At a Journey’s End

Ten miles backpacking in the Porcupine Mountains. Thirty miles canoeing in Lake Superior. Two-hundred miles driving from Ashland, Wisconsin to the University of Wisconsin at Steven’s Point. These are just a few of the things we have accomplished in the past week.

Add multiple nights sleeping in tents, hundreds of bugs, and thousands of stars in the sky, and you get a little closer to understanding what our group has been experiencing while in the Northwoods.

And what a journey it’s been! The last time we updated, we were about to embark on a voyage from Northland College to the Bad River Indian Reservation in voyageur canoes. We couldn’t have asked for better weather for our trip; clear skies, sunshine and only a slight breeze out on the largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world. Our two-day paddle departed from Washburn, WI, and included stops in several bays along the way where the students were able to take a swim in the lake. We spent the first night camping out in the historically significant town of La Pointe on Madeline Island. Alan Brew, an English professor from Northland College who joined us on our trip, led us in reflection on the ferry dock during sunset. The ambience was spectacular!  We started the next day early and followed Long Island along all the way to The Bad River Indian Reservation at Waverly Beach (you can see a map of our route in the photos below).

After setting up our tents and cooking dinner on the camping stoves, we had a fire on the beach and a conversation with one of the tribal elders, Joe Rose. Joe Rose is a member of the Eagle clan of the Bad River Tribe. He shared his stories about life on the reservation, and taught us lessons about the fragile environment that we live in. From him, we all grew inspired. It was a beautiful night to watch the moon rise over the great Lake Superior.

After a morning reflection on the beach we gathered with Alan and his assistant Sarah to make connections between our experiences in the Northwoods and our home communities. The students shared their thoughts, and we thought we would share them here with you.

Jonny quoted the CCL director, Susie Hoffmann’s favorite quote: You only conserve what you love, you only love what you know, and you only know what you are taught. He said he wanted to take what he had learned during the experience “to succeed and be a better leader.”

Teagan said “Nature is not just the trees, the water and the bugs. It’s more than that. It’s what we see and what we hear . . . Nature is part of our community and we need to take care of it.” She also shared her excitement about “how many new friends you can make by just saying hello.”

Chris shared his sentiment: “We’ve been canoeing and backpacking, doing high ropes courses and meeting all these people. You can’t do all that within 3 weeks anywhere else.”

Jonathan felt that this experience had “opened a new window” for him.

Tara wants to take what we’ve learned to be better leaders in the conservation community.

We’re continuously impressed by the expressiveness and passion that emanates from this special group of young leaders.

After several hours in a bus to Steven’s Point, the students were reenergized and attentive for several presentations by UW-SP faculty and students on waste and water management. We got to tour their mini waste treatment plant lab – the only one operated by a university in the country. We concluded the night with a special ceremony where the counselors inducted the students in to the “green bandana group,” a collective that we are all a part of, recognizing their expressed leadership qualities over the past three weeks.

It’s unbelievable to realize that our summer experience is coming to its end! After nearly three weeks in the Northwoods, we are concluding the experience and getting ready to return to Lake County tomorrow. Although the students are excited to be home with their friends and family, we are all sad to have to say goodbye. It’s very bittersweet. At least we know that it’s not really a goodbye, but rather a “see you later,” as we look forward to continuing our journey with the Center for Conservation Leadership.

About to take off from Washburn!

The Dreamcatcher crew out in Lake Superior.

Our discussion on the dock in La Pointe on Madeline Island.

Alan Brew leads us in discussion around the campfire.

Joanita and Teagan play with june bugs after their morning reflection on the beach.

Our voyageur canoe route on Lake Superior