Perhaps the most anticipated pre-camp activity for staff is the canoe trip, where counselors, new and old alike, are “broken-in” on the trail. What does this mean exactly? Well, despite most counselors at CV being part-time Olympic athletes, it takes a good Boundary Waters trip to get back into the rhythm of camping, warm up the shoulders, and work on some… logistics.
Every year, at least two staff trips go out. A group leader is assigned to each trip (typically the veteran counselors). The trip is planned and prepared for as any trip with campers would be. Between each planning phase, counselors work through checklists with tripping director Charlie Steiner. This involves going over all the logistics of camping, from van swaps, where trips exchange vehicles at opposing entry/exit points into the Boundary Waters, to ensuring you have the right number of tents for your trip.
Can every trip go perfectly according to plan? No, especially not when staff trips are the testing grounds for new or questionable gear. But what would any trip be without a little adventure?
There’s never been a trip at Camp Voyageur without a trip story, and these staff trips were no exception. For both trips, the smokey haze from the forest fire in Saskatchewan, Canada meant the sky would be constantly in a haze. The sun and moon were orange, and the air carried the smell of the burning pines hundreds of miles. It made navigating on Lac La Croix all the more tricky, as distant islands and peninsulas were fades of what they normally are, throwing off the depth perception of the navigator.
At some point, the staff trips were destined to intercept. It was at a portage into Lac La Croix, where the elevation drops suddenly some 50 or 60 feet. We would have thought nothing of the creek that ran along the portage, until we heard the sounds of a waterfall. Upon inspection by the first group to arrive, the perfect trail-spa was discovered, complete with a deep rinse area, a more relaxing swirly area, and a deeper section you could fully submerge in. Within only several minutes of swimming there, the second staff trip began the same portage, and upon seeing the CV canoes knew that it was time for “ze rendezvous!”
Both groups exchanged stories and swam for a little while. It was apparent that the group dynamics developing in each trip were bringing counselors closer together. Being on a wilderness adventure just does that. You can’t paddle in the same canoe with someone for 8 hours a day and not get to know them a little better. Even seemingly simple things like eating three meals together is one of the best team building activities, as everything from preparation to cleanup requires group participation.
After an afternoon of cleaning up, the staff are ready to take on the numerous projects they left off on before the trip. There’s still a lot to be done before campers arrive!