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Chapter 6 – Understanding Limitations & Prioritizing Safety Yield Amazing Results

Our community recently started telling us about their outdoor adventures. We’re excited to begin sharing the stories of these brave, growing people and the excitement they’ve experienced in nature. 

We hope you enjoy reading their stories in their own words. Let’s celebrate them and be challenged to push ourselves in our own ways!

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It’s easy to find ourselves dissuaded from tackling challenges from fear of failure. The thought of embarrassing ourselves or just being disappointed in our abilities holds us back from so much!

But what can be an equally alluring downfall is ignoring the signs our body gives when we need to take a break. It takes great self-awareness to know when you need to stop and confidence to communicate it. 

For this Elira community member, having all those things resulted in a reward from Nature she’ll never forget. 

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Tricia – Brains & Brawn in Tandem

I grew up on the water in the Chain of Lakes area of northern Illinois. My father and uncle were interested in boating and my parents took a canoe trip together after they retired to the Boundary Waters, so water adventures were all around me! 

During college, I did a number of canoe trips and camping trips myself. I was studying geology and got to use one summer practicing geologic mapping in the Boundary Waters Canoe area. Spending an entire summer living out of a canoe and a tent with one field partner got me hooked on the wilderness and canoeing! After college, I convinced my (now) spouse to go on trips with me. He and I enjoyed fishing together, so we combined canoeing with fishing in the wilderness.

Of all our trips, one in particular stands out. 

Our plan was to go to the Quetico Wilderness Area in Ontario Canada. We wanted to get to a lake that was remote and known to be good for small-mouth bass fishing. Getting to it would require canoeing across a number of lakes and completing at least 5 challenging portages. With that in mind, we decided to get an early start and try to get to our endpoint on day one. 

It was an aggressive goal, but we wanted to challenge ourselves to get as far as possible!

What we didn’t anticipate was just how difficult some of the portages would be. Though some were relatively short distances they were very hilly, sometimes straight up and down over large rocks! We had to navigate them while carrying the canoe and the packs. It forced us to slow down a bit, and we made more trips across these tougher portages to lighten the loads as we crossed the tougher terrain.

Despite the portages being tougher than we expected and the extra trips back and forth slowing us down, we did make it to our final lake! 

But there, at the last portage, we had a decision to make. 

It was almost dark. I had reached my limit and didn’t believe I could safely reload the canoe, find the campsite and unload again. Since the weather was beautiful, we decided to bivouac on the trail and finish out the last leg in the morning. 

We woke in the middle of the night to bright lights through the trees, a bit confused. We walked out to the edge by the water to see the brightest, most active Northern lights we had ever seen. They were bright and *dancing.* It was like choreography. 

I’m convinced that, if we had tried to push through the last leg, not only might we have injured ourselves, but we would have been so tired that we would have slept through the most amazing light show available from Nature!

When all is said and done, this adventure left us both feeling empowered and stronger than ever. Our skills improved and our mental well-being was great. We got peace and joy from connecting so closely to the wilderness, learning to make good decisions on what to do each day – when to push and when to slow down… 

I learned that I am resilient and also that I could make good decisions to manage our personal risks. We did the entire trip without any serious injuries because we made good decisions along the way. 

I’m not just strong and tough. 

I’m also smart and savvy!



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