Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester 2014 Update

I’ll be announcing some changes to our programs over the next few days, the first of which is the Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester. I’ve been talking with alumni and thinking about how it is different from the the canoe instruction and experience during the Wilderness Bushcraft Semester. The main question I’ve been asking is if it isn’t significantly different, why does it exist as a separate program?

I’ve identified several problems with the WCES as we’ve ran it the past few years:

  1. As it has ran at the very beginning of the season just after ice out, there has been no time for participants to get out on their own to practice their canoeing and increase their canoe-related fitness prior to the course.
  2. Due to the dates, the water (and weather) has been cold, which has been been great for fishing but not for pushing the envelope with regard to canoe skill.
  3. Due to the dates, the water has been so high that it’s been incredibly difficult to work in any significant distance of upstream travel.
  4. There have been relaxed requirements with regard to providing gear. Some people have used paddles they made, while others used paddles and poles we provided.

In 2014 I’m planning on raising the bar significantly, and there will be a few changes:

  1. Date change to summer (7/13-8/9, 2014).
  2. Route change, with more info to come later.
  3. Fitness requirement – we want people to practice and physically train for the trip, thus increasing skill and strength, and making a more aggressive schedule feasible.
  4. Gear requirement – must bring own homemade paddle and pole.

We’ll also be adding more tripping to the wilderness bushcraft semester. The expedition will be differentiated by a much more aggressive schedule and the expectation that participants have spent time on the water practicing to lock in their skills and increase their canoe-specific fitness levels.

By increasing the standards, this program will be much more advanced with regard to skill development. That being said, there will be fewer people qualified to attend. Like most of the programs we’ve developed over the years, it’s an experiment and time will tell how successful it will be.

But I’d rather have it be more difficult and demand more experience of participants than to make it easier and demand less. There are plenty of easy programs, and very few that demand skill, strength and commitment.

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