The trainees followed the map to the small wilderness lake, and there they each found a small, solo canoe. The solo canoes are just 10 feet long and weigh only 20 pounds, making it very easy to maneuver and portage. They were then given a canoeing workshop, followed by a map to their next destination: the headwaters of a rambling stream. It would be a difficult hike: they would have to maintain a good sense of direction while following ridges, crossing bogs, and making their way through dense forest.
Late last sun the guides found them… Hooray!!! Their navigating skills served them well, as they ended up very close to their intended destination. Yet they were tired and struggling to stay present and engaged in the moment. They struggled with future projecting and dreaming about the comforts of their far-away homes. A couple of them reflected on how this is a pattern they enact wherever they are. One of them said not a word, having stated a few suns ago that he was just waiting for the program to be over, which he knew was soon.
Because of the accelerated pace of moving to new locations, they were stressed about finding time to take care of themselves. They were putting off bathing and other self-care in favor of finding suitable campsites, making fire, and preparing food. Yet the guides saw the value in the intensified pace, as the trainees were recognizing and owning what keeps them from functioning optimally, rather than blaming each other. In doing so, they were growing in self-awareness and circle consciousness.
The guides then made a stick-and-stone map to their next destination: they were to paddle the stream to where it joins with a river, which would take them an entire sun, maybe more. The guides would meet them there and give further instruction.
Next sun, the guides paddled downriver to the appointed meeting spot: the stream’s junction with the river. The guides howled for them, but received no answering call. It had been a beautiful sun for a canoe trip: cool and sunny, with a few wispy clouds. There was much to see on the way, beaver lodges, islands with giant pines, and tempting side streams to explore. Perhaps they took their time to enjoy the experience.
The following sun the guides returned to the meeting spot and howled in hopes of connecting with them, delivering provisions, and hearing the story of their adventures. Once again, there was no response. The guides knew the trainees carried a GPS device, which they could activate to send their coordinates and a message for help if in dire need. And yet, the guides pondered over what could be delaying them so much. After all, they could have made the journey in one sun, and after two suns there was still no sign of them.
A rule of thumb in search and rescue is to return to the place of last contact, so early the next morning, three of the guides did just that. To their surprise, their howl was returned. Just in the nick of time too. It turned out that the trainees took a side stream to the south, which dead-ended on a road. It had taken them all sun to get there, then another sun to paddle back to their starting point. When the guides found them, they were just about to head downstream to find the spot where they misread the signs.
At this point they had been without food for the last leg of their strenuous journey and were happy to hear there was a food mission to undertake. These provisions would give them the strength to continue on to their next camp. And the next… and the next…
On Friday, August 14th, the trainees did not know that this sun was to be their last in the wilderness. The guides showed up for a meeting and covered several topics related to re-integrating back into their communities. The trainees had many questions on the topic, as they had been looking forward to exploring it.
At the end of the meeting, a guide laid out a stick map on the ground, to get them to their next camp via a loooong walk. They were then instructed to drop their canoes and most of their gear on the opposite riverbank, then conduct a food mission that would give them the supplies needed for their trek.
The trainees stealthily positioned their scouts up and down river, then fully engaged in the mission, which took them to a vehicle with a trailer ready to take them, their canoes, and all their gear back to Nad’mad’iwining, the School’s support center. At first, the trainees did not compute that this was it–the end…
The trainees are now back home from their 80-day adventure in the Northcountry wilds. A vital piece on their return to their kin is to be welcomed back, acknowledged for the ordeals they faced, and recognized for the valuable places they hold in their circles. Once they’ve had a chance to reintegrate into their communities, we will be posting their input about what they learned during their time in the Guardian Intensive Training.