July 11, 2011Our first activity of the day is rock climbing on an immense indoor wall designed to look like a real cliff face. We learn the skills for safe climbing and safe belaying (managing the rope connected to the climber’s safety harness), and all three of us climb and belay each other. Granddad and I put our lives in Andrew’s hands while he belays our climbs, and we are proud of the great job he does in keeping us safe.
On his second or third climb, Andrew somehow manages to get his elbow stuck in a crevice, and we all have some tense moments while he tries to maneuver himself and his arm to get his elbow released. With a little help from one of the instructors, Andrew gets unstuck. After a bit of recovery time, Andrew is back climbing the wall with boundless energy. We are proud of (and relieved by) his resilience.
After lunch we learn about the Voyageurs, French Canadians who paddled big canoes around here transporting beaver pelts and supplies for the Northwest Company Brigade in 1793. We all get costumes and learn the names and histories of the characters we will play this afternoon. Most of us are dirty swarthy uncouth uneducated guys, but Dick is Mr. Harman, our very smart well-paid brigade clerk and Andrew is George Bongo, the first Black Voyageur. Andrew is happy to learn that he earns twice as much as me, because he can read and write and is a very strong paddler.
We hike to our big canoe, struggle to paddle in synchrony across the lake, and enjoy an outing on the other side featuring games the Voyageurs would have played and opportunities to play with fire and knives—a big attraction for our team of five young boys. The most popular activity is attempting to make a fire with flint and steel (both Andrew and Granddad succeed—most others do not). They also try using a drawknife to make a tent stake. Then we have biscuits cooked over the campfire served with maple syrup as a snack, before paddling back across the lake.
After dinner, we go to star lab, where Andrew knows more about stars and constellations than anybody else there, with the possible exception of the instructor. He points out several constellations and tells some stories about them to the group. As far as we are concerned, he was the hit of the presentation, but we may be biased.
After Star Lab, we attend a raptor presentation, where we meet Wolf Ridge’s great horned owl, peregrine falcon and red-tailed hawk, as well as a chicken. The highlight of the evening is a demo of the strength of an eggshell. A whole parade of kids, including Andrew, pick up rocks, weigh them, and pile them carefully into a crate balanced on top of a normal chicken egg. They put 47 pounds of rocks on top of that egg before it breaks! Now we all understand why birds do not break their eggs when they sit on them (except when they were exposed to DDT, and the shells became so thin that just a few pounds of weight would break them).
We are amazed at how much we learned while having so much fun today.