This winter, Portage Elora residents participated in three different Outward Bound Canada winter expeditions. A once in a lifetime opportunity, a total of 23 youth took part in the 5-day long dogsledding and snowshoeing trips in Algonquin Provincial Park.
The youth faced many challenges that go hand in hand with winter camping – the most intense kind of camping that a person can do. Some of these challenges included:• surviving winter weather as cold as -35 degrees Celsius;
- surviving winter weather as cold as -35 degrees Celsius;
- trekking through snow that, at times, was waist deep;
- learning how to collect appropriate wood to saw and split with an axe and use to start a fire;
- cooking meals for the whole group over a wood fire;
- learning how to build outdoor shelters and to sleep in them overnight.
These challenges were a part of the daily rhythms of trip life and participants had to find ways of working together and supporting each other in order to get through each day.
Winter trips demand a kind of team work that forces people to step outside of their comfort zones and push through their own desires and put the group’s needs first. Someone might be tired and cold, but he or she still needs to hike down to the lake, fill buckets of water and hull them back so that the group has water to drink, cook with, do the dishes, and feed the dogs.
As many of the youth will attest, the wilderness can be a harsh teacher, but it can also serve as powerful medicine. Here is what some of the Portage youth had to say regarding their winter experience:
“My time spent on Outward Bound was a once in a lifetime opportunity in which I was able to get away from my life and the problems that lie within it and to become one with myself. If I hadn’t gone on Outward Bound I wouldn’t be who I am today.” – Kyle
“It was an enlightening component to my recovery. I found strength which I didn’t think I had, and a love for nature in all seasons. Outward Bound was a surreal, numinous experience that I will remember forever!” – Jackson
“It was probably one of the hardest experiences of my life but it was also the best experience. It tested my skills to a whole next level and I gained so many awesome friendships and new life skills that I really value so much!” – Darrien