Monday, July 26, 2010
The Traditional Gathering
We've successfully made it through three straight weeks of kayak learning with a weeks vacation thrown in the middle. The GLSKS was sandwiched between two traditional events, a Turner and Cheri weekend in Bayfield and the Traditional Gathering on Lake Mille Lacs this past weekend. I'll have more posts on the vacation paddling in the Yoopee with the Fall Trip cronies but I wanted to get some stuff up on the Gathering while its still fresh.
Low key was the order of the weekend. We had two guest mentors from either coast. Helen Wilson was present, fresh off her trip to the Greenland championships, and Will Bigelow was back, trusty bottle of single malt in hand, from the Walden Qajaq Society in Massachusetts. There were also many local mentors in the mix, to innumerable to name. The crew camped at the Kathio State Park group site and the learning took place on the south shore of Lake Mille Lacs, near where the Rum River exits the lake. The SCSU Experiental Learning Cell, eg. the beige single wide with the dead blue pickup in the yard, was made available for parking and a quasi base camp and we shuttled down to the beach. As usual the goal was to learn traditional skills and the structure was amorphous at best. If you wanted to learn something there was someone that could teach you how to do it. There were sign up sheets but in keeping with the nature of the people involved and the skills being learned, if a student wanted to wander from group to group that was OK. And wander we did. Skill levels ranged from a guy from Iowa who didn't even own a boat and found the Northern Lights Qajaq Society on the web, to Doug from Bemidji, steered in our direction by TheMayor, to more advanced folks that wanted to polish skills and learn some more advanced rolls and techniques. The mentors moved seamlessly from beginners to advanced and everyone learned a lot. I personally learned the counter intuitive forward finishing storm roll (thanks Helen!), The ManFromSnowyLegs is now a proficient static bracer, the IrishPirate has a rock solid balance brace and recovery on both sides, and the VOR has her forward stroke tuned like a Rolls Royce engine.
The apres' paddle bonding was excellent as well. We were all camped in a large group site on the Rum River. Campfires were burning, the large party tent offered about 4 picnic tables worth of cover from the sun and rain, and food and adult beverage were shared among the 50 or so attendees. No strangers at this event. The whisky tasting that had been postponed from the GLSKS came off nicely around the campfire Saturday night, with three excellent bottles from Ireland and Scotland respectively. Will B opined that a bottle would not be turned loose like that on the east coast but it seemed like the thing to do here.
The Gathering is a great event, probably my favorite of the year. The ACA/BCU system of stars and levels is fine and has worked well for years. The Greenland style of mentoring is more of a deal where if a person is good at a skill their expertise is informally acknowledged and they teach it. As more folks become proficient, they begin mentoring and the cycle grows and continues. Speaking of which, JeffB mentored the only international harpoon competition in Minnesota this year. Evil, surly looking floating seals were harpooned by a number of contestants from 4 different countries.
It was a blast. Next year can't come too soon.