian wilderness with this group and loved them. Somehow though, I never made it on any of the winter camping trips, aka Snow Trails, because I was always busy with basketball and/or school, but mostly because I was a wimp and afraid of the sub-zero temperatures common on such trips.
I must be feeling a need to return back to my roots, because lately I’ve really felt an incredible desire to be involved with Canoe Trails again. I finally got up the courage to do so at the end of the fall, unfortunately leaving little time for canoeing, but just enough time to try out winter camping. A few weeks ago, the initial planning meeting was held and we went over the necessary equipment needed to not freeze to death during a January weekend spent entirely outdoors in the mountains in Pennsylvania. It’s a lot of equipment and it’s taking me a while to find/acquire all that I’ll need to stay happy for that weekend. With each item I acquire, the more excited I get. I think of the logs that will be split with my hand axe and how my legs will not be cold in the German military-issue wool pants I ordered from an Army/Navy surplus store. I imagine what it will be like carrying all of my personal items in my pack that hasn’t seen the light of day in years and how many times I’ll fall over walking on snowshoes. I feel like I am going crazy but I can’t wait to split wood, prepare food over a fire, sleep outside in the snow, and catch up on a lot of years of missed adventures.
I think the upcoming weekend is going to be an eye-opening experience. It’s going to be a time for me to get back to understanding myself and how I work, push my limits, and remember what it’s like to be out in the world without a computer or a phone.
The trip is scheduled for the second weekend in January and I look forward to talking about it when I get back.