OMM’s Inaugural Wilderness Canoe Trip in June, 2023 was a phenomenal success! For several years our Strategic Plan has called for young men to experience wilderness canoeing in the wilds of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area on the Minnesota/Canadian border; together with our Colorado-based hunting trips, this second trip type will greatly expand the number of teens we’ll help guide into Christian manhood.
The week-long adventure saw five young men and several adults learn valuable outdoor skills through instructional classes, followed by several days on the water where they got to use the skills they’d learned. The first two days focused on Skills Training; the young men underwent several classes and hands-on practice. Skills they learned included extensive training on fishing (lure selection, knot tying, casting techniques, etc.), map & compass navigation, first aid, fish cleaning and several classes on canoe operations. This included paddling techniques, portaging a canoe, and emergency procedures. A spirited canoe race marked the successful conclusion of the instructional time on the water.
Next came what everyone was eagerly waiting for: our time on the water! On a gorgeous morning, we first prayed together at the landing, and then we launched the OMM fleet! We wove our way through several islands on Moose Lake, portaged (i.e. carried) the canoes and all the gear approximately 2/3rds of a mile through the woods, and then made our way across Wind Lake to a beautiful campsite in a remote bay. So many exciting things happened over the next four days that it’s hard to list them all! Suffice to say that easily over 100 fish were caught, the meals were hearty, and despite the near-constant rain, spirits were high and laughter was constant! All of the young men caught fish and plenty of them, including one of them landing a 22-inch, 8 .7 pound largemouth! It essentially was his first fish ever, and what a fish it was! It’s truly a trophy. Other huge fish included a 41-inch northern pike and a 28-inch walleye. We stuffed ourselves with walleye till we could eat no more!
Our final full day on the water saw us adventuring to nearby Indiana lake. Following an hour-long paddle with another portage that tested the young men’s intestinal fortitude and positive attitude, we snaked our way through a weed-choked creek to a 6-foot tall beaver dam. Using great teamwork, the young men worked the canoes up and over, being rewarded with the stunningly-clear water of Indiana Lake! Everyone wolfed down a quick shore lunch in their eagerness to fish, and we weren’t disappointed. Two 21-inch largemouths were landed and the call of “FISH ON!” echoed repeatedly across the water.
Animal sightings were frequent and exciting. Bald eagles constantly rode the thermals, occasionally swooping to snare a fish off the surface. Beavers slapped their tails like the sound of a gunshot, loons constantly sang their mournful cries, and the grand finale was watching a moose on the paddle out of the wilderness! A final, celebratory dinner at a local restaurant (with monster burgers) closed out the trip in high style.
So what did the young men get out of the trip? It was clear they experienced a tremendous amount of joy. For several, it was the first time in their lives they had been camping, caught fish, cleaned it themselves, and then ate their fish-battered catch. They gained valuable outdoor skills, which we know from our youth hunts that the result of skill acquisition will be increased confidence. We saw a huge jump in confidence just on the trip itself! Where initial paddling efforts often resembled them spinning in a circle, by the end they were masters of their canoes. They got to be around men experienced in th outdoors who are passionate about the Lord and talk openly about it. One of the young men brought a devotional written for teens by teens, which was read aloud.
We truly believe this experience helped deepen the young men’s personal relationship with the Lord. All of it, from the adventure itself to the honest talks to being awed at God’s creation, combined to help OMM guide young men into Christian manhood.