True North Blog

Allegheny River Sojourn 2013

Allegheny River Sojourn 2013

As I sit here relaxing on a Sunday morning, cradling a hot mug of strong coffee in my hand, I cannot help but fondly reflect on one of the most terrific programs in which I have been involved in a long time.  I spent three days, from Thursday of last week through Saturday, paddling along the Allegheny River with six amazing kids from the North Side and seven terrific instructors.

The program was the “Allegheny River Sojourn and Program for Urban Youth.”  Envisioned and developed by Melissa and David Rohm of Paddle Without Pollution (PWP) the goal of the program was to introduce a group of urban youth to the beauty and wonders of the outdoors.  As they paddled their canoes and kayaks, they not only saw scores of Bald Eagles, but they learned about the important role of watersheds, they leaned about plant identification, they saw bear bear tracks and scat and learned about it, and they learned the basics of camping, among so much more.  And, of course, they got plenty of time to splash and play in one of the most beautiful and significant waterways in the country.

Aged 12 to 15, the group included five boys and one girl.  Though they were of diverse backgrounds and experiences, they all shared a sense of curiosity, resilience, and willingness to stretch beyond their comfort zones.  In short, they repeatedly demonstrated one of the highest levels of positive mental attitude that I have ever seen, adults included.  How?  Just hours into the trip, we needed to quickly get PWP Sojourn 2013off of the river because bright and sunny skies surprisingly turned black and, off in the distance, the skies flashed with lightening and boomed with thunder.  Just when it looked as though the storm had passed us, lightening cracked overhead, wind blew in like a truck, and rain came down in such a way that “torrential” would not be an exaggeration.  As we all huddled under a quickly erected shelter, the kids worked to buoy each other’s spirits and calm frayed nerves.  After the stormed passed, most other people would have voted to end the trip.  But not these kids!  They just bailed water from their boats and their smiles soon returned.

While Dave and Rich from PWP spearheaded this “Sojourn,” many other wonderful instructors and people were involved too.  Jesse from Exkursion taught the kids paddling skills and helped to guide the trip; Amy and Jaime from the Allegheny County Conservation District gave several great lessons IMG_1767involving water; youth group leader, Quincy, from the North Side, helped to shepherd the group and teach many important life lessons; Renée, also of PWP, helped to document the event; and Becca did everything from keeping a watchful eye on the group, to helping to set up tents, to even making sure that an almost 5′ long river snake didn’t hitch a ride in one of the canoes!  Last, but certainly not least, we owe Jeff and his crew at O.A.R.S, namely George and Danni, many thanks for helping to see to the logistics of this pilot venture and to seeing that we were all well fed!

It truly was a wonderful event that I think reflects the spirit and mission of True North.  Many thanks, then, to Melissa and Dave for inviting me to be a part of it!

If you would like to see some of the photographs from this trip, please check out True North’s Facebook page.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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