By Ed Haubenreiser, Assistant Camp Director
Following a busy but fulfilling summer, I was grateful to have a break and take a trip with friends to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. Countless people throughout my life have raved about time spent up there, making it a significant bucket list item. Needless to say, it did not disappoint.
This was a four-day flatwater canoe trip with a childhood friend and four of his friends from college. Because their meaningful professional work tends to limit outside time, they are intentional about integrating some outdoor adventurous aspect whenever they come together for a trip, and I am lucky to have the thoughtful friend from my childhood always invite me along.
On the second night of the trip, we sat under our group tarp, spirits high and talking endlessly, as rain drizzled above us and light faded into night. We were having a truly great time: exploring a place new to all of us, performing an activity we had not done together as a group before, inherently making decisions that would best support each other’s experience, and – particular to that moment – finding our campsite after an hours-long search: an island in the form of a rock outcrop, in the middle of one of the largest lakes in the area.
The conversation that night centered on these reflections. One by one each person talked at length of how nice it was to disconnect from “normal” life, of how profound it is to do something physically challenging together as a group, and of how such experiences seem to provide personal gifts long afterwards – resilience, confidence, self-efficacy, proactiveness, patience, teamwork, gratitude. As an outdoor educator, and having conducted research on these ideas previously, I was ecstatic to receive further confirmation of how wonderful it is to spend time outside, especially with others.
However, we were expressing these newfound realizations as six white males in our late twenties. We all grew up in suburbs of different Midwest cities, where outdoor adventure activities were seemingly not commonplace. We would attend our local school during the year, and run around our town with friends during the summer (residential summer camps were a foreign concept in our childhood circles). It was not until we moved on from the bubble of our upbringing – college-age – that we discovered the joy and wisdom of doing new things and exploring new places.
This is the reason places like Eagle’s Nest and programs like Hante Adventures have such transformative powers. Here, we provide new experiences to young people – of all backgrounds – so that they can learn such intrapersonal and interpersonal lessons early on, share it with others, and take it with them throughout their life. The Outdoor Academy, in their 55th semester, is currently fulfilling that mission for high school sophomores, while the camp team begins a long “off-season” of planning, designing, and revamping of our summer programming. When doing so, we keep these experiential outcomes in mind, because we know firsthand how important it is for young people to develop their social and emotional capacities that may be absent in the traditional school setting.
You may not find Boundary Waters on our list of offerings, but you will certainly find similar long-lasting impacts and gracious people in the places we’ll explore together.