Sixty-one intrepid first-year students kicked off the year with a trip to the Minnesota wilderness—and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
Since 2004 the pre-Orientation wilderness experience Macward Bound has been offered to first-year students willing to throw in their lot with new friends and test their mettle in the face of nature’s challenges. Late last summer a handful of upper-class leaders took 24 first-year students on hiking trips in the Superior National Forest and another 37 on canoe trips through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, both Minnesota natural treasures.
Here’s what a few of the participants had to say about the experience:
There were eight people in my group, including our two fearless leaders, and we had a few scary, yet awesome, nights when we could hear packs of wolves howling in the distance. I learned how to effectively pack a hiking backpack, how to tie some useful knots, and how to sing the words of some important Macalester cheers. The things I learned about myself, the wilderness, and college life during Macward Bound made the experience priceless. It was a ton of fun and an easy way to ease the transition from high school to college. It’s also helpful to start the year with a group of friends, as well as with some insider information from the student leaders.
You never know what your body is capable of—like carrying a 75-pound boat by yourself—until you’re pushed to do it. One day we were faced with some awful headwinds. I was paddling in the bow and had to stop multiple times to steady myself in the swells. Although we had done an immersion drill in which we had to flip a canoe and swim it back to shore, I was not in the mood for a repeat. We powered through head headwinds with short, quick strokes and made it to shore. I felt empowered after completing this trip, and I have never made friends so fast before.
Even though I’d been a leader of my high school outdoors club, I had never tied a bear bag before this trip, so I learned how to do that. [This involves hanging the food high up in the trees to avoid attracting unwanted “visitors.”] At one point we reached a massive waterfall that we swam in for a few hours. It was refreshing and bonding. The most important thing about Macward Bound, though, were the connections I made with seven new people. I don’t doubt that I’ll still be friends with a couple of them when I graduate. Macward Bound gives you time away from home before orientation, time when you’re busy and meeting people. It takes your mind off the sadness of leaving home before your first day at college. That way, on that first day of school you can focus your energy on making new friends.