July 8th, Day Two - Good Morning My Friend
The cool and quiet night passed by quickly, as I awoke to one of the foreman
of my sister crew, Rob Rodriguez, saying, "Good Morning, you are at the Northern
Tier Wilderness High Adventure Base in Minnesota! Breakfast is at 7:00 sharp. Pack
up your gear and get going."
"Wow" I said to myself. "I'm at Northern Tier!" It's funny to
think that in less than 24 hours, I have traveled over a thousand miles across the country
and I am actually where I planned to be.
The Northern Tier High Adventure Base Stockade.
After waking up and packing our sleeping gear, we rushed to eat
breakfast because of the excitement and started preparing for the road ahead. Our foremen told us the
list of events that was going to happen that day. To get ready for our trip, we
had to suit up in our life jackets, find our paddles, take our swim test, organize
our packs, pick up our food, sign out an emergency radio for our crew, pack our
gear, and then finally we would be ready to head out.
We enjoyed lunch on the base, which was our last meal in civilization until our
return. We ate much and took our time, absorbing the last comforts that the wilderness
deprives as long as possible.
The day was truly one thing after another, but finally, we were packed, prepped,
and ready to go.
We had four packs, two packs filled with our personal gear that were kept in gray
granite gear bags, one food pack, and one box of crew gear. The crew gear box
contained our cooking equipment, dining fly, camp tools, and other camping items
for the whole crew. This box was kept in a plastic crate inside a green backpack,
surprisingly weighing the least amount of weight of the four bags.
I tried on the food pack for the first time, the heaviest pack of the bunch.
I honestly thought I was a strong guy until that pack was hoisted on to my shoulders.
I felt as if my knees were going to give out and I was going to tumble backwards
and embarrass myself in front of the guys. Lucky for me, that did not happen. It
turned out that as I began walking, I fell forwards instead. This lead to the first
fall of the trip. To this day, I still blame it on that rock that came out of nowhere.
My crew mates simply helped me up and we walked on. We took a short walk with our
packs to meet our three canoes, which were waiting for us in the water. It was probably
a quarter mile hike, though to my body it felt like 10 miles. My shoulders were
dug in, knees shaking, and back hurting. The first moment of this small physical
test woke me up to the realization that this trek was not going to be an easy feat.
As we entered the three canoes, we put the packs in the canoes and got in. It
had been a while since I entered a canoe, and I was sketchy of that thing called
"paddling." It turned out I was not the only one. As we started, everyone kept maneuvering
left and right, zigzagging like a sailboat. It didn't take long for us to catch
on to the idea of paddling, as we eventually got it right.
Brian about to lift a canoe onto his shoulders.
We came upon our first portage trail, where we had to portage, or cross, from
one lake to another. This meant carrying our gear and canoes through the woods to
the next lake. Of course, our foremen taught us the proper way to carry the packs
and hoist up the canoe. So, I decided to try the canoe. The canoe weighed 76 pounds
dry. That's 76 pounds resting on your shoulders. The trick of this feat is actually
getting the canoe from the water, to your shoulders. In the beginning, I was indeed
horrible at this practice. The laws of physics were certainly not on my side.
Though, the more I tried it, the better I got. I guess you can say by the end of
the day I was a pro.
We portaged four times until we found our campsite. We set up camp and got our
first lesson on the importance of dry feet. Our foremen told us horror stories of
trench foot, which are horrible rashes on your foot from excess moisture. Andy and
Vern enlightened us all on the power of Goldbond medicated foot drying powder. As
corny as this sounds, the Goldbond powder was by far an essential camping product.
As we portaged from lake to lake, we were constantly getting our feet wet. To prevent
trench foot, we had to keep our feet dry as much as possible.
After our feet were dry, we got into our pair of dry shoes. We used our boots
(wet shoes) for work, canoeing, and portaging; and our dry shoes for comfortable
camp wear. The US Forest Service installed the campsite we were staying at, which
was small in size making a minimal impact on nature.
Cooking up some dinner.
Once all the tents were set up, dining fly tied up, and canoes stored on the
shore neatly; it was time to get started on cooking dinner.
Since today was the first evening of camping, our foremen took on the roles as
cooks while the rest of the crew watched in awe. When I think of camping food, I
think of the usual de-hydrated rice and noodles. Simply put, I was wrong. Andy and
Vern worked their magic with spices and made quesadillas that were far better than
any Taco Bell I've ever been to. Everyone was stuffed after the quesadillas
and rib-sticking fried rice.
The usual cleaning and tidiness was practiced like at any normal troop outing.
Pots and dishes were cleaned, garbage was picked up, and a fire was built. We spent
the rest of the night getting to know one another and enjoying the outdoors.
Right before everyone went to sleep, we started a night program that lasted
through the whole two weeks - wet socks and dry socks. It's a reflection that is
like the common thorns and roses, and our crew changed the name to make the
practice more our own. Everyone would gather in a circle and reflect upon the
day. We would start out with a negative memory that happened during the day,
referred to as a "wet sock". We would also bring up a positive experience,
called the "dry sock". Though the names we used for our thorns and roses reflection (wet socks and
dry socks) were humorous, I will sincerely never forget the reflections that were
shared for the rest of my life.
After a long day, it was time for a well-earned nights rest. We ended the
night with a "Goldbond", which was something we looked forward to during
the rest of the voyage. Tonight my muscles were
aching and I was beat. I wish I hit the gym more to prepare for this trip. In short,
"I went out like a light."
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