Lena is a Group 4 participant in the Canadian Conservation Corps.

I had no idea what was awaiting me as I stepped out of the plane in Toronto.

I knew I was going to meet fellow CCC participants, receive training, go canoeing, receive more training, then go home. But little did I expect to become completely immersed in what was a profound discovery of self.  Through an assortment of stunningly meaningful connections with fellow participants I emerged as part of a well-rounded team we call the Fourtagers.

Yes, we did learn some hard skills. I learned to truly canoe (not the way I was casually shown to as a kid). I learned how to do a canoe-over-canoe rescue along with some fancy paddling techniques, useful knots, portaging, tarp shelter building and cooking over a fire. As importantly, as a group we learned to trust one another and improve our leadership and teamwork skills. I learned about meaningful leadership, and how to listen and be heard.

Paddling Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Provincial Park is the land of the lakes, a generally unfamiliar landscape to me. We paddled from tiny, glass-smooth lakes to giant, stormy ocean-like lakes. We hiked through beautiful, mixed forests with heavy barrels on our backs and canoes on our shoulders. As trees were starting to shift into their autumn colours, paths under our feet were becoming covered in fallen leaves and dotted with mushrooms of all colours. As a fairly large group, our wildlife sightings were not very frequent,  however, we got daily glimpses of a few birds such as ospreys, kingfishers and mergansers. At night, with starry skies above our heads and firelight glinting in our tired eyes, we often heard the eerie calls of the loons.

It was not just the stunning natural beauty of Algonquin, but also that of the Fourtagers. It was the brief interactions and deep conversations with one another, and the profound fireside group discussions, that resulted in the development of lovely, and what are sure to be long-lasting, friendships.

What I take from this empowering and genuine experience is a little learning from every member of this cohort as well as our two incredible Outward Bound leaders. And among that, the importance of trust, communication, collaboration and meaningful interactions.