Algonquin Solitude

We’ve just returned from another trip to Algonquin. This one was a trip with 10 friends from our church. It reminded us of our reliance on communication and made me wonder again how folks in earlier times managed to feel comfortable about the well-being of those they are out of contact with.

Our group went to the park at two different times. Four of us, possibly more adventurous, went up on Sunday so that we could get an early start Monday morning. The rest, renting canoes that would not be available until after noon, drove up in the morning and planned to take a shorter route (without the 1680 meter portage). They would meet us at a predetermined set of campsites and we anticipated  they would be there before our smaller group.

There is no cell phone coverage in this area of the park.

Our group of four started out around 10 am. By about 3:30 we had completed our trip, paddled past the first five of the predetermined meeting places, all occupied by other campers, and claimed two sites for the night. We were surprised  our comrades had not arrived.  We ate our supper (some of which was to be shared with the absent) and continued to wait, becoming more and more concerned. We watched, waited, and wished  there was some way to communicate. Scenario after scenario played through our minds, along with a feeling of helplessness.  It got dark, we were tired, we went to bed.

As we settled down with our books, we heard voices, familiar voices. We jumped out of bed and trotted out into the open (initially with no pants) to see if it could be the rest of the group. Calling across the water, we brought them in to the campsite. They arrived tired and ready for bed. We got their tents up, a few snacks into them, and then to bed we all went.

The issue, it turns out, was a wrong turn at the beginning of the trip, confused map reading, and a compass that stayed in its place around a paddler’s neck. Their mistake wasn’t realized until a portage turned out to be shorter than the map suggested. They had spent nearly two hours going in entirely the wrong direction. After turning around, getting back to where they started, they finally started the trip they originally planned at around 6 pm.

All turned out well, but our lack of information left us worried, concerned, feeling just a little lost. Our reliance on minute by minute contact, leaves us unsettled when it is not available. Have we changed, or are we just less willing to trust that everything is OK, in God’s hands, than our ancestors were?


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