Happy Camper: Algonquin Backpacking Odyssey (Part 2)

The epic continues — Kevin Callan takes his college students camping. Here's what happened next:

Credit: Kevin Callan

We were lucky. A bear never visited on night one.

Some food packs weren’t even hung, and the ones that were would have easily been taken down. I was angry with the students, again. But I knew that negative energy was the worst way to get a point across. So, I changed tactics. I took one of the worst bear hangs — the pack was simply tied to the trunk of a small birch tree — and dragged it a few hundred metres into the woods. When the students woke up and started searching, I turned my camera on and started filming. There was some panic when they couldn’t find their food, some blame on each other when they discovered it, and then the accusations began. My technique worked. Heck, even if it didn’t, I enjoyed watching it all unfold.

Individual cooking groups each made themselves breakfast. All of them tried consuming the heaviest food items in their packs, to reduce daytime loads. One group enjoyed bacon and hamburger patties pressed between water-soaked balls of Wonder bread. Another group fried up 10 eggs. They had a dozen starting out, but because they had hung the carton on the side of someone’s pack, two ended up breaking. I was actually amazed that only two broke.

We headed out just before 10:00 a.m. and came back to the campsite a half-hour later. The student chosen to lead had taken us the wrong way. Ben and I knew the error the moment we started hiking — but again, we were allowing nature to do most of the teaching on this trip. We were just going along for the ride.

Moods heightened a bit when we stopped for lunch alongside a majestic cascade flushing alongside maple and beech trees lit up by their fall foliage. The sun even peeked through for a bit. However, when packs were strapped back on, and the rain turned to hail, questions and concerns about us continuing on began to fester amongst a few in the group. By the time we reached our second campsite on Maggie Lake, there was talk about splitting up. Some wanted to press on, others wanted a slower pace and one student wanted to go home.

If it was a first-time trip for these guys, I would have taken control of the group and forced them to continue, letting them know that it all will be worth it in the end. But this was a leadership course. Ben and I wanted the students to make their own decisions.

By the morning of day three, eight students decided to continue on our planned route with Ben. Eight others would backtrack with me, at a much slower pace. Once we reached the parking lot, the one student who had injured her knee the first day out and wished to go home, was to be picked up by a parent. From there, the other seven would continue on, travelling clockwise on the loop to eventually meet up with the others. I wasn’t too excited about the plan. But it was their plan, and they worked together to come up with it. I’ll give them that.

When we reached the parking lot, around noon on day four, three other students had made the decision to go home… and I let them.

(To be continued…)

Watch the Video Here:

Join Kevin Callan on a mid-winter bucket list canoe trip. Find out more HERE.