Wilderness Access – Boundary Waters Canoe Area 1982

Wilderness Access – Boundary Waters Canoe Area 1982

the Ojibwa and Souix were the first to
canoe the lakes and rivers over Northwestern Ontario today visitors travel the same way among ancient water routes through
virgin pine forest seeing the wilderness as the first inhabitants might have seen it thousands of the years ago travelers come to feel the solitude in the beauty of the place but also to
meet the challenges there and perhaps discover something along the
way. one the most challenging parts of
a wilderness canoe trip is the portage it’s the part the trip
with the travelers must bring themselves their gear and the canoes over rough
trails connecting the lakes and rivers and this is often thought to be the
domain of the rugged but access to the wilderness is available to those
who accept the challenge be they able-bodied or disabled Woman: “hang on kid” Woman: “very slow” since 1978 a Minnesota nonprofit
organization called Wilderness Inquiry II has conducted many trips for integrated groups of physically
disabled and able-bodied people group members learn new skills and face
new challenges enjoying the companionship and community
of an outdoor adventure a physical disability will often limit
the risks people will take on their own, Allison
Hill does have functional limits but as a member of this group she’s done
very well within those limits and in some cases has actually overcome
them at the beginning of each trip everyone
learns some basics about canoeing here Greg Lais co director of Wilderness
Inquiry II gives some paddling instruction Greg Lais: “You can do what’s called a C stroke” “where you kind of fan your paddle out like this” “and you draw a big C in the water.” “Paddling like this doesn’t work, you miss a lot of water that way.” “So put your blade in the water… you have a paddle thats fits so you can do that comfortably.” “Then pull it out like this” “Okay, draw right around on a pivot. Good” On this 10-day trip the routes and
activities will be similar to those any group of travelers would plan the
group will canoe dozens of miles along lakes and forests populated by moose,
black bear, bald eagle, and loon. Stopping along the
way to swim, fish, hike, and even sail. Participants on this trip are able-bodied and disabled from many
different backgrounds and of all different ages among those on this trip are two with cerebral palsy a blind person one who uses a
wheelchair 3 able-bodied participants and two leaders. Greg: “Go as far as you can go” “and if you get stuck, don’t crash.” Woman: “Yeah” Greg Lais: “Part of my own interest in working with people with physical disabilities comes
from the fact that when I was born I had a condition called Poland syndrome where apparently some cells didn’t
develop when I was a fetus and I’m missing a few muscles in my back, I um my left arm is smaller and less developed my left-hand is a little bit smaller than
my right hand and I’m missing a knuckle on this finger here which isn’t a
serious physical disability but it did make me
sensitive to being physically different. It’s like myself
for example when I first became involved with these trips back when I and Greg
first joined to do a pilot trip in August in
1977 I don’t recall that I had ever even talk to
somebody in a wheelchair before and I arrived with
my backpack on at the place where we were to leave from and for the first time that I that I in my life I think I, I talk to some…
I was talking to a woman in a wheelchair someone my age or roughly my age I remember feeling a great sense of pity. That somebody who otherwise looked very healthy and
talented and alive and alert was destined to spend the rest your
life in a chair and um in a very I know I had a patronizing
attitude but I also know that within just a few short days that was gone. Whenever possible participants are encouraged to do things
on their own. Often they’ll combine efforts to do one chore making the most each one’s abilities. Greg Lais: “oh wait get yours in there… up a
little more boys” Greg Lais: “okay” Participant: “yes” Greg Lais: “Can you find the corner of the tent nearest you?” Participant: “yeah” Greg Lais: “and put that spike on the bottom” “you can lift it up a little bit” Arthur is an Irishman who flew in from Dublin
Ireland to be part of this trip he has cerebral palsy which affects
neither his intelligence nor his determination but does make it difficult for him to
control his movements and speech. Greg Lais: “All right now Allison’s turn” For Allison this trip was an opportunity she
hadn’t had in nine years since a car accident paralyzed her from the
waist down Greg Lais: “you could have the hardest one because you have all of the pressure you’ve got to pull.” Like Arthur, Ted also has cerebral palsy but
since his capabilities are different from Arthur’s they can together do what might have
been difficult alone. *chatter* Allison: “Yeah that’s pretty tight.” Allison: “All my life I never trusted anybody, I was so used to doing things you know for me make sure it got done you know in my
own time in my own way. Then when I became
disabled it was… everything changed. You know, and I couldn’t trust that
things are gonna get done the way they should get done as far as getting help its a give-and-take
situation um where people can offer help and thats nurturing that’s okay and then but if they offer too much help
then that becomes being overprotective and they become responsible for me instead of me being responsible for my own needs and for myself.” Woman: “oh my God, careful” One of the greater lessons of this type
of experience is learning to draw the fine line between help that’s needed and help that’s inappropriate. On Wilderness Inquiry trips group members are
required to do as much as they can on their own and help is given only when necessary. The difficult physical demands that
the wilderness imposes make cooperation necessary for disabled and able-bodied alike. This encourages mutual understanding and
respect among group members. Man: “okay” Greg: “Were you cold?” (laughter) “lets get set here first. Let me
get my foot out of the tent. Okay?” good man Some adaptive equipment is used on
wilderness inquiry trips although its use is kept to a minimum usually the simpler the better here Ted
Cowardon and has rigged up a table to help Arthur eat he’s used basic available materials
Allison’s back support and piece of rope Authur: “Thank you very, very much” “there huh” “got it?” “okay” Arthur: “that’s lovely” (chuckles) “I’m 59 years old this summer and I uh…….. don’t feel like it and I can honestly say that I can work and play whatever as well as I did in
my twenties.” “I’m retired but I don’t the look at it as the end of an era or uh… it’s going
to from here on in go downhill I just feel
it’s but I want for ever you know it I can’t
find anybody that that likes the things I do and wants to
do the things I do in my age group consequently I end
up with younger group and do more with the younger folks.” everyone is
encouraged to apply to the program but participants are screened to make sure their health needs can be
met in the wilderness once on the trip there are no volunteers
everyone is treated equally although the able-bodied do a good part
of the physical work the disabled bring individual talents to
the trip like Allison has a flair for cooking “The beauty of doing trips with people with a variety of ability levels
are the interdependencies they develop and then the importance of that is that so many of us drive to become independent
to fend for ourselves and to stand alone and we reach that point I think we find we’re
in a very one dimensional world.” Greg: “Over the years we found that a person’s
level of physical ability isn’t really that important what really
matters is their desire to go on a wilderness trip and to take
part in activities such as this” Wilderness Inquiry II is an alternative
for the disabled who are seeking outdoor experiences more rigorous than
those provided by residential camps trip leaders
encourage the participants to approach unfamiliar situations with
resourcefulness and determination for Arthur who normally uses a wheelchair
some activities like this portage might produce more frustration
than enjoyment. But, the pride in having attempted
something he may not have thought possible can offset the discomfort Greg: “The idea behind the tip-test is to find out just exactly how a canoe will float and support you in the event that you tip over and wipe out in the middle of a lake what you want to do it will go out there
and roll out the canoe get away from the canoe for a little
while and float around in your life jacket and to see how that feels then we’ll crawl back into the canoe and
sit on the floor right on the bottom the canoe in that
way the canoe will rise up underneath you and support you and you
can either paddle in with your hands or a paddle in after that” Since the wilderness is unfamiliar to many and sometimes more
frightening the tip-test is one of the activities which shows
how to cope with the unexpected when it appears. Woman: “Arthur” Greg: “Come back here Arthur” “Let it come up” Woman: “Come on Arthur!” Greg: “Now sit on the floor folks” Man: “Woohoo. It feels good” Woman: “Can you stand?” Greg: “Five seconds all your nerve endings go numb” Woman: “Careful” Woman: “Are we done floating?” Man: “Now put your butt over the edge.” Man: “Now paddle with your hands backwards” Allison Singing, “Oh how I love the cold” “Lift your foot Arthur. There. Okay, now the other one” “There you go” Greg to Arthur: “Where’s your shorts?” Greg: “You have some underwear you want to put on?” Arthur: “yeah” Mike was burned several years ago having had
numerous skin transplants he’s extremely sensitive to the heat and cold mike is wrapped in insulating space
black to help him stay warm after being dumped in the chilly lake water.” (Laughing) Greg: “Looks like a space man.” (Laughing from group con’t) Mike: ” I was involved in a gas fire explosion the December 2nd in 1980 I had woken up
in the middle of the night my gas had been on all night I didn’t smell it. I was very
disoriented I lit a cigarette and there was a flash
explosion I’ve found that the in getting out back
into the public in the last year so the more that I’ve
come to accept myself and my condition the easier it is for
other people to accept me do I think being a burn victim is disabling? I’m not really I don’t feel very disabled by it myself. it does present problems when you’re
going out into the public because everybody stares at you a lot and there’s a lot of strange
questions. But if somebody seems halfway
intelligent I’ll take the time to sit down and explain it to them. I live in Minneapolis and just sitting around the city you know you get pretty used to the
everyday boring city life and this trip has been everything but
boring.” “During every trip one one or two days
are set aside just for fun the most popular pastime is sailing. Canoes are
lashed together with cross braces in the form a sailing home the kitchen tarmp is used as a sail and a
new crafted ready for launching. Greg: “Catching the wind now” Man: “Oh, I’ve managed pretty well on the trip. Its Beautiful country up
here And I like camping hard edge trails get to be kind of tough I have to go through muddy water and over rocks over around fallen trees and I tend to lose my balance but I have two paddles so I can stablize myself. When I
was first disabled I was maybe 3-4 years old I could take two steps and I’d fall down.” Most people are surprised
to discover how much their bodies are capable of those who push their own wheelchairs for
example generally have plenty of upper body strength and with a
few adaptations they can participate in something as
strenuous as rockclimbing Greg: “You can do it, you’re almost there.” Woman: “Alright Arthur” The hill climb like the canoe tip test develops a few
new skills and helps group members build confidence.
Each of the participants climbs up the steep grade under his own
power to enjoy the view from the plateau at the top. Man: “It’s likely that most of this forest here has never been cut reasons pertaining to their difficulty a hauling logs outta
here. In fact right around the bay over there
through the virgin forests is where we came from. You can see the ridge that we
came over on the portage trail. Where we crossed a hide of land and came back down to this lake.” Man: “okay now pull it up right away. Oh not bad. One” head rock is a game everyone can play the object is to knock over the little
pine cone by swinging a rock suspended by a rope from a tree branch Man: ” you got it first try” Woman: ” It’s got to be luck” Man: “You got to let it down just a little bit.” Man 2: “Easy” up I okay being that the air Man: “Great!” “Well that count! Thats all you have to do” trust games are played to sensitize
people to the disabilities among others by having them simulate those conditions. I’m visually impared and technically I’m considered legally blind and its been that way since I was born and this has been a really good trip for
me it’s great to be up here. It’s just such beautiful country and the other half and what makes a
really good trip is the people had a really neat group. Its neat how you how you come
together as strangers and then by the end you leave having developed
friendships and things and we’ve worked together all week and it’s a neat experience
to work with such a group of people with
different disabilities and abilities and you know thing working to adapt
things in get something done that’s been a really
good trip for me it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to everybody.” Everyone learned a little about the
inadequacy of labels like able-bodied and disabled. Having lived so closely and shared so
much physical differences are no longer a barrier. and each seems to be able to accept each
other them as an equal partner in the group. the group members will not soon forget
how they travel to the wilderness together. They’ve discovered strength they never knew
they had. Been close to people they never thought they’d now and developed a respect for the wilderness and its lessons. Allison: “Trusting people on this situation will make it easier to trust people when
I get home I think this is a great program I think
all disabled people should come on it. It has so much to
offer such an experience. Mike: “I think it’s a good program for
somebody like myself whose on a fixed income. I’m on social Security and a hundred and five dollars for a
10-day trip is quite affordable.” Woman: “I hope to continue on various trips like this throughout my life. It’s a lifetime hobby for me. Or a lifetime career even depending upon what
I do.” Arthur: “My trip to the wilderness because it has shown me great experiences That a physically disabled person can undertake It has given my life a broader sense of meaning and a sense that I can go home to Ireland and put what I’ve learned over this past week into practice.” After a week of wilderness travel Arthur has enough confidence in his
abilities to cross a portage trail unassisted. Herein lies one of the most
valuable rewards in the wilderness canoe trip the ability to recognize and trust each
individual’s own strengths and resources and the discovery that most limits are
truly self-imposed.

One thought on “Wilderness Access – Boundary Waters Canoe Area 1982

  • January 17, 2018 at 3:39 am

    Benny died in this same year:(


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