Dec 2, 2015

The Timeless Value of Canoe Trip

Change is important, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little consistency in life. Over the past 80 years Tamakwa has grown from a small camp for boys, with campers mostly from Detroit, to an ever expanding co-ed camp with boys and girls from all over the world.

• • • • • • Published in the 2008 South Tea Echo written by Robert Sarner • • • • • •

Unca Lou was nothing if not consistent. He always loved to send out interesting camp-related material to Tamakwans via his newsletters and other mailings. In early January 1973, he sent a two-page Tamakwa Newsletter (Number 3815) to camp families and staff. It consisted mostly of a piece entitled “Why Canoe Tripping?” It was written by then Tamakwa Tripping Director John Fanning. Despite the amount of time that has elapsed since John wrote it, his words are as relevant today – perhaps more so – as they were back in 1973. His piece certainly does not come across as dated.

• • • • • • First published in a Tamakwa Newsletter in January 1973 • • • • • •

Why Canoe Tripping? By John Fanning ( John’s grandchildren are currently campers )

Throughout the course of human history, man has delighted in pitting his strength and intelligence against the powerful forces of his natural environment. We climb mountains “because they are there.” We probe the farthest reaches of the globe in order to savour the thrill of overcoming the obstacles and discovering what is beyond. But more than this, man prides himself in his ability to carve out of the wilderness which he explores a small portion of civilization despite the rigors of the environment.

Like Robinson Crusoe, we draw satisfaction from using the natural materials at hand to build a little England on a tropical island. But for modern youth in an overwhelmingly urban society, where little remains unexplored, where technology is a ready tool, the opportunity to tame the wilderness has become almost unavailable. Perhaps the last, best chance for young people to meet this challenge lies in the adventure of canoe tripping.

Without the aid of mechanical propulsion, with only the strength of his arm for power, with only those supplies that he can carry on his back, the tripper sets out to wrestle with the environment. There are long days of glorious sunshine when the land permits the comforts of home to be stolen from it: dry bedding, a warm fire and a good meal. In these days, even the most inexperienced tripper feels secure.

But the rains will come. And if they do not, then some other unforeseen hardship is certain to appear: a portage proves overgrown and impassable; a bear eats the provisions; a paddle is broken or lost. Suddenly, youth who have lived a very comfortable, protected urban life find that all the affluence in the world, not the family cars, not the colour televisions, not even the maid, can extricate them from their difficulties. There is only one way out: by canoe. So they are forced to reach within themselves and to call upon inner resources, qualities of character, which they never knew they had. When the trip is over, they invariably come out of the bush with a glow of pride in their faces, a glow that says, “That was tough! But I made it.” They are never quite the same again.