By John Dinner, Student Success Program Coordinator
The Foundation Years out trip is purposely designed as an introduction to canoe camping outdoors. Pristine lakes, incredible sunrises and welcome sunsets, cliffs and islands, traversed over five days through The Massasauga Provincial Park. Not too far off the beaten path, being just 35 minutes from our campus, but just far enough to wonder what else is out there if something like this is this close. We got all that and even more than we bargained for, and in the end, we had a group of 17 students coming together to help each other through a tough day and a beautiful week, clear in the mindset something had been, and is being accomplished.
Day one was tough. The first portage for many of us, and the threat of weather looming over our first paddle of the trip. Driving rain that didn't let up from the moment we hit the open water until well past sleep. Rain soaked but undeterred we left behind arguably the greatest camp site in the world - if only it had been 11 degrees warmer - and we set out on our paddle that led us to an introduction to the local otters and ultimately a brief sighting of a bear - headed away, likely scared off by the excitement of 22 paddlers enjoying day free of rain, but close enough to know we arrived with both gratitude and humility, happy to let us be. A cliffside supper and roasting of marshmallows finished day two.
Day three was the appetizer for day four. Nice weather, a beautiful paddle through the legs of Spider Lake headed towards Clear Lake. Two portages. Short, but tricky. And finally a welcome swim as the sun got ready to set just after a bald eagle sighting. Incredible stars on this third night, a perfect ending to a day that was a reminder of all that is great about experiences like these.
Day four had it all. Beautiful sunrise and great weather all day. A couple more portages, this time the other way, and a little longer paddle. Two blue herons. The discovery of the Water Snakes and the solidification of the Water Wolves. A return to Site 11, an unbelievable spot that has incredible significance for Mr. Dinner having been there both in 1998 with Mr. Salt and again last year with many of the Grade 9's and returning Foundation Years students. There's something special happening here. Onward to Site 15, arguably the greatest site in the world - no matter the temperature. Another group supper enjoyed with aching backs and shoulders, comfortable in our growing skills as campers, and confident in our ability to take on the impending weather. Star gazing, friendship and friendship-bracelet making, fires, marshmallows, and a night game ensured a sound sleep for all despite the excitement of it being the last sleep before showers and comfy beds.
And the rain did come - but we were ready this time. Flies tied tight, a little experience on our side, and an enthusiasm to get home meant we hit the ground running day five ... ahead of schedule. The portage was crushed. Truly. Seventeen students, five staff, one unit. The Water Snakes are an exceptional group of trippers. The Water Wolves learned lots.
Throughout it all, whomever we passed whether on the water or at a portage, had nothing but glowing words to say about the young people representing themselves, their families and Rosseau Lake College. Comments from admiring paddlers, such as, "What a great way to start a year," quickly led to, "What a great group of kids you got there." And there couldn't be two more truthful statements.
Thank you to everyone who made this possible. From Mr. Smith and the monumental task of getting 17 kids out on a lake (not to mention the other 110 or so) to Ms. Walker experiencing her first Canadian backwoods exploration; to Ms. Keown stepping beyond her threshold for moisture and comfort while revelling in the artistry of Mother Nature; to Ms. McCleary engaging us all in the excitement of being together and breaking a few brains in the process (number two will always be hugging a tree); to Mr. Salt bringing it all together with expertise and wisdom beyond a single lifetime; to you the caregiver for trusting us with your your most precious gifts and allowing them to experience a connection to the outdoors that is not so easily found these days; to the students who showed up and gave it their all - for themselves and for each other.
Forever Water Snakes and Forever Water Wolves. Forever the Foundation Years Trip of 2022.