YFC Canoe trip turns rain, flooding into successful disaster

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

You could call it a successful disaster. During their Canoe Canada trip, participants experienced blisteringly bad weather yet still managed to find bright spots in the experience.

&uot;We still had fun, despite all the circumstances,&uot; said trip leader Greg Gudal.

The rain and thunderstorms the group experienced were part of the same systems that caused flooding in Roseau and other northern Minnesota towns.

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Canoe Canada is one of Youth for Christ The Rock’s many summer activities. The trip took six youths and three adult leaders into Quetico Provincial Park, from June 8-15. During the trip boundary waters lakes rose an average of 18 inches.

Greg Gudal, Ryan Grimmius and Dave Anderson were chaperones on the trip. Students participating were Ross Anderson, Jake McClaskey, Tyler Bock, Scott Stolaas, Tony Tolbers and Brandon Benson.

&uot;Portages that had been dry paths when we crossed them originally were gushing streams by the time we were traveling back,&uot; said Gudal.

The canoers encountered storm after storm. On their first day of canoeing the group encountered strong wind and waves as they rounded a peninsula. One canoe capsized, and as another headed back to help it sank as large waves washed over the sides. With only one canoe left floating properly the group was in a bind, but a passing plane radioed a nearby ranger station for help and everyone was soon pulled out of the water.

&uot;It was like a scene from ‘Titanic’,&uot; said trip participant Bock. &uot;Kids and packs floating in freezing water.&uot;

The trip almost lasted another week because the gravel road into the park and the main highway into the area were being flooded and washed out through out the week.

&uot;We were across the lake from the ranger station when we got news that Kings Highway was washing out,&uot; Gudal explained. &uot;We only had about a six hour window to get out.&uot;

The group managed to pack their gear and tents, canoe across the lake and drive out of the park with about 20 minutes to spare. Instead of traveling west to International Falls, like their original route, the only option available was to travel east

and hope to find a hotel along the way. Eventually the group found a hotel in Grand Marais, Minn. at 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

Despite the treacherous beginning and conclusion to their trip, and the constant rain, most of their trip was great Gudal said.

The canoers traveled between Quetico and Oriana lakes, about 20 miles apart. Though they spent a lot of time under tarps protecting themselves from the storms, time was still found to fish, cliff jump and just enjoy nature.

&uot;It just makes you appreciate things more, like garbage bags,&uot; Bock said. &uot;You cleaned your plate at every meal.&uot;

Bock added a little entertainment to the trip by singing the National Anthem nightly.

&uot;I wanted to sing it at the pizza place where we stopped to eat right after we got out of the park, but no one else thought it was a good idea,&uot; Bock laughed.

Gudal has worked for the Rock for the last 15 years, and taken over 15 trips to the Boundary Waters.

&uot;We take groups up there because its so different from their normal environment,&uot; Gudal explained. &uot;Its really peaceful and so quiet sometimes its almost loud. Some of these kids have faced a lot of adversity, it just gives them a sense of accomplishment.&uot;