A Photo Worth 1,000 Words

Behind each and every photo you see at camp, there's a story, though they're not always so apparent. In fact, some of the most meaningful photos to our campers may simply look like, for example, two teenagers building a fire to boil water in a rusty coffee grounds can. Little do you know how powerful this image is to those who partook in the Voyageur Olympic games several days before this photo was taken. I'll explain.

Every summer, once per session, we host what is called the Voyageur Olympics. I talk more at length about what exactly goes into the Olympics here at camp in another post, so I'll only summarize it briefly here. Over the course of a few days, a series of sports and water-based competitions take place between two teams with captains leading them. The kicker? It is almost entirely organized by our campers, and for the most part, by their captains.

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That's a lot of leadership for a teenager to assume. But towards the end of a session, when everyone knows each other on a first name basis, leadership comes natural for our older campers who have been leading the pack for weeks. And it's a lot more than leadership. Just think about the logistics of assigning a bunch of preteens and teens to specific activities and ensuring they're in the right place at the right time while competing in the games yourself! It's nothing short of a feat of strength, and each summer, we're always surprised by how smoothly the Olympics play out.

At the very end of the Olympics is the obstacle course which always ends up deciding the victorious team. More often than not however, the teams are so close that it usually comes down to the final event in the obstacle course to decide the winner. That event is the water boil. Each captain can choose two wood gatherers, and the first one to boil their water over the top of their coffee can wins. Pretty simple, right?

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Well, as they've learned throughout their time on the trail, starting a fire out here isn't so easy. We don't use lighter fluid, wood doesn't come pre-cut, and it can always rain. It just so happened that it had rained the entire day before this particular water boil, and all of their wood was wet. It takes a great deal of experience to start a fire from scratch with wet materials! The captains are also surrounded by their team mates who are constantly cheering them on, not to mention all the parents who made the journey to watch it all unfold in person.

So now that the scene is set for you. The stakes are high, the pressure is on, they're exhausted, and they're putting all they've got into the breaths they're giving the fire. And well... eventually, there's a winner. But unlike most sporting events, the victor is only elated for a moment. He cannot think about celebrating with his team yet. What gives?

The victorious camper instead runs over to the other captain's fire, who is close to boiling the water over but not quite there. Together, they continue to build the fire, taking turns breathing life into the flames until FINALLY! The water boils over. The crowd erupts, the captains shake hands, the fires are put out and cleaned up, and everyone's relieved. "Finally, we can shower and sauna!" they must be thinking to themselves.

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