Well, I haven't posted in forever, so I probably should. I spent two weeks on a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in northern Minnesota with our church's youth group. It was six days driving and six days canoing with six teenagers (including my number one daughter). Just a coincidence that that is "666"? Hmmm.
Actually, the trip was a lot of fun. I don't normally interact much with the kids at church, and this trip turned out to be a very nice way to get to know some of them better. I have enormous respect for those kids after this trip - they worked hard, pitched in, and stayed cheerful under some pretty trying circumstances (principally 4 days of rain).
The drive up and back was greatly enhanced by the fact that we spent the nights both on the way up and on the way back at host churches. Two of our church's previous vicars are now pastors at churches strategically placed on the route from Texas to Minnesota, and they were kind enough to let us sleep in their churches. We enjoyed visiting and sharing fellowship with them, and we got a wonderful home-cooked meal on the way back - just the thing after all of the dehydrated trail food. It's suprising sometimes to discover connections where you didn't really know that they existed.
The time on the water was challenging, but we learned fast. My crowning triumph was the recollection that birch bark is very good for starting fires. I learned this as a child growing up in Wisconsin - probably in my fourth grade Wisconsin history lessons. Who would have thought it would ever be so useful? But after spending about 45 minutes trying to light a fire using wood that had been rained on for two days, it turned out that birch bark was just the thing. We learned how to set up camp in the rain. We learned how to manuver our canoes in strong winds and driving rain. We learned how to get everything dry whenever the sun came out. We learned how to efficiently portage our canoes and gear. We learned how to rely on each other, and to appreciate each other's talents. We learned that black flies can bite through two layers of clothing.
I stayed up late one night and saw the milky way for the first time in probably 20 or 30 years. I saw three bald eagles, up close and personal. I saw beavers and beaver dams for the first time in my life. I spent one glorious morning, from about 4:30 AM until about 6:30 AM, completely alone watching the wildlife on the lake where we were camped go about their morning business. When I first got up, there was not hint of a breeze, and not a ripple on the lake. The trees around the shore of the lake and the clouds above were perfectly mirrored in the lake, and there was mist rising from the water. The sun, shining between an island in the lake and the near shore, illuminated one long, narrow strip of the water, as though someone had opened a door at one end of the lake and the light was streaming in.
Oddly, we never really did any "church" stuff while we were out on the water, although we had planned to. There was just too much going on, too much to do. The one "religious" moment for us adults was when we noticed on the fifth day that the kids, who had started out in two very distinct groups, were all together talking and playing around in one big group. We (the adults) cooked and cleaned up that night, and let the kids be.
It was a blast, and I am thankful thankful thankful that we made the trip with no car trouble, no wrong turns, and no broken bones. Sometimes things work out, and that is a wonderful thing.