Absolutely Fantastic

Dad and I actually left on Thursday, and had a long, boring drive across Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa to Grinnell. We moved my stuff into my room, which, for the interested, is in Rawson Hall, which is in North Campus. Aunt Ellen and Aunt Irene, I’m not terribly familiar with how Grinnell was in the 1950s and 60s, but I can say with reasonable certainty that it’s pretty darn different now. For one thing, they have several new buildings, including East Campus, a whole new Campus with its own glass-enclosed loggia. And we get Pioneer-1 Cards, which have a proximity activator thing in them, so that when you breeze your wallet by the little sensor on the door, it unlocks for you. But I think Rawson is probably very much as it was in the olden days. My dorm doesn’t have much in it to indicate that the Information Age is here, or at least it didn’t until I put my computer and such in it. I got the VAIO laptop that Grandma and Grandpa bought me, as well as all the accessories. I am now typing my blog with the laptop, actually.

In the new Rosenfield Center, we met up with various other students going on the GOOP trip. We also had dinner there, because it’s where Dining is located now. Then there was a little conference, and afterwards we GOOPers all left to go to the Dari Barn, a local ice cream shop. It was kind of abrupt, as Dad has pointed out; we just kind of walked off and left the parents standing around. I said bye to Dad while retrieving my mp3 player from his truck. And then he left. Stayed in a motel overnight and drove to Ohio starting in the morning.

I had a slushie at the Dari Barn. The next day we spent learning the basics of canoeing, first aid, the Leave No Trace doctrine of camping, orienteering, and tents and knots. We also got sorted into five five-person groups for the trip, each group with two upperclassman leaders, making seven. The next morning we loaded bunches of gear into a big bus and rode off to Wisconsin.

Our destination was Camp Manito-wish, a camp that the director of GORP (the department behind GOOP) once worked at. Each group was named after an explorer from the early days of the region; my group was Brulé, and lucky us, one of our leaders, Ilan, has also worked at Camp Manito-wish. Our other leader was Chris. We packed stuff up in the evening and slept through the night. In the morning, we had breakfast. Now, that day was Paul Bunyan Day, which is a camp thing. So the director, a Dave, dressed up in lumberjack clothes and used his already full beard to be Paul Bunyan and tell a story about how camp was back in th bad old days of logging and lumberjacks. “We didn’t have these fancy aluminum canoes. Aluminum wasn’t invented yet. They were made out of LEAD. …Maybe not. They were made out of wood. They didn’t weigh too much. Eighty, ninety pounds. But when they got in the water, they soaked it all up. SEVEN HUNDRED POUNDS when wet! Try portaging that!” He told of how the lumberjacks always complained at breakfast, until finally one day the cook said no oe was allowed to talk anymore. So now on Paul Bunyan Day everyone eats breakfast in silence, and the first group to talk has to clean up the mess hall afterwards. The counselors go around making a ruckus by clearing their throats, banging dishes, carrying chairs, carrying people, carrying people on chairs. The rest of the camp this morning was a group of middle-school girls, so we didn’t lose. I didn’t hear any talking, but I think we were pretty much exempt from the get-go anyhow, since we were just eating the one meal there.

Anyway, Brulé group set out around noon onto Boulder Lake, and we started our counterclockwise transit of the Trout Lake Circle trip. It was really nice. We were in three separate canoes: the Dave Brailey, the Telleen, and the Brooke Rogers. We fell into a rowing rhythm right off the bat, and pushed right on through to camp on Alder Lake. So we set up our tents and made a fire.

Here is Brulé:

Ilan’s parents are Israeli. He’s a really soft-spoken guy, but only in volume. You have to watch out, because anything he says could be deadpan humor. For example, one day we pulled in on shore to eat lunch. He emptied the pack out with materials for pita sandwiches for the group. “Sweet,” he said, sitting in front of it. “There should be some more food in the food bag in the canoe if you guys want something.” Without a trace of irony. He is also the cook of the century in camp. We’ll get to that later.

Chris is knowledgeable and a great guy and jovial. He also has cancer, so he really wasn’t supposed to do this trip, but he says of the doctors, “I guess I showed them.” He didn’t let it get in the way during the trip, and we went along as if it weren’t there. He was chief map guy and brought along a GPS, so we never got lost. He’s also into guns, knives, and survivalism. He brought four knives and ended up giving one to Ilan, one made out of “pure death”, painted black so it won’t glint in the sun and give away your position to the enemy.

Alex is from St Louis. She’s small but loud, and like everyone there has a generous sense of humor. She prefaces any opinion of any sort with “I feel like…”, and she’s one of those types who says “like” every few words to keep the sentence in the air. She was one of the group’s three vegetarians. Ilan was able to use “We have vegetarians” as an excuse to snag positively unfair amounts of meatless foods from the kitchen for the trip.

Nastasha is from Duluth. She was sort of quiet until we all got to know each other. She’s fun and articulate. She was another of our vegetarians. Also great with fire and firewood.

Josh is from somewhere or other. He kept our conversations from getting too tame, and he has a voice that sounds like it couldn’t possibly be his regular voice – reedy and high and funny.

Micah Bot-Miller was kind of a surprise, in that I’ve never known a person named Micah who was the same age as me. He’s from St Cloud, MN, and does a lot of canoeing, and owns his own canoe. So, he turned out to have near superhuman strength where canoes are concerned; he can do a one-man lift, and portage almost indefinitely, and paddles like no one’s business. He’s also probably the most wholesome of everyone, and really nice.

And then of course me too.

So, that first night, since we were Brulée, we made crème brûlée. It was pretty much completely preposterous, but that didn’t stop us. Ilan spearheaded the effort, because he spent pretty much every day last summer making crèmes brûlées of increasing complexity and preposterity, so he had the procedure down. We mixed together some milk we had kept in a Ragú jar with some eggs and sugar and other ingredients. Then we made a double boiler—a pot full of water, with the crème brûlée dish floating in the water, and then we put that contraption over the fire and cover it and boil the dickens out of it until the crème jells. Then we had to brûler it. We tried several methods—first, a torch lighter that Chris had, which didn’t get the sugar hot enough to caramelize it, and then a spoon heated in the fire, which also didn’t. Finally we covered the dish with an upside-down pan and built a fire on top of it and took turns keeping a constant air stream on it to get the coals as hot as possible. All told, it took about tree or four hours, which was ridiculous but completely worth it.

I’m going to finish this in another installment, because it’s getting kind of late. In the meantime, I am now on YouTube. The new nickname wasn’t of my choosing. By the way, sorry if there are assorted letters missing from this post. New keyboard. Getting adjusted.

File under: Manito-wish, adventure, college


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