As the teasing breath of autumn interrupted the end of July, many of our staff began longing for September. A quick, unscientific survey of veteran instructors confirmed our initial suspicions: fall is the best time to travel in the Boundary Waters.
Why is fall so special here? The season is a time of inherent transition. Summer fades into winter and brings shorter days, cooler nights, and significantly fewer bugs. Aspen, birch, and maple glow in vibrant yellows and reds, then turn into skeletal structures after October’s first strong winds. Beavers and squirrels cache food against the coming ice and snow. Fall courses also serve as periods of transition in the lives of our students and their families. Instead of getting swept up in how the school year always starts, students and families can breathe the fresh air of the North Woods and learn to interact a little differently on a semester course.
Fall courses also have the Boundary Waters almost entirely to themselves. Students focus on the skills needed to take responsibility for their own expedition in absence of too many other visitors. Not seeing another person for days heightens the feelings of self-reliance and group cohesion already present on an Outward Bound course. In the solitude of autumn in the Boundary Waters, teens gain perspective difficult to find amid busy school schedules, demanding social pressures, and the temptation to always be plugged in.
Every year, a couple dozen intrepid teenagers find themselves paddling the Boundary Waters in its prime season. Those students lucky enough to join VOBS for the fall 28 day Intercept canoeing course, or the fall 50 day Intercept canoeing & backpacking semester experience the best the Boundary Waters has to offer while practicing skills difficult to learn in a classroom. By stepping away from their routines, the students and their families put their faith in promise of Outward Bound to change their lives.
As the heat of summer settles back in this week, we will swim as much as possible and marvel at the lingering fireflies. Summer is by no means over, yet every breath of chilly air readies us for our favorite season.
What’s your favorite season to be outside, and why? Share in the comments below!