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Water Wilderness

Wabakimi Wilderness Canoeing, Northern Ontario

Features Of This Course:

  • River and lake paddling in and around Wabikimi Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
  • 3-semester credit hours earned (CIL 110)
  • Average Group Size: 7 students/ 3 instructors
  • Approximate pack/canoe weigh at heaviest: 50-75 lbs.
  • Trip Duration: 18 days (13 field days)
  • Typical Male/Female ratio: 40/60

Course Overview:

Ontario’s beautiful Wabakimi Provincial Park is the site of this course. It is a spectacular waterway of lakes, rivers, bogs, and northern boreal forest. On this course you’ll receive an introduction to the essentials of wilderness travel in addition to learning more about yourself, your new peers and leaders, and Earlham College. You’ll cover a wide range of skills including minimum impact camping, expedition canoeing, and outdoor leadership. There will be lessons in geology, natural history, wilderness ethics, consensus decision-making, and navigation (among others). You’ll work hard paddling the waterways and portaging over muddy, rocky terrain with a canoe or pack on your back but there will also be time to relax and enjoy the beauty of the area.

As the course progresses, you will take on increasing responsibility for yourself and for the group. There will be several "solo" contemplative opportunities where you will get the chance to experience a period of time in solitude and reflection. Near the end of the course, you will have the opportunity to test the skills you have acquired during an independent travel period where the instructors take a reduced role and students determine the activities and route.

This experience is a college-level, three-credit course (CIL 110). As such, there will be assigned reading and you will be expected to participate in all course discussions and related activities. In addition, there will be several assignments to complete in the form of journal essays and mini-presentations. Evaluation and grading on the course will be Pass/No Pass. Students will be given a written and oral evaluation at the mid-way point and at the conclusion of the course.


A Typical Day:

Water _typicaldayA typical day might involve the “leader of the day” rousing everyone at 6:00 am for morning chores, a quick but tasty breakfast of hot granola, and some time to load up the canoes and breakdown camp by 8:00 am. You might paddle 4-6 kilometers and take a break right before your first “portage” (a land trail between lakes) of the day. After scouting the portage, you’ll organize your group into carry teams to move your gear and boats from one lake to the other (the trail might be as long as a kilometer through wet and boggy terrain). As you experience the challenge of carrying a boat on your back, your boat buddy is right there to switch off and supply emotional support. You might get through in “one carry” without resting and you’ll find hidden reserves you did not know you had. After a hearty lunch of bagels, peanut butter, dried fruit, and cheese, you are off again, paddling another 3-5 kilometers to an island on the middle of a quiet lake. There, one of your instructors will teach a short lesson on the trees of the boreal forest and you’ll learn how to identify common species as well as the basic ecology of the region.

After a break, its one final push to camp… but wait! It seems as though the group missed the inlet to camp. After a group discussion to determine where you think you are, the leaders-of-the-day figure out the mistake and you paddle in an hour later than you had hoped, tired, but invigorated from the day's challenges. Once on shore, you immediately divide into chore groups- fire and kitchen set-up, camp set-up, and boat storage. As one group cooks dinner, you might have time to sit by the lake, listen to the loons, and write in your journal. After a yummy dinner of beans, rice, tortillas, and salsa, you gather together as a group to discuss the lessons of the day as well as one of the course readings about the ecology of the boreal forest. As the sun sets around 10 pm (and the mosquito’s arrive in earnest!), you retreat to your tent with three other tent mates and catch-up on readings, journaling, or, if you are leader-of-the-day for tomorrow, the next day's maps and route plan. Of course, remember that a “typical day” may vary widely course to course and year to year!


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