The idea of a 20-kilometer hike around Kingsmere Lake in Prince Albert National Park of central Saskatchewan into a remote wilderness area that required carrying canoes, food, cooking utensils and tents was an ambitious one for the young women in the Prince Albert Ward. “I wanted to take the young women on something that would move them out of their comfort zone,” said Patti Crosby, ward Young Women President. “We decided to venture to Grey Owls Camp. It’s a difficult journey through exotic country that is on the ‘bucket list’ of many Saskatchewan adventurers.”
The plan was no sooner announced than the young men and their leaders offered to join the expedition. The added horse power was welcomed; the more people, the better.
One young man, 12-year-old Seth Kanagin, might have been left behind. After all, he struggled with multiple disabilities and had never been able to walk. Should he be invited? When his name surfaced during the planning of the adventure, it took the young men and women some time to make that decision – about three seconds. Seth was on board, and it was up to the young men and women to make it happen. “It was inspiring,” said Scout Hyrum Wright. “It was pretty awesome to know that he was going to come with us.”
Young Men President, Duane McKay, and the boys went to work planning a method to transport Seth. What came out of the brainstorm was “like an old Egyptian thing” – a litter,comfortable for Seth to recline on with a number of hand-holds for the bearers. And, like the Egyptians, these modern-day sherpas would bear their kindred with honour.
“When we got to first camp, we held a council on how to get into the area of Grey Owls Cabin and in particular, how to make sure Seth would get there safely,” recalls the Young Men President. “We left it all to the youth. They would be responsible for sheltering him, carrying him in and packing him back out.” There was no hesitation as the young men and women set their faces up-trail. Seth’s companions soon encountered obstacles: narrow boardwalks over swamps that were not wide enough for the cumbersome carrier; thick tree roots on the surface that could trip the bearers; and steep slopes that imposed caution in every step. “During a four-kilometer hike through the bush, those young men really pulled together,” the Young Women President remembers. “They endured the entire section without a break. The physical hardship they endured was amazing.”
With coordinated lifting and faith in every footstep of the 20 kilometers, the bulk of the muscle-power needed for the journey had been completed. But what lay ahead would challenge the young leaders and their mentors to ensure that all would arrive at Grey Owls Cabin safely. After hand-carrying heavy canoes a considerable distance over rugged terrain, now the group, including Seth, would travel by water. As the company paddled canoes carefully along the shoreline, heavy winds pushed some of the crafts far into the lake. “There was a lot of praying when we were on the lake,” says Scout Hyrum, “We worked together as a team. When people got stuck in the middle of the lake, other people would come out and pull us closer to the shore.” “Without being asked, the young men pulled up to the girls’ canoes and took over the job of paddling from the stern,” the Young Women President recalls.
The worth of the symbolic effort was not lost on the young leaders of the adventure. “We worked together as a team,” recalls Hyrum, the junior member of the expedition.
To be sure, the adventure left indelible impressions upon Seth and his parents. “It was fun for me and fun for them,” Seth said. “We had to take the boat and paddle across the lake. I was okay with it, but I never had been in a boat like that. It was hard, but God gave me help.”
“The young men and women didn’t see it as a big deal,” says the Young Men President, “They met the challenge without hesitation and they carried it out without a single complaint. We were thoroughly impressed with what they planned. They just did it.”