Monday, August 13, 2012

Hudson Bay Bound Inspires New Startup in DC!

Hi everyone!

Welcome to the beginning stages of development for the Wild River Academy! We are excitedly putting together the website and planning a few paddling events for the fall, including a trip from DC to Philadelphia in October. After almost a year of public speaking through Hudson Bay Bound I decided, with the enthusiastic support of Punchrock, to expand the organization's mission from inspiring young women to get outdoors to actually providing outdoor experiences for women ages 18-24. 

Today's society stresses comfort and convenience. Modern advancements, especially our reliance on technology, have improved our quality of living, but at what cost? I believe that reliance on technology is inversely related to the ability to deal with simple, everyday challenges; the more we use technology as a crutch, the less we are able to stand on our own. When was the last time you traveled to a foreign location without your IPhone or GPS telling you which way to go? Can the average person still determine the direction of the wind and, even more, what it implies for the weather that day? Do these skill sets even have value anymore? I believe that they do. In fact, confronting these everyday challenges instills the confidence and self-reliance that every individual needs to reach his or her full potential.

When I was 15 I had my first real wilderness experience through YMCA Camp MenogynThe Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Northern Minnesota and Canada was the most remote, beautiful, peaceful place I had ever been. I ventured off into the wilderness for 15 days with 5 other ambitious women. We used our strength to travel long expanses of water; our wits to explore new ideas; and our songs to pass the long hours. We used no fuel for transportation and there was no rush hour on the lake, except perhaps the occasional bird migration. 

However romantic it may sound, the trip was challenging and the lifestyle was unfamiliar for a young city-dwelling woman like myself. At home, if I could not lift something I could simply ask my dad or brother for help. If I was tired of helping in the yard I could go inside and rest. We have so many easy ways out of problems that we rarely rely on our own creative devices. On trail, if I did not portage the canoe, finding fallen trees for quick breaks, or carry the heavy Duluth packs, finding large rocks to rest up against, then they would not have reached the next lake. If I didn't want to paddle anymore because my arms felt tired then we would not reach our destination. If I couldn't sleep because I was too cold and wet, then that was that. I thrived off of these challenges and returned the following year for a 30-day canoe trip in Ontario, and the year after that for a 49-day white-water canoe trip on the Inuit heritage rivers of Nunavut, Canada. All of these trips had their own set of challenges, but whether we faced dangerous weather, whitewater, or portages, I had confidence in my personal and emotional strength and trusted the women around me to do the same.

In 2011, my friend Ann and I were the first two women to paddle the historic 2,000-mile Hudson Bay Fur-trade route from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, retracing Eric Sevareid's route from Canoeing With the Cree. The trip had a larger impact than we initially expected. We received lots of media attention, including articles in Canoe&Kayak and Outside Magazine, and realized that we had an open opportunity to truly inspire people with our story. We have given presentations for different organizations (Women's groups, paddling clubs, schools, environmental and agricultural groups, outdoor conferences, etc.) in hopes that our experience will inspire people to go on their own adventures. It has almost been a year since we pulled our well-traveled, 17 ft. Langford canoe up onto the banks of Hudson Bay. Ann and I have gone our separate ways since then, but our story still lives on. Through Wild River Academy, I plan to give presentations about my wilderness experiences and to provide outdoor opportunities to young women, encouraging them to create share their own stories.

Wild River Academy believes that young women can realize their full potential through outdoor challenges and, as a result, create change to re-establish strong, self-reliant communities. We have several events in the works for this fall, including a paddling day on the Potomac and a paddling pilgrimage from DC to Philadelphia in early October. Future plans include providing Spring Break wilderness excursions for the colleges and universities in the DC metro area. The website is in the works, but will be up later this week with an events page to keep you updated with upcoming activities. For the mean time, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

Enjoy the day!
Natalie Warren