New Camper on Staff
Kate Houle, Communications Specialist

During Workshop Week(s) and Staff Training all of the new teaching fellows and teaching staff have the opportunity to go out on trail in the Sylvania Wilderness or the Porcupine Mountains for three days and two nights to learn protocols and outdoor skills for Conserve School camping trips as well as to spend a little more time bonding with their colleagues before the semester begins. For our new English Teaching Fellow, Noah, from Detroit this was his first time camping and canoeing! The entire staff was excited for him, maybe more so than he was. Knowing that this would be a stretch outside of his comfort zone, in my excitement, I asked him to please keep a journal of his experience to share when he returned. Noah agreed. There were obstacles to overcome on his journey, but I am fairly certain that with some beautiful camping weather, without mosquitoes or canoe portages, Noah is well on his way to fully embracing outdoor adventure in the wilderness. Enjoy Noah’s journal below!

Two staff members canoeing on a misty and foggy day.

Wednesday August 1, 2018
Tonight is the first night I will spend camping. We are in the wilderness, hours away from school. It has been raining on and off all day. Today, I have stepped way out of comfort zone and you know what? It didn’t kill me or make me more than mildly uncomfortable. For example, the mosquitoes here are dreadful creatures and I must admit that being bitten by them as many times as I have been hasn’t been fun. Carrying a canoe on my back has also been a challenge that I didn’t anticipate being as difficult as it has been. It takes a lot of strength to carry a canoe on your back through the wilderness. While doing it, I had to consciously keep my mind racing through different topics to handle the pain of the canoe bearing on my arm and back. However, it is in some of the moments of relief from paddling on the lake or relaxing inside my tent that I can reflect and the trip feels worthwhile. When I finally have a chance to relax and enjoy what’s in front of me, I feel at peace with myself and with nature. It’s at these times that I realize that I have am capable of more than I give myself credit for. I can do this and a lot more too. – Noah.

Staff member learning to portage a canoe.

Thursday August 2, 2018
It is the second and last night of my harrowing journey through the Sylvania wilderness. Okay, so maybe harrowing isn’t the best adjective I could use here. Long, though it has only been two days, would fit more. It certainly has been quite the journey. There definitely have been moments where I wished I wasn’t here, but that’s mostly (if not completely) because I hate carrying the canoes. I’ve learned a lot on this trip. For one thing, canoeing isn’t easy. It takes a tremendous amount of upper body strength to paddle through the water, especially if you’re steering or if there’s a lot of wind. Tonight Haley taught Miriam and I how to build a fire, which was actually easier than I thought it’d be by far. It has been extremely empowering to learn skills that could help keep me alive in the wilderness. Learning outdoor skills such as these have helped me to feel capable in an environment I am foreign to. And although it would mean going even further out of my comfort zone, I want to grow and learn more. Whew, who am I? This doesn’t sound like me at all. It’s astounding what a new experience can do for a person. – Noah.

Photos contributed by Jeff Rennicke, English Teacher