This+is+an+image+taken+on+trail+by+a+crew+member+before+the+sun+set.

Photo used with permission from Jaden Nguyen

This is an image taken on trail by a crew member before the sun set.

Les Voyageurs program provides adventure of a lifetime

September 28, 2022

Spending a month in the Canadian wilderness without any contact from family sounds like something from a reality TV show, but for teenagers in Central Minnesota, this opportunity is 100% real. The Les Voyageurs program, based in Sartell, MN, provides young adults ages 15 and older with the adventure of a lifetime. 

Les Voyageurs Inc is a nonprofit organization that sends groups to Canada for a 28-day canoe trip through lakes, swamps, rivers, tiny streams, and dozens more obstacles. The prep work begins months in advance, when crews of 5-10 are introduced for the first time the winter or spring before their departure. Crews hold meetings at Les Voyageurs’s “Base Camp,” a cabin at the end of Pine Point in Sartell, with access to the Mississippi River. Preparations for the trip include route planning, meal planning, paddle practice, and packing food and supplies. 

A crew drags their canoes through a very small stream in a swamp. (Carleena Byrd)

After months of preparation, it is finally time for the big day. Participants have a “Last Supper” with friends and family before boarding the gold and green bus to begin the 10 hour road trip to Lake Wallace near Bissett, Manitoba. Once they arrive, crews load up their canoes and set off into the wilderness that they’ll call home for the next four weeks.

A typical day in the bush begins early in the morning. Crews will often get up at sunrise to get a good jump on the day. The cook for the day will prepare breakfast while the rest pack up camp. When the food is ready, the crew will gather for breakfast, say grace, and quickly eat. Once everyone has finished and the dishes are clean, it’s time to get out on the water. The Guide of the Day assigns paddle partners and the canoes are loaded. The day of travel may consist of a few portages, where everything must be unloaded and carried to the next body of water. Portages can range anywhere from a few yards to a few kilometers. When it’s time for lunch, the crew will find a nice spot of land and the cook will distribute the food. Lunch is often one of the best parts of the day; the food is good, and it is often sunny and warm at this time. Reenergized, the crews will return to the water and continue their journey. When the crew meets their ending point for the day, they will set up tents, take turns bathing, and eat dinner. Once dinner is cleaned up, it’s time for bed. Most often, everyone is so tired that they’ll fall asleep as soon as they crawl into their sleeping bag.

After hearing about the types of activities participants go through on this trip, many wonder, Why would I do this to myself? The trials and tribulations faced by Les Voyageurs participants poses a unique opportunity for growth and self reflection.

“The life lessons you learn are so valuable, and you go through things you never thought were possible…I’ve noticed a ton of changes in my mindset from before and after the trip” says Megann Jobin, a junior and Voyageurs alum who went this past summer. Megan is still very close with some of the girls she went with. “I love all of them to death, and definitely lifelong friends for sure…but we often text and we’re all planning to hang out soon which makes me happy!”

Anna Miller and Ava Grabinski paddle a Voyageurs canoe across Aikens Lake. (Carleena Byrd)

As someone who went on this trip myself, I would highly recommend anyone who is on the fence to go for it. Voyageurs is an incredible life changing experience, and I’m sure I will never have an opportunity like this again.

For more information on this incredible expedition, visit Les Voyageurs Inc.

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