Swimsuits, sandals and sunshine are just around the corner as school comes to an end and summer vacation hovers in students’ minds. Anticipation and restlessness crescendo to create a quintessential image of a summer vacation filled with hiking, beaches, ice cream and travel.
However, this idyllic vacation usually ends up on a to-do list as binge watching Netflix, playing video games and lounging around the house fill up our days. Once again, summer slowly slides by and the next school year begins. This is a common problem whose solution might be right outside your door.
“I think that [wilderness adventure camps] are a great way for people to get outside and get out of their comfort zones,” said freshman Nils Andreasen, who went to Menogyn, a YMCA wilderness adventure camp, last year. “Before Menogyn I’d never gone camping, and now I really like it and it’s something I plan to do every summer.”
Andreasen is one of many high school children who travel up the Gunflint Trail to paddle into the Boundary Waters, Canada and the Arctic Circle summer after summer with Camp Menogyn, whose trips can last from five to 50 days and be hundreds of miles long.
“I think in our modern life it’s hard to get as much satisfaction out of everyday jobs and tasks, and I think you can just get such satisfaction out of going on a trip and looking back at your route and saying, ‘Man we just covered 80 miles in eight days!’” said Fred Sproat, program director at Camp Menogyn. “I think that the results are just so tangible, and you can just see what you’re capable of. I think that can really inspire kids and teenagers to realize what their potential is and put other challenges and tasks in perspective.”
Menogyn and similar camps, like Outward Bound, Adventurous Christians, Widjiwagan and Covenant Pines, all offer those opportunities to push yourself and later reflect on your accomplishments with satisfaction. Sproat believes that even on some of the shortest trips there’s ample opportunity for people to push themselves and develop through their time in the outdoors and on trail.
“I think that on the shortest trips you might even see the most growth there because it’s such a big leap,” said Sproat. “With those five days some kids are on trail they can learn so much, because it’s like going from 0 to 60, and being exposed to being outdoors and the wilderness have some of the biggest impacts on campers.”
The impact of outdoor adventure trips are practical and long lasting, Sproat and Andreasen agreed. They believe the skills that are gained from these trips are applicable to daily living and are some of the most important skills you will learn in your life.
“I think that there’s definite crossover [between camp and daily life],” said Sproat. “I think that if you’re on a trip there aren’t going to be many instances outside of that trip where you’re going to have to know how to flip a canoe up on your shoulders or start a fire when all of your wood is wet, but there are going to be plenty of instances of being considerate of other people, being able to lead a group, and [needing] the ability to overcome a challenge.”
Overall, Sproat says, the most important thing that most people gain from these trips is a better understanding of themselves and the outdoors.
“I don’t think that individuals need to go out on 30-day or 40-day trips to get the benefits of a wilderness experience,” said Sproat. “I’ve been out with a group, and just being outside under a starry sky, without streetlights, cars in the background or planes overhead, made a night that probably meant more to them than the rest of the trip because that initial experience was huge. If you can find a place to get away and experience the wilderness, [you should] make it happen wherever you can and you’ll probably walk away knowing a little more about yourself and your daily life.”