Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 45- Brandon Wessels

From Yellowstone to the Grand Tetons, that was the journey that was ahead of us when we woke up and had chow at 8 this morning. By 9:15 we were on the road, but it wasn't too long before we stopped at a nearby post office to send souvenirs and presents to loved ones back home...little did we know the post office wouldn't accept credit or debit cards so people like Jen ended up being S.O.L. And had to pack their would-be mail back up. Once we got back on the road we had about three hours to drive before we reached the Grand Tetons.

When we reached the visitor center where we were supposed to shower at, we came to the sad realization that the water at the facility had been turned off which meant no showers for this ECOEE group this day...but then our LoD Molly and her faithful assistant Katy went in the visitor center to check if there were other shower facilities around and, to the extreme delight of our group there were, and we were going to take advantage of them since some of us hadn't showered in two weeks.

Before we were able to take our showers we had to go set our campsites up and then meet with Scot Guenther, a manager and rescuer at the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache. Scott explained to us all what his job entailed him to do. He made a good point at explaining and expressing the fact that rescue isn't just about saving people but also that there's a lot of planning, paperwork, and logistics that must be done before a rescue team goes out in search of the victim.

After our meeting with Scott we drove to a recreation center located in Jackson Hole. This was the lovely place where our showers were located at. The showers were $7.00 a person, but after 2 weeks of not showering the money didn't really seem all too horrible of a price to pay.

Once the group was all squeaky clean Molly sent one van to the grocery store to do a food buy for the next couple days and the other van went back to the campground to set the tents and kitchen up. When the food buy van came back to the campground they had eight pizzas with them which we devoured through and through. Being squeaky clean from the showers and with my belly full of pizza, this sleepy ECOEE member is going to go zonk out.

Goodnight friends and family,
Brandon Wessels

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 44- Katy Hunt

My goodness, my goodness, what a wonderful day! Well, at least it was after 8am! Our professional chef Brittany crept quietly out of her sleeping bag this morning to get a head-start on breakfast for the group only to find both of her boots missing! Thankfully, the sly fox Brandon and I had witnessed sneaking around the campsite the night before kept his trickery kept his trickery light for her. I on the other hand had to search far and wide for my left boot, while my right stayed untouched near my tent.

Breakfast was coming along with eggs scrambling and bacon sizzling as our LOD, Nicki, noticed the sky showed signs of rain. As we gathered for chow, the drops started to fall! Luckily, it was barely enough to get our gills wet and actually produced a beautiful rainbow after the rained cleared.

After our bellies were filled, we loaded up the vans to head off to Canyon Village’s Mt. Washburn, a 36 mile drive away. For some the drive flew while others window gazed at all the beauty Yellowstone has to offer. Justin spotted a black bear strolling solo down in a meadow from the road, turning everyone a little green by his sharp spy. Little did we know that Justin’s sneak peak was just the start of our wildlife adventure for the day.

We started our way up Mt. Washburn on the neatly arranged trail that was once a road. Climbing and laughing our way to the top, we all took the opportunity to gaze out at the beautiful scenery of millions of trees below us. Monica further explained our curiosity of the trees below us with a lesson on White Pines and their purpose for the surrounding wildlife. A little further up the trail laid some coyote scat and I had to investigate, (scats and tracks being my Outdoor Ed. Topic and all). As I picked out a small mammal claw from the scat to pass it around, Corey gasped and pointed down the trail. The moment we’d all been waiting for: a grizzly bear! This big bear was right down the trail from us, giving us a safe but good view too. Tony clarified that this bear was indeed a grizzly due to its humped back and “teddy bear” like ears. Although he looked cuddly, we respected his space and headed up the trail another half mile just to see another bear! This time, it was a black bear nibbling on some pinecones. I’m sure Brandon got a big shock upon walking out into the woods to pee and find a black bear having a light lunch!

We continued on with our hike and kept on for another hour before reaching the top of the mountain. Everyone rejoiced in our accomplishment of 10,243 feet in elevation. Plus, Jen finally get to see her Pica at the top of the mountain making it a win-win for her! After taking lots of silly pictures next to the sign, we headed back down the mountain for a quick lunch.

Since our hike lasted longer than expected, we headed over to Canyon Visitor Center to learn more about the volcanoes and lava flowing beneath our feet. Time was moving faster than we would have liked as Nicki decided two quick views of Uncle Tom’s Point and Artist Point would have to suffice. The Upper Falls drew out cameras and wide eyes to take in its natural beauty. However, its amazement could not be compared to Jeff’s surprise model shots laying in the pinup position in front of the falls! Both were once in a lifetime shots!

Pilling into the vans, we arrived at camp where Brittany prepared chicken noodle soup with dumplings and salad. The nights are getting cold here making the warm soup fill our bodies with happiness and our heads with sleepy thoughts. Goodnight everyone!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 43- Molly Corrigan

This morning we woke up at Madison Campground in Yellowstone. Brandon our master chef for the day made scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, sautéed vegetables and a breakfast pizza. Little did we know he had also prepared a cake for Jeff’s birthday. We gobbled down our breakfast and gathered around for Tony’s Outdoor Education Lesson. The lesson consisted of a game called “The Animal Station Rotation,” where we all split into groups of three and gathered at one of four stations that tested our knowledge of animals. Group three, Brandon, Brittany, and Katy, were the winners. My group would have tied if it wasn’t for my understandable mistake at the “Antlers or Horns” station.

Then it was off to Old Faithful which I and some of the group have been waiting for since we arrived to Yellowstone. There were so many things to see, hot springs, geysers, visitor centers and gift shops. The only way our leader, Sarah, would know that everyone was satisfied was to give us the choice to see what we want and split up for three hours. We were told to meet up at 2:30 for a mile long interpretation walk. Ranger Landis our Interp guide gave us tons of information on the geysers and the history of the park.

After the talk it was time for Jeff’s birthday surprise dinner. I think he was skeptical at first but on the way home I knew he had enjoyed it because he was actually playing music and singing along. I guess he really enjoyed our company or maybe it was his pork chops.

It was dark before we got back to camp. Everyone changed into warmer clothes and got ready for brief and debrief. Around 11:00 I was getting ready for bed when I noticed the dutch oven with Jeffs cake was sitting on the picnic table untouched. I held back from grabbing a pieced before cuddling up in my sleeping bag. I guess the cake will have to wait till tomorrow.

Thinking about you every day,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 41- Sarah Heller

My, oh my, these kids woke up early today. I was fast asleep in my nest when the pots and pans started banging around at 5 am. From up here it looked like the girl they call Molly cooked biscuits and gravy with some help from Katy and Brandon. I followed their white vans from high above as they approached Yellowstone National Park. Whoa! Hit the brakes, there’s bison crossing the road!

The first stop the kids made was to Lamar Valley. There was a lot of action happening here, with cars lined up along the road and people outside with their binoculars. I flew across the valley and saw they were watching a pack of wolves. A man named Colby was teaching them about the research Yellowstone is doing on its’ wolf packs. There were even 5 wolf pups out in the valley running around.

I soared high above as they loaded back into their vans and headed towards Mammoth Hot Springs. A river wound alongside the road and the students gazed out at its’ ‘rocky’ waters. When they arrived at Mammoth I watched them go into a building and they said they were meeting with Bob. When they came out I heard them talking about some of the youth programs that Bob helps run here at Yellowstone. I perched in a tree as they ate their lunch in a nice grassy area.

Then they dispersed around the grounds and it was hard for me to keep track of all of them. I saw Jen, Brittany, and Monica go into the Visitor’s Center as Nicki met with Steve and Jeff for her student evaluation. After they came outside there were elk on the Mammoth lawns. It is rutting season right now for the elk and bugling can be heard all around. Many of the students witnessed a bull and cow mating and if they were to come back in June, they could see the offspring.

I followed Corey, Molly, Justin, Heather, Tony, and Sarah along the Gardiner trail as they hiked up above the Mammoth area. It was a beautiful view out over the mountains and valleys that they were able to see. A few of them checked out the terraces that have the hot springs running out of them. These formations are very unique and are ever changing.

I then followed them across Mammoth as they were to meet with Rick to learn about bison. Yellowstone currently has about 3,700 head of bison roaming within its boundaries. I watched the kids load into their vans for the final time and head for Madison Campground. They started cooking up a stew for dinner and it was getting dark. I’m not sure if these kids ever sleep! I know it’s time for me to get back to my nest for the evening.

Good night to you ECOEE followers.
‘Baldy’ the Eagle

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 40- Heather Carlberg

These peaks rose around us as we awoke to a pink sunrise at our Lander Campground. We ate a breakfast of biscuits and gravy prepared by the chef, Nicki. We then packed and loaded the vans and headed out towards Cody, WY. Away we went across the red plains under the rising sun, ever bright, and through the glorious red rises of the Upper Wind River Range of the Rockies.

Wanders are we, though never lost, we are in search of knowledge and adventure. Joe Harper, a United States Forest Service (USFS) Wildlife Biologist at the Shoshone National Forest Branch gave us knowledge to dwell upon. He informed us about how the USFS deals with wolves, bears, and ranchers, as well as fires and managing the wildlife within the Shoshone National Forest. As we loaded into our vans on our way to our next camp, we remembered that Mr. Harper had told us we would be traveling upon the same road built an hundred some years ago, through men’s blood, sweat, and tears.

We headed to Walgreens, grabbed Justin’s prescription, and some last minute snacks for the road. We headed out of Cody destined for what lay beyond the pass in ht mountains. As we drove, we gazed at the majestic beauty that surrounded us. From the red quartz sandstone hills, bluffs, and mountains, to the tan grassy plains, we realized that this is a place unlike any other. This is Yellowstone.

We had a mix up in direction by Monica, the LOD, which caused about an hour delay, but we arrived in a discrete campsite by a bubbling brook with a rugged peak for a glorious back drop. We ended our day on full stomachs from Nicki’s delish horseshoes, and full minds from Joe Harper and the brief for the next day.

Life ever changing, minds ever growing, we prepare for the new adventures that lie ahead. Ignite your passion, live your adventure.

Until next time, with love to all back home,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 39 - Justin Morris

Location: Lander, Wyoming (Day 2)

A person who lives in this beautiful city may not appreciate just how majestic it is. As the sun rose on our day, the base of the rockies become a pillar, appearing as if the Rocky Mountains were holding the sun up into the sky for all to see. Tony, our leader of the day, got us in gear and moving in the morning for the anxiously anticipated day in Lander. We had an early appointment with the National Outdoor Leadership School, better known as NOLS. The school was founded on the ideals of the god father of our own program. Paul Pezoldt is who I’m referring to. We wrapped up our morning at Lander City Park and headed into town for our busy day. We met with Any Basset, a field instructor for NOLS who gave us the keys to helping finish our 10 day trip plan, Some interesting things we learned were that every NASA astronaut since 1999 was a NOLS graduate at one time as well as NOLS tracks their carbon footprint not only in the back country, but also in the front country with an incredibly detailed emissions and sustainability chart. They do a bang up job on practicing what they preach.

Around lunch time we left NOLS HQ, grabbed some BLT’s courtesy of Sarah (The Palin) Heller and headed into NOLS gear shop for a much needed Sierras gear buy. Afterwards, we spent the rest of the afternoon taking care of our personal business and sprinting around Lander like the tourists we are. Some of us took showers at the local recreation center, we completely took over a laundry mat, and visited local shops for gifts and more gear. This was all much needed and put us in extremely high spirits. As one van arrived back to the park, we began setting up base camp for our last night in Lander before Yellowstone and awaited the van that went to do a food buy to arrive as well. Eventually everything was settled and meat loaf was on the stove. (Thank you again Sarah!) We ate the meal that reminded this guy of a home cooked meal from mi’ madre. After we cleaned up the aftermath of dinner, we slowly made our way into the circle where we handle all our in house business and eventually ended after some time. Some of us hopped in the vans sniffing for some free wi-fi and others dove into their sleeping bags. Tomorrow we make way for Yellowstone, where another page in ECOEE 2011 will be one for the history books. Keep it real ECOEE followers.

Go where your heart takes you, and let your moral compass do the rest.

-Justin Morris

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 38- Monica Gummow

This morning I woke with a start. I heard someone all the way in dream land when they made an exciting statement: “I think that’s an elk up there!” I sprang out of my sleeping bag and poked my head out of the tent to see for myself the first elk of our trip. Sure enough, as the sun rose over a large hill near our campsite, on top stood a lone elk grazing on grass in the twilight hour. Corey,Brandon, Steve, and I stood watching the perfect sight before snapping some pictures and heading over for breakfast.

After eating our morning meal prepared by Heather, the group headed off for our tour of Wind Cave in the Wind Cave National Park . When the tour began we walked down farther and farther in the ground, our lowest point reaching 183 feet below the surface. The cave was spectacular; the more we descended into the earther, the more we found. The tunnel we followed was filled with formations such as frostwork, boxwork, and cave popcorn. The most notable feature of the cave was the large caverns that opened in random places. The huge room like areas gave us all a chance to marvel at the beautiful colors and formations all around us. We were all very sad when our tour had to end, many of us could have easily stayed the rest of the day.

As we left Wind Cave National Park, we had a six hour drive ahead of us before we would reach our next destination. Many of us passed the time in the van as we normally do: reading, doing homework, listening to music, or catching some zzz’s. However some of our group knew that today was special and although they continued on with their normal van activities, they were sure to stay alert.

After some hours of waiting, we were all excited to see what we had been looking forward too: we got our first glimpse at the Rocky Mountains. Lander, WY was the final destination the final destination today which meant we were able to drive straight toward the Wind River Range of the Rockies. For one of our group members, this was the first time she had ever seen real mountains, Brittany stared in awe at how massive the peaks seemed, even though they were still roughly 70 miles away.

As the mountain peaks grew bigger and bigger, the vans drove closer and closer to Lander. Once we arrived in town we made our camp at the city park. Dinner was made and the group discussed some peer evaluations as our evening activity. Unfortunately for us flat-landers from IL, we are not quite used to these mountain temperatures. We all hurried to our tents after debrief to hide from the cold in our warm sleeping bags.
Hopefully by next rotation we will be somewhere warm and I won’t have frozen fingers from being the journal writer!! Until then, we miss all our friends and family at home. Stay cool ECOEE followers!

Love Much!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 37- Tony Beyer

Today was one of those “play it by ear” days, we were scheduled to have a professional meeting at Badlands National Park. However due to scheduling conflicts by the Badlands park ranger we were unable to have our meeting. Even with that hiccup we rolled with the punches per usual and moved on to Mount Rushmore National Monument. Corey our stern LOD directed us flawlessly to Mt. Rushmore, but not before a brief stop at Wall Drug. You all may be asking “Where the heck is Wall Drug?” but it is this tiny tourist town that got its claim to fame by offering free ice water. We all had our time to cruise the one blocked tourist trap until it was back I n the vans and on our way to the monument.

Once at Mt. Rushmore we got two hours of free time to do what we wanted. Some went on a ranger walk that explained some neat facts about the monument. Others just took a stroll around admiring the extreme and beautiful work. I personally was very excited to be3 where the epic final chase scene of Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” was filmed. But after that glow wore off we all took our respectable pictures as us being the fifth member of the monument.

After Mt. Rushmore we scooted over to Crazy Horse which is supposed to be the Native American rebuttal to Mt. Rushmore yet it was started 60 years ago and only about 1/10th of it is done. After the long day we arrived at our campground in Wind Cave National Park, which is where I’m writing from right now. But until next time I’m Tony Beyer signing off.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 34- Brittany Abrams

This morning we awoke at Horn Field Campus for the last time in a long while. We had planned to hit the road and head west for two months—7AM was when we wanted to depart but due to lateness we did not leave until another half hour later. Brandon was ALOD and I got to ride shotgun for him to discuss tomorrow’s plans. Jen was LOD and did a wonderful job having and helping the rest of us get ready. We were to travel 504 miles today from Macomb, IL to Sioux Fall, SD. The trip itself was chill. Brandon and I chatted along as others caught up on sleep. The weather was grey and cool but the air was crisp- fall was underway which I am excited about since it is my favorite season of the year. About 8-10 hours later on the road and we made it to our destination.

Kampsites of America (KOA) was where we set up camp for the night. Sarah, Tony, and Justin did a great job making a scrumptious “motherly dinner” which consisted of a roast-like dish, fresh corn on the cob from the Wessel’s farm, and brownies! We took advantage of the warm pavilion located next to camp to work and eat in. After dinner, and working on personal work, Jeeves had their evaluation with Jen. When all of us united again we did Monica’s group evaluation. The night was late to finish so many went right to bed after debrief and brief for the following day, and some of us stayed up to finish group work. Debrief was for the first time short, sweet, and to the point, which was what we were aiming for this entire time. The group is doing well and I know I am excited for being back in the front country and exploring the West! Back country was a success –let us make front country that way too! Love and miss you all from home…and until next time take care.

Peace and Love Always,

“The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. The less you know, the less you forget. The less you forget, the more you know.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 31- Heather Carlberg

Quote 1: It is a page in a chapter. Don’t close the book, just turn the page. -Unknown

Quote 2: Be the change you wish to see in the world - Gandhi

Quote 3: You will never possess what you are unwilling to pursue – Mike Murdoch

Today, was the day we have somewhat anticipated, some in good ways and others in bad. Evals. This is our midcourse evals; the equivalent to our other WIU and High School buddies midterms. Except where they are about history and math, we are explaining and critiquing leadership and outdoor living. We have completed all told within our two eval groups, a total of 41/2 evals. Those lucky souls will then move onto a one on two session with our mentors, Jeff and Steve. After our evals were done, we ate Jen’s fab fettuccini alfredo with garlic toast and the left over tomato and chicken soups from lunch. Later, we anticipated the arrival of Dr. Mike McGowan to help us debrief the trip thus far. He highlighted that we are not yet in the storming stage, but we are not in the forming stage either. He also said we need to communicate to others of our thoughts on their behaviors, actions, and some times, their mentality. He warned that bottling it up is only going to make the situation worse later on. While we reflect upon today’s lesson, we can reflect upon ourselves and being the change we wish to see in the world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 30 - Nicki Smith

1 Sheep, 2 Sheep, 3 Sheep….. This is what a fraction of what happened today. We awoke to dark skies and our courageous LOD Corey took an extra moment of silence to remember those affected by 9/11. Being a veteran himself, he knew exactly what sacrifice it takes to serve this country. We thanked him and those who served by his side. But for the early morning that everyone had, it was not in vain, for we had a long journey ahead.

ECOEE was on the road by 7am and was headed off to the next stop. This stop was not new to us, and even for some of us this next stop was our second home. Some of us were excited to see some familiar faces and some just to have a stationary bed for a couple of days. It did not matter because the ride went quick. A stop for gas and food and we were finally back in Illinois. Unfortunately, when we arrived back to Horn Field our day wasn’t over. A food buy, gear cleaning and repairing took over for the next few hours. Stoves, bear ropes, Duluth bags, food bags, road kill, river bags, and personal gear was sorted, thrown out, or cleaned.

Our day was set after we all gathered up for debrief/brief. It was a night of internet, and phone calls home to our loved ones to have them hear of the adventures upon the English River and our travels to and from. And so after some writing I hit the sack and dream once again about sheep until tomorrow morning. Goodnight y’all and slept tight because this ECOEEian has had some journey’s in only 20 days.
Nicki Smith

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day 29 - Katy Hunt

Another day another lesson learned for the ECOEEE clan as a late night tucked away in a cozy cabin at Camp Confidence in Minnesota turned into an early morning. A lot of the ECOEE participants took advantage of the warm shelter by staying up late into the night working on homework and catching up with friends back home.

But a late night always brings an early morning for us all and everyone’s bright and shiny faces were up at 6:00 am. Our fantastic host Bob greeted us with a scrambled egg and bacon pizza including a variety of breakfast drinks we all had been craving.

After a quick wrap up of the facility’s main lodge, we hit the road for a six hour drive and 205 miles later we arrived in Lake City, MN, at a campground to stay the night. Once we were all settled in our home for the night, a great treat was in store for us. You see my fellow ECOEE lovers; this little town of Minnesota holds a WIU legend by the name of Doc.

Frank “Doc” Lupton was the original coordinator of ECOEE and built the program from the ground up. With a belief in the importance in the importance of education and the love of fellow outdoorsman, Doc traveled the short distance from his home to the campground to share stories and advice from ECOEEs past.

After a few stories and lots of laughs, Doc rose from his chair and asked if ice cream for Dairy Queen should be a part of our day. Before we traveled off for an icy treat, the local photographer stopped by and took a few snap shots with his old school film camera for the local press.

Dinner by Heather included a delicious variety of fresh veggies, fruits and meats followed by an evening of knots and rope trick lessons by our guest of honor.

Doc is proof that a passion and voice can carry on long after the reins have been passed on; you just have to know how to use them.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 28 - Corey Frantz

Today is the first full day in the front country and we had a long drive ahead of us. I woke up and wanted to punch Tony in the face for being so obnoxious, it was funny, but is still wanted to punch him. Then we “the ECOEE” group tore down camp, to get ready to leave for long day ahead. Jeff and Steve made breakfast, Jeff said it was mostly his doing, but it was amazing fit for a king and enough for ten more. There were pancakes and in the two big Dutch oven an amazing skillet filled them both. In the skillet there were eggs, cheese, hash browns, fresh green peppers, fresh tomatoes, and onion as well and of course sausage. It was awesome! Then we cleaned up and got ready to leave and drove to the United States! It was a great feeling crossing the border and being backed home, plus we didn’t get searched so it was a nice and easy transition. Within twenty minutes we stopped to fill up with gas and eat lunch, we stopped at Hardees which was good, but I know some felt guilty after eating such a greasy lunch. After we headed to Brainier, Minnesota to Camp Confidence, which is an amazing place. It is a non-profit organization that facilitates people of all ages, which have different disabilities. It sounds and looks like they do amazing work. The man that gave us the tour name is Bob, and is one of the lead guys out here and filled us with tons of information and great food. After the great tour which was great he cooked us dinner. He made us Kabobs some with chicken, beef and green peppers, onions, and yellow squash. As for sides we had wild rice with almonds and a great zucchini and onion salad. The night turned out to be great we had awsome food and a cabin that felt like a five star hotel to us. The day drawing to an end we did the usual, debriefed and debriefed some more then briefed the day. Another long day of driving it’s time for bed. Good night.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 27 - Tony Beyer

Today was the last day on the river, a rush of many emotions was coursing through us. It was a very bittersweet feeling, on one hand it was nice to get to our normal conveniences like toilet paper and a shower. On the other hand it was hard to leave the eternal beauty of the wilderness we've come 115 miles down the English River and we did it together. Its brought us close to one another and going back to civbilication is going to be tough, but we must adjust and use the lessons we learned out there and apply them in the front country.

So we set out from our majestic beach campsite at Ruby Island for a pretty easy six mile paddle to the marina where our white stallion like vans awaited us. My first thoughts were getting my iPod headphones in my ears and reflecting on the past 18 days while listening to good tunes, as I know others wanted to as well. We took a short drive to Ojibway Provincial Park to set up our front country tents. Little did we know the surprise that “Jeeves” (Jeff and grad. Student Steve) had in store for us, it was a dinner at a close by restaurant Knobby’s, right off the lake. The thought of eating food prepared by someone other then our ECOEE brethren was awesome. Also knowing we don’t have to clean the dishes was a treat.

We debriefed the entire 18 day expedition, expressing our favorite parts, lessons we learned and how to incorporate those into our daily lives. But now it’s a new section of our ECOEE journey and I look forward to the new places I’m going and who I’m going with. So I felt this quote is quite fitting, “I’ve been smiling lately, thinking about good things to come and I believe it could be something good has begun.”

-Tony Beyer

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 26 - Justin Morris

Quote of the Day:
“What the fool does in the end, the wise man does in the beginning.” -proverb

As fast as this trip came, itʼs end is literally in sight. The group left this morning from one of our most beloved camp sites thus far. But only after two interpretation lessons given by Monica and Nicki. Our leader of the day, Molly, had us packed and ready by seven for a very short paddle day. Our partners were new, instead of sticking with the usual male/female pairs, and instead having all male pairs and all female pairs for the first time the entire trip. We set sail around eight thirty, leaving behind us the English River which some will miss dearly and others not at all. We have become one with our paddles, in control of our own destination and goals. Our objective is close, almost literally in sight. The mood is good due to the near completion of our objective of reaching the finish line in time. The fruits of our labor revealed themselves in the form of a sandy, beautiful beach equipped with a “slammer” (make shift toilet) and filet (cooking) tables for fisherman to use on the south end of Ruby Island. Weʼre now only a few short hours away from our destination by way of canoe. The group got some much needed R & R in the form of free time in which we did laundry, journaling, and other homework. We also took baths :). After a short risk management lesson by old man river, we broke for dinner and compiled what we had left in our food bags for pizzas and pasta. One by one we drifted to sleep, some dreaming of technology and civilization, and others a resupply with soda and candy included just to be able to stay longer. So long sports fans!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 25 - Sarah Heller

Standing here live at English River Falls, I am with a group called ECOEE that is on day 16 of their 18 days of paddling on the English River. They are headed towards Sioux Lookout and they have nearly reached their destination. This has not been an easy task though, let me tell you! You see, last night they had to sleep out under the stars with no tents because there wasn’t a campsite to be found. This didn’t put a damper on their spirits as it did on their sleeping bags, no! Today brought clear skies and warm weather and they were up and at ‘em this morning, ready for adventure.

That adventure is just what they got too. Their day was filled with rapids upon rapids and Brittany, their leader, and her canoe partner Nicki, steered them in the right direction. With the English River being so low this season, the waters are very ‘rocky.’ This can mean danger if the canoes are not paddled through very precisely. Tony and Molly were in the navigator boat today and they were taking the rapids head on.

During one set of rapids, Jeff, the wise one, and Katy got their canoe stuck between two rocks. Bad turned to worse very quickly as the rushing water began filling the canoe. They started dumping their bags and gear out of the canoe and all of it went rushing down the rapids and into a bay. A recon mission was put into place by Corey and me to gather all of their belongings. The canoe was still pinned though, with thousands of pounds of water pressure forcing it between the rocks. It was time for the “Macho, Macho Men” to try their hardest to get the canoe pried out. Jeff, Steve, Brandon, Justin, Tony, and Corey were using all of their might to save the canoe. Monica was sure to get pictures of all of this action. After several tries, they finally got it shoved out of the rocks and it flew down the rest of the rapids. They all floated down the wild waters and the women rescued them at the end. Jen was among those that performed a T-rescue to capture the canoe and Heather helped pull it back to shore. It was a little banged up, but it popped back into place and was ready for more action.

During another set of rapids, the group portaged the gear and canoes rather than chancing it on the rushing waters. Up came the tenth and final rapids of the day and the ECOEE-ians looked to portage this set as well. The canoes landed and were unpacked and the group began hauling their gear up what appeared to be a portage trail. Little did they know that this trail was merely a game trail and would end, just as soon as it began. Many trudged on through the forest, hoping to find a path. This led to some getting lost and frustrated in the woods. They all made it out to the water and decided they would have to run the rapids with the canoes because there was no portage trail to be found.

They glided through flawlessly and arrived here at the head of the falls this evening. They all pulled onto shore and unloaded their packs from the canoes and set up camp for the night. After filling their bellies and preparing for their travels tomorrow, these paddlers are ready to get some rest. From the top of English River Falls, with the moon and stars shining bright above me,
I’m Sarah Heller and “I like turtles.”
Good Night!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 24 - Heather Carlberg

Temperature at 8 a.m.: 66o
Barometer at 8 a.m.: 28.8

Today started out early. Up at 5:30 am and ready to go by 7 for lessons by Brandon and Tony. We then headed out into the bright horizon searching for new discoveries and awaiting the adventures we knew laid ahead. Even though we started out at a balmy 42o F, our spirits didn’t waiver. The day grew brighter and better as the sun rose higher and higher into the bright bluen yonder. Our fearless and ever joyous leader, Brandon, proposed a 27 kilometer, or a 16 and a half mile, paddle for this sunny morn. As we finally left our makeshift camp, the sun warmed our wet clothes, lifted our already high spirits even more, and made the day a lot drier. Not for long, however; for we had 5 rapids and/or portages proposed to accomplish before we reached our final destination at the 6th to last portage.

The first was a simple just follow the V’s, and away we went quick behind our ever knowledgeable leader Jeff. Brandon and I, and I assume the rest of our group did too, got a wee bit of water over our gunwales. I ended up using my shoe to bail the water from the bow, while Brandon used a sponge to soak up as much water as he could from the stern. The second rapids followed shortly after, yet they never appeared, and we drifted onto the third set and after some good long deliberations, we ended up having to portage our gear across. The fourth set was shallow enough we started to line them through. However, after about a half hour we encountered a waterfall and we ended up portaging around the fall. We continued another few kilometers, and we ended up at the 5th rapids set. It ended up being easily navigable long sections that we drifted across. We then were under way on our way to #6. After some careful planning and deliberations, we decided to run them in hopes of the larger campsite on the island after the rapids.

The island never appeared and we were forced to stop for the night. With no place for our tents, we were forced to bivy it up for the night. Everyone piled layers upon layers, either to dry them against their body heat or to warm up for the chilly night. We cooked quick and simple meals, claimed a spot somewhere in the small clearing, snuggled into our sleeping bags or bivy sacks, and huddled together for the night that lay ahead. Well ECOEEIAN followers and well wishers, it is off to bed for this tired ECOEEIAN, until next time, with love to all, and hopes of the great adventures that lay ahead of us,


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 23 - Brittany Abrams

Today the group woke up at 7:00AM after a long nights slumber because of last evenings rainy cold weather. The sleep was much needed I would have to say so myself. The morning was still cool and wet but we had lots to catch up on. Justin, our Leader of the Day (LOD), was asking us to tear down camp after we cooked ourselves some breakfast. Brandon was out Assistant Leader of the Day (ALOD) and was doing a great job as usual by keeping all of us positive. After all was taken care of Katy debriefed us from the day before which was such a crazy weather day that had some of us scared and worried what was to happen next especially while hurrying off the water when lightning was striking near and giant gum ball sized hail was beating down on us. Everyone shared their thoughts and agreed it was a great learning experience. After debrief Justin then gave a lesson about Great Exploration and then introduced us to Edible and Medic-able Plants. As the day stayed gloomy and grey we set off paddling to our next destination. We didn’t make it far because the winds picked up and we settled on an island for the night. Jeff gave another instruction on the j-stroke when paddling since some were still struggling with it. TEC plans were also explained to us once again because we were confused on them too. Heather gave her lesson on the Ojibwe People and the Fur Trade. Soon after we broke for dinner and met again for debrief. The sky began to clear and stars filled the dark sky as Jeff explained the cold weather the morning was to bring. Right now I am sitting out under the stars waiting for the bread to bake with Molly and Sarah. My thoughts fill with the thought of how we have only three days left on the river and as nice as it sounds to go back to heat, showers, electricity, technology, and what not- I will sure miss the back country life and dropping out of society for the few weeks. Even just the thought of not being able to live this different lifestyle that I and many others may never experience again makes me sad. Being here and learning from Jeff and Steve as well as my fellow ECOEEians is and has been a great opportunity. I hope all of us can look back at our time out here and appreciate it. The next few days will be busy and hard work but will be an awesome accomplishment when we finish! Until then we will keep on rollin down the river and seeing what more can be brought upon us.

“There are three kinds of people in the world, the wills, the won'ts and the can'ts. The first accomplish everything; the second oppose everything; the third fail in everything.”

Peace and Love to all,

Brittany Abrams

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 22 - Brandon Wessels

Today was a bright, sunny day for the people of ECOEE...not! Despite the fact that it was cold and rainy, people managed to keep chipper spirits about them for the most part. It started out this morning, we were to be awake and out of our tents by 5:30. When the sun decided to peak over the horizon the skies were pink, which was our first sign that we had an “exciting” day ahead of us. Brittany, Monica, and Molly gave their lessons early in the morning and then once they finished we took off on the river with the goal of covering 20 miles in mind.

When the clock hit 12:30 the predictions made by the pink skies this morning proved to be true because right after our fearless leader Katy steered us to shore strong winds picked up and if we had been on the lake there is a good chance at least one of our seven canoes would have capsized and the others would have had very little control of where their canoe went. But we made it to shore and didn't have to worry about that. After the wind calmed down for a bit and we had a little food in our bellies we set off again with our eyes on the clouds because the weather ahead of us didn't look too promising. A ways down the river we came to a couple rapids, the first was a piece of cake in comparison to ones we've previously seen. The second one, however, had a four foot ledge and therefore we were forced to line our canoes through. About five minutes into the process of lining our canoes it started raining on us, go figure right? Instead of being upset or angry though you could see the smile on each person's face get bigger and bigger as the rain fell harder and faster – well, we were all at least waist deep in the rapids so getting wet happened to be the least of our worries. Once we got all the canoes through we took off almost immediately, but then it happened: the main excitement of our day – lightning. As soon as our wise omnipotent leader Jeff saw it he yelled for us to paddle like we've never paddled before and get to the bridge standing in front of us for safety. But when we crossed a few bends in the river it was not a bridge standing in front of us but instead another set of rapids! Jen and I, being in the leading canoe, tried to decide whether to run the rapids or pull off to shore, so as we turned to Jeff for his input an acorn fell out of the sky into the water in front of us...oh wait! That wasn't an acorn, it was hail! Without thinking twice Jeff yelled for everyone to get to the river right shore. Once we got there everybody jumped out of the canoes and ran to a safe spot on land while using their PFDs as protection from the large hail clusters, someone grabbed the group tarp and everybody gathered underneath it to seek safety. While waiting for the hail to stop, Katy took a head count to make sure everybody in our group had made it in safely. When the hail finally stopped, Jeff declared we were camping there for the night so we got our tents out of our canoes and set them up immediately, and then changed clothes and wrapped ourselves up in our tents until the rain decided it had enough fun with us for the day...which didn't end up happening until the next day. So we stayed in our tents the rest of the night, some of us sleeping and the others (such as myself) did homework until they were ready fro sleep. I guess it's going to be an early night tonight.

We miss you dear ECOEE followers. Goodnight!

Brandon Wessels

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 21 - Justin Morris

Quote of the day:
“It is by acts, not by ideas that people live.” - Anatole France

Average Temperature: 70 degrees (F) Barometer: 28.3 Wind: 3-10 MPH

Another day, another canadian dollar. The group started this morning with a little more urgency than usual. Attempting to exemplify professionalism as well as our commitment to why were here. For the most part we were successful, nearly meeting our 7:00 A.M. deadline. Monica, the leader of the day, encouraged us to aim high after yet another mental day where we watched the clouds and storms go by. It felt good to be back on the water and moving again, all of us exemplified this by singing the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song. More or less just humming it. The first half of the day came and went. Knocking out both our portages that were planned for the day over waterfalls and facing only minor resistance from Jeffʼs mother, mother nature. After our little tiff with the wind on Lake Sowden and our explosive early afternoon, we began to feel the effects of our sun and started to slow down. Regardless, we pushed on to reach our final destination at Camp Cozy, which was more of a front country campground in comparison to where we had been. Some of us had our fingers crossed for a vending machine with candy and sodas and of course we were let down. Although we never got our soda and candy fix, we managed to take hot showers and revamp our attitudes a bit with some well cooked backcountry food. The smell of brownies consumed the air and the campers prepared themselves for nightfall. WAIT! Itʼs my group making the brownies, YESSSSSSS!!!! Well life is a garden yaʼll, just dig it!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 20 - Katy Hunt

Ah ha! After the endless August heat, we are now coolly rolling into September here on the English River. Life in the back country is never dull, especially when it comes to the weather.

Our group woke up to a hazy sky filled with stratus clouds and a light wind. None the less our determined leader, Molly, looked at the sky with hope of better weather. With the direction to load the boats, the group quickly filled their canoes with both personal and group gear while dark clouds filled the sky.

By the time everything was packed and ready to go, a dark array of nimbostratus clouds had gathered around the lake making the water swell with waves. Surveying the quickly rising waves as well as the blowing southern wind, it was decided we would wait out the storm on the island.

Instead of staying on the student’s side of the island, we quickly paddled over to “Jeeve’s” (Jeff and Steve” side of the island where there was more room to accommodate all of us. Our convoy moved Molly knew the time spent on the island could not be wasted so she and Jeff decided lessons would have to do.

Jeff spoke of lightning safety, while Brittany pointed out the Six W’s of campsite selection, Heather taught us all about rocks and Nicki on wildlife’s habitats and homes, but we all had to wonder if we would ever get off the island. A quick break for lunch was given and the sun popped out for the time being warming our spirits with thoughts of departure. However, the sun didn’t stay and visit long, for the wind soon picked up again and in rolled the clouds.

Seeing the slim possibility of parting shore, Jeff continued his lessons with a brief on decision making skills which put us all in a guessing mood. To top off the day, a little personal TLC time was given where everyone got to take advantage of the spacious trees to hang clothes lines. Our campsite on the island soon resembled a commune full of people bathing off the shore. I’m sure it was an interesting sight to see when a pair of motor boats passed by, but that’s just the ECOEE way.

Until Wilson and I get off this island,

Katy Hunt