Friday, September 23, 2016

Gotta' Go To Know!

Sunset at Basswood Lake

Greetings from the picturesque river-side shores of Home Place. It is official: this year's Gapsters did more than just survive the wilderness of northern Minnesota -- they thrived! As one can imagine, bodies are tired from 13 days of canoeing the expansive Boundary Waters and 7 days of backpacking the undulating Superior Hiking Trail. Nevertheless, the energy that these 17 students bring to the woods is electrifying. Rally calls are loud, smiles are beaming, and spirits are higher than ever!

Canoeing and Portaging

"Pose For A Picture."
From storm drills to loon drills, voyager starts to starts of friendships, the Gapsters without-a-doubt met challenge with...their own unique flare. Ask these students if they ever had to wake up in the middle of a rainy night to crouch on their Personal Flotation Devices for upwards of an hour, and they will tell you 'yes.' Ask these students if they ever had to do this same storm drill amidst a day of travel, and they will tell you 'yes' followed by an exasperated, 'and then it hailed.' Oh yes, being out in the elements for an extended time definitely tests your comforts; but these students met poor weather with catchy sing-along sessions, rounds of 20-questions, and lots and lots of story telling -- literally, never a dull moment with this crew! One group even created a new tradition of carrying out a very trendy dance move--the dab--every time they saw a loon. Whether paddling or sitting on shore eating lunch, 'loon drill' could happen at any time. Paired with their endless fun, came a lot of hard work. These students physically pushed themselves so much so, that they discovered a new level of strength every day. Day by day, everyone paddled a little longer, portaged a little further, and developed confidence in their abilities to perfect really hard, really new skills.

R-L: Danica, Morgan, and John in Loon Drill.

Natalie and Danica at 4:23 am.

Travel by canoe can make for some pretty long days, especially when the day kicks off with a voyager start. For reference, a voyager start consists of breaking down camp, eating a flapper (ask your student about this one), and traveling all before the sun rises. The 4 a.m. wakeup calls definitely made clear which students were morning folks and which were not. While in the thick of canoeing and portaging, students also participated in social and academic lessons. One such lesson, Five Pivotal Points, truly highlights the friendships that formed during the hours spent in aluminum water vessels. Five Pivotal Points asks students to share and explain 5 significant life moments that have shaped who they are. Students shared personal stories with grace, honesty, and vulnerability, while others listened with respect, compassion, and open-minds. The trust that blossomed after this activity set the foundation for strong friendships among the Gapsters. Five Pivotal Points teaches a profound lesson that will be repeated time and time again during the Gap semester: how to resist judgement and hold back assumptions before learning the bigger picture, be it towards an individual, a social justice issue, or a different culture.  

Jake Holding Down the Stern of the Boat, While Other Members of the Dabster Brigade Experience a "Traffic Jam."

Members of the BSR Brigade Found the Oldest Cedar in the Boundary Waters!

Oh, Canada!

Nate Collecting Firewood for Cooking Dinner. 

Danielle Sporting a Smile As We Take a Break from Paddling to Rock Climb at Ennis Lake.


BSR on Trail.
The second part of this year's expedition consisted of backpacking along the Superior Hiking Trail: a 310-mile trail that starts in Two Harbors, MN and traverses northeast to the Canadian border. While we did not walk every mile of the trail, most of the students will tell you if felt like they did! After two weeks of paddling a boat to get to a destination, backpacking presented new and different challenges -- lower body wake-up call. The Gapsters had to use their legs like never before. While carrying 40+ pound pack on their backs, these students had to navigate the forest floor--uprooted roots of Red Pines, muddy sections remnant of quicksand, and randomly fallen rocks of varying sizes. According to many of the students, they never have had "to walk so long with a backpack the size of another small human on their backs." Getting into camp at the end of the night was much anticipated not necessarily for the instructor lessons, but the time they had to sit (and not walk) during the instructor lessons. 

Dabsters and Their Backpacks.

During backpacking, students entered a new level of their Voyageur Outward Bound course called Final. Not all groups make it to Final, but all of the Gapsters did! Final is when instructors take a step back, and allow their student-groups to apply what they learned over the previous weeks. Students were leading their own groups, addressing conflicts that they had with one another, cooking group meals, and traveling from campsite to campsite without input from their instructors! Students achieved a great feat during final--exhibiting self-reliance in an unfamiliar environment, another lesson that they will continually tap into during the Gap Experience. 

Minutes After Getting Picked Up From Our Final Backpacking Spot.

Home Place

On Your Mark, Get Set, GO!!! PCE!

After 24 days of living outdoors and traveling everyday in three different brigades, all of the Gap students came together for their Personal Challenge Event at Home Place. Despite blisters, aches, and...not showering for 24 days...these students ran their PCE with gusto! For those of you not familiar with the PCE--it is a VOBS tradition. To celebrate a successful expedition, students put their physical abilities,  mental strength, and learned hard-skills to the test by paddling 6 miles, portaging 1 mile, and running 6 miles. Everyone made a personal goal for this personal challenge. Some students set an overall time goal, some wanted to paddle 3 mph consistently, some wanted to keep moving during the entire "running" portion. Pride was palpable at the finish line. All of the Gapsters achieved their personal goals--no one sold his/herself short of potential or grit!

L-R: Joe, Eric, and Nathaniel Problem-Solving the Different Elements of High Ropes. 

Bry F. and Danielle Rocking the Ropes

Cailyn and Natalie on a Transfer Platform.
A bit less rigorous, but no less challenging than the PCE, was each student's round on the high ropes course at Home Place. Some of these Gapsters hold no reserve when it comes to unleashing their inner-monkey. The high ropes course has many memorable elements--Minnesota skis, the Balance Beam, Lilly Pads, Spiderman's Web, the Ladder, the Hourglass, etc. Laughter, cheering, and power-word call-outs could be heard across Home Place as our students made their way through the various elements and finished the course with a super fun, and fairly intimidating zipline. After achieving their own personal bests, the afternoon wrapped up with another profound lesson taught by VOBS instructors. This lesson addressed perceived risk and actual risk. About half of the Gapsters were nervous about the ropes course, because their perceived risk was high; however, actual risk of the activity was extremely low, because of the numerous safety precautions in place. Students recognized and talked about the importance of evaluating perceived and actual risk of new things they attempt in life. They also related the concept of risk back to social risk in forming new friendships and learning how to live with the larger group of Gapsters during the remainder of the semester. It was clear that all of the Gapsters had learned the same lesson while out on expedition to be applied to any situation: You Gotta' Go To Know!
Jake Walking in the Sky.

Bryanna N. Spider-Womaning Like a Champ.

Some Memorable Moments

During the Hail.

After the Hail.

Nate, Alexis, Bry, and Joe at the End of Their Trail.

Nature Fashion Challenge.

Duffle-Shuffle. Night 1. 

Jazz-Hands On a Bridge. Classic BSR.

Do You Front-Pony?
Abby Joski: Pro-Napper.