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For Future Paddlers: What about taking children?

Saturday, March 14th, 2009
submitted by: Bob Evans

We often are asked by friends about taking children on their first canoe trip.  On the first canoe trip my wife and I took together, we took our five-year-old daughter, Caroline (and our dog).  That trip covered the Lake Agnes/S-Chain loop in Quetico.  We endured significant rain for the first day and a half which I feared would end all future canoe trips.  The sun came out as we entered the south end of Lake Agnes and we camped in the meadow at the base of Louisa Falls during our second night out. We dried clothes, fished some along the shores and had a great dinner.  At that time the meadow was much more open than it is now, but it is still a great “hangout” campsite

Caroline continued to make trips with us nearly every summer until she started college.  Now she says she would rather have gone to Disney World, but we do often talk of many experiences we had as a blended family.

The key to taking children is to let your outfitter know in your first contact that you would like to bring your children along.  They will ask key questions about how many people are in the party, the ages of the children, and the kinds of things you want to do on the trip.   If you are getting your equipment from them be sure to ask if they have child-size, light-weight packs, if you want your child to expereince carrying a light load.  If not you may have to find one before you leave home.   A discussion of what kind of trip you want to take should follow.  We chose Agnes/S-Chain because I had traveled it a couple of times previously and knew the route.  I also knew of several great “hangout” campsites that would be fun.  Additionally, it is one of the more traveled routes, so you are never far from other people should you need help.  Your outfitter can help you pick out such a route based on the size of your group, ages of your children and what you want to do on your trip.

Getting your children involved is essential.  But get them involved in a simple and fun way.  Caroline had her own pack, like we did, but it contained the aluminum cook kit (very light), some of her clothes, and her “glo-worm” doll, which was one of her favorites at the time.  We got her involved in making camp, cooking, cleaning up. but did not expect her to do work.  While she may have wanted to be in  Disney World instead, she developed into and expert woodswoman over the years, and I often said that I would match my crew against any in the Park.  We learned to handle portages off lakes and back onto lakes with such casual precision, that typically unloading and starting a trail was a matter of seven or eight minutes.  Setting and breaking camp was quick and efficient.  And as a family we learned to work together in problem solving.  As we gained experience, more and more difficult trips became easier and easier.

Though she ended  up not really enjoying fishing, and did not fish on later trips, she did learn how to bait her hook, take the fish off the line, and use several types of artificial lures.  We also introduced her to building fires, pitching tents, cooking, paddling, navigation (actually Edwina, who is the navigator on our trips introduced her to navigating), and lots of other things.  I believe these expereinces helped to develop in her a sense of confidence and independence which she shows in her everyday life as an adult. 

And, by the way, we did go to Disney World.

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2 Responses to “For Future Paddlers: What about taking children?”

  1. David Kaufman Says:

    Last year we took our then 8 year old daughter Lucy for her first trip into Quetico on the same S-chain, Agnes, Jeff Lake loop and did she enjoy it. She never complained a bit, even while enduring the many clouds of mosquitos and many portages the first day up to Silence last June. Finding the petroglpyh and pictographs using your bulletins was easy and contributed greatly to the success of that trip with her. She can’t wait to go back! It’s never to early to start them. In a week we’ll be taking our second daughter, Kristina, and hoping for another memory filled trip.


  2. Bob Evans Says:

    Thanks, David, for your comment. We agree with your comment that it is never too early to get kids out into the woods for great outdoor experiences. I hope Kristina has as good an experience as Lucy had. Tell them both “hello” from us and wish them fun paddling.
    Enjoy your trip and when you return let us know how it went.
    Thanks again and we are pleased our bulletins contributed positively to your trip. The Ojibwa culture is a wonderful culture and we have greatly enjoyed learning about the Ojibwa over the last two + decades.

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