The Wetfoot Blog

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Evolution of the Outpost Program

This week's guest blogger will be Jon Iltis, Property Manager at Camp Manito-wish. Jon writes about the history of the Outpost Program.

Many of our constituents have wondered how our Outpost Program canoe trips came to travel in the areas that we do. The following is an attempt to explain that evolution.

Prior to 1973 there were two post Far North experiences for boys, and it was a great honor to be invited to participate on these trips. The Pioneer was the first trip offered and it consisted of an 18 day canoe trip in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Pioneer was a push type trip where bragging rights were earned by covering the most miles. The Pioneer Symbol consisted of an axe, a shovel, and a canoe paddle. At the end of each trip the group would engage in a service project for two days, usually working on one of the Manito-wish Campsites.

For the girls, Hilltop and Voyageur Cabins were tripping cabins. Each cabin had two counselors and 10 campers and would split into two separate trips. This meant a total of four trips out for 12 days on the waters of Northern Wisconsin surrounding Camp.

The Canuck Trip was the second experience you could be invited to participate in and was considered to be a reward for having performed well on your Pioneer or Voyageur. It consisted of a 21 day canoe trip in the Quetico Provincial Park of southern Ontario.

After the 1972 camping season, there was a growing feeling among some of the Canuck Leaders that the Quetico was becoming more and more crowded and was not providing the same wilderness experience it once had.

In 1973 we decided to try a new area, and sent three Boys Canuck groups to the areas surrounding Sioux Lookout and Red Lake Ontario in hopes of finding more wilderness and less people.

At the end of the summer the idea of establishing a base even further north, where our groups could travel to, be outfitted, and then depart from, was in the making, and Steve Burr was hired on to see if this dream could become reality.

In the fall of 1973 we travelled to Thompson Manitoba where we had connected with a realtor who was willing to help us with the task of finding a location for this base. We settled on a warming cabin at the top of a local ski hill for the base of operations for the newly christened Outpost Program.

During the summer of 1974 we staged all of our Pioneer and Canuck trips out of the base in Thompson. This represented a significant change for all but especially for the Pioneers. Also in 1974, Steve Burr led a new trip called the Super Canuck. This was a 40 day trip into a whole new area which began on Reindeer Lake on the northern Saskatchewan/Manitoba border, headed northeast to Neultin Lake, and then southeast to the Seal River which empties into Hudson Bay just north of Churchill. Not quite into the tundra but very close.

By the 1976 season our Pioneer trips were exploring the Quetico, and our Canuck trips were pushing further north in Saskatchewan and Manitoba looking for new areas and more adventure. The Churchill River and the Wollaston and Reindeer Lake area was the main area of focus.

During the fall of 1977, we decided it was time to create a new adventure called the Expeditionary Canuck. This adventure would be similar in length to the 1974 Super Canuck, but would push further north into virtually unknown areas. We met with interested campers and their parents during the winter months, and in the later part of June pushed off from the shores of Hidden Bay on Wollaston Lake. The route would head northeast towards the Thlewiaza River and then on to its mouth on Hudson Bay. Once at the Bay the route headed north to what was then the town of Eskimo Point.( Now called Arviat)

It was truly an adventure. We saw no other people on the entire trip other than the folks at the fly in fish camp where we resupplied.. We had no trip logs for reference, and no communication with the outside world. We saw no evidence of other humans except Indian winter camps below treeline, and Eskimo tent circles, rock covered meat caches, and cairns out in the Barrens. When we arrived in Eskimo Point we were visited by many curious people wondering where we had come from. When we showed them our route they told us as far as they knew no one had ever come that way.

Since 1978, we have been fairly consistent in the areas we have traveled. The Pioneers have consistently enjoyed the Quetico with one small exploration into Temagami. The Canucks have been mainly focused in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba with a few adventures further south on the Berens, Bloodvein, and Poplar Rivers flowing into Lake Winnipeg. Our Expeditionary trips for years traveled in the same general area exploring many different rivers flowing to Hudson Bay. Only in recent years have our Expeditionary trips moved further inland to reduce the risk polar bear encounters along the bay.

Jon Iltis, (vintage picture above) Property Manager of Camp Manito-wish, was a camper from 1968-71 with the last two year as a Pioneer and Canuck participant. He has been on staff since 1972. In his years on staff he has served as a counselor, Pioneer, Western, Canuck and Expeditionary Canuck Trip Leader prior to becoming Property Manager. He has also worked as a NOLS instructor, as a Property Manager and instructor for the Boy Scouts Base on White Sand Lake in Boulder Junction and has been on multiple week mountaineering expeditions in Alaska.

This is Jon's first adventure in the world of blogs.

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