Laketrails Base Camp

(singing indistinctly) – We are at Lake
Trails Base Camp, located on the very
southern tip of Oak Island. Technically we’re
called Oak Point. (singing) My name is Sue Lemm and
I’m the camp director. I have been for the
past 10 years now. Everybody lookin’ good! Yeah! Lake Trails began in 1952. It was a vision of
Father Bill Mehrkens’. He wanted to start
a camp for teenagers where they could go and
explore the wilderness, and just really have fun, and, of course, because
of his love of boats, that was always part
of the vision as well. They got permission from
the Diocese of Crookston to start a camp, and so Father Bill and
Father Jerry rented a boat, and they started going around
to all the little islands, just exploring, but
they decided that this was a pretty good spot, and they started doing
really very similar to what we’re doing today. They went out on canoe trips and just started exploring the area. (soft music) In the very beginning, it
was a Catholic boys’ camp. After a couple years, they started thinking about why should the boys
have all the fun, so a girls’ camp was started. And in the 70s, the decision
was made to just go co-ed. A current mission
of Lake Trails, it’s built off of
Father Bill’s vision of what he called
the Lake Trails Idea. We want kids to learn, really to appreciate themselves, to appreciate nature, to become a positive
member of their community. I can remember Father
Bill many times using the phrase
unconditional acceptance. And that was just drilled
into us through his sermons and just in his everyday life. Forgive readily and be
part of the community that we’re building. Have a wilderness adventure. That was all part of
the Lake Trails Idea. – Watch over us as
our five days on trail help us bond and
create memories, and hopefully bring us
back a little bit more in touch with nature. – [Sue] It’s a pretty
intense nine days, but the real magic, the
real heart of it all, happens when they’re
out on trail. And so the first day
is mostly getting here. Get them out to the
island and they check in. You check in your phone and
you check in your electronics. We don’t want them to
be staring at a screen. We want them to interact
with one another. That’s how real friendships
are formed, really. It’s just through human
face-to-face contact. And they have a big supper
that night, big campfire, that kind of sets the
stage for the week. There’s a lot of crazy skits and just the guides are amazing. They’re funny and
imaginative and creative, and they really start
out on a fun note. (upbeat music) The second day is
kind of a crash course in everything we want them
to learn on their canoe trip, so we teach ’em everything
from how to set up a tent to how to how to paddle, to how to poop in the woods. Some kids have to know. They spend the rest of that day just packing their gear,
deciding what their menu is going to be for the week, and at some point
during the day, the group will go paddling, and really get that experience
of being on the water and pushing the water
around with your paddle. The real heart of the
program starts on day three. That’s when you start
to see, I start to see, kind of some
nervousness sometimes, some excitement, a little
apprehension once in awhile, especially for kids that
have never been here before. They’re not
necessarily sure what they’ve gotten themselves into, which I think is great. You know, a little uncertainty is good for a person sometimes. And again, I think this
is a little unusual that Lake Trails allows campers to choose their own canoe trips. That was one of
the things early on that Father Bill
wanted to have happen. So we still today
try to have the kids very involved in the
planning of the canoe trip. I know a lot of
camps, it goes by age or by your grade in school, and we don’t really
care about that. From the moment they
leave the beach, we just call it trail magic, or the Lake Trails magic, and it’s just
amazing what happens when they’re out on trail. My very favorite part
is watching them leave and fast forward five days, and watching them return. And the transformation
is amazing. – Be good to each other. Work as a team. Woohoo! – [Sue] And the
real magic is that that whole time this lovely
community is forming. You know, they learn
about each other, and they make new friends, they learn about
kids who come from different circumstances
than their own. Every trip has at
least two guides, and they’re traveling
from island to island. They learn how to start fires. They learn how to do a little
cooking over the campfire. They learn how to set up tents. They learn that they’re
way more capable than they probably gave
themselves credit for. Then they come back from trail, and oh my gosh, the
celebration is just crazy. And the stories
begin immediately when they get out of the canoes. – Woohoo! – [Sue] There will
be a lot of tears at the end of the summer when
we all go our separate ways, because you just get so close. This is the best kept
secret in Minnesota. People just don’t know about us, and that has always
been a challenge is to let people know, ’cause there’s truly
life changing things that are happening
here for the better, and people don’t know
that we even exist. (bell clanging) – [Announcer] Funded
by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage fund with money from the vote of
the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008. And by the members
of Prairie Public.

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