In Case of Emergency, Locate the Pine, Cedar & Birch Trees

About fifteen years ago I went solo canoeing in Algonquin Park. One afternoon I decided to explore a backcountry area near where I had set up my tent. I reached the end of a long, winding river where it turned into cattail-filled marsh and ended up at a long beaver dam; water was trickling over it. I stepped out onto the loose knit branches to pull the canoe up and over and as I did my foot went deep into the dam. After extracting my very muddy and scratched leg, I carefully maneuvered my way up and over and found myself in a wide lake, sheltered by cliffs on both sides - a perfect place to fish. I fished and caught nothing.

After a while I decided to return to the camp site and make some lunch. This time as I got out of the canoe to pull it back over the dam, my adventurous foot went partly through the bottom of the canoe itself. I got back to the site in a wet, leaking canoe and used duct tape to seal the crack that I had made and cleaned up the blood and mud.

Later on during my trip I was butter-fingered and dropped my paddle into the lake during a semi-heroic trip through stiff winds. I used my hands and arms to propel the canoe over to the shore towards the paddle and fetched it.

Both times I was lucky - I had been a couple of miles away from my camp - and downstream. It would have been a long, hard slog through the bush to get back. If this had happened to me now (fifteen years later) even in a more isolated spot, and had the broken canoe been more badly holed, and had the paddle become lost to the currents I would now know better what to do from the shore. I would repair the canoe with a thick glue made of melted pine resin and powdered charcoal, and employ thick birch bark as a band aid over the surface of the canoe. And I could carve a paddle from a split dead-standing cedar log.

Repair is as vital a role during camping as is enjoying the trip. And there's nothing really wrong when stuff breaks. Stuff breaks, you fix it. And that's part of your job.

I find that in my day job as a project manager, my role is to both guide projects through to completion, and to troubleshoot and repair poorly assembled projects or projects that have - through no fault of their own - been damaged. I suppose that's my job and that's your job - no matter what you're doing.

In case of emergency, you need to locate the pine, cedar, and birch trees.



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