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#29 Paddling Pic: A Guide to Learning

#29. Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, Ontario. 2015

We have had the opportunity to work with Ray Mears on a couple of his guided trips in Canada's boreal forest. Both times have been revelatory. His knowledge of bushcraft and the land is boundless. Watching him work with his hands and listening to him counsel his clients is fascinating; every day we would learn something new.

But what really impressed me was his approach to guiding. This was not a fancy-food, guide does all the work, clients are pampered kind of trip. Oh no. They signed up to learn the skills and develop the confidence to do a trip like this on their own. They discovered that their choices have consequences. They would find their own campsites, and sometimes Ray might point out a less desirable feature and then they'd do better choosing their next one. They learnt to craft tools, make fire with friction, bake over an open fire and other traditional bushcraft. They took pride in catching, cleaning and cooking fish. Ray shared with them how to get boneless fillets from a pike and then steam them in moss. Awesome! Everyone took a turn navigating for the group. Sometimes we would get off-course down a dead-end bay. We would all follow, but at the right moment Ray gently suggested a review of the maps. With a great deal of discussion and some laughter and good-natured ribbing the course would be adjusted with everyone now having realized the value of map skills. It's a completely different philosophy than some contemporary commercial guiding companies. My Dad was all about educating others through trial and error but with a safety net. They call it experiential learning now. It worked well for Paul and me because it gave us ownership of our small fails, built our confidence, but also kept us humble. And these same ideas are working for Ray. Ray Mears & Woodlore Limited plans to head to Temagami in 2021 and we will be there with them learning and sharing. So, do you have have an experiential-learning story from the bush to share?

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