Mailgabber: 5 Tips for Planning Your Spring Break from an Assistant Trip Director

By Jamey Sharp

Jamey Sharp finishing the grand portage trip

Hello camp family! Jamey Sharp here from the ever hip and drizzly Pacific Northwest. I spent last summer hidden deep in the basement of the Big House as the Assistant Trip Director.  My days were filled with buying land-use permits, making van driver schedules, and heckling the Trip Director, Adam Fornear. Whether it was helping precisely count the 18 slices of turkey and provolone cheese that go into a Cruiser Lunch with the Quartermaster, checking van tire pressure with our fabulous trip drivers, or making sure that our trip staff understand the importance of looking for a campsite in the BWCA no later than 2 pm, I know that the little things are what make a great trip. That’s why I am to help you plan an awesome Spring Break trip. Here is a list of five stand-by rules for dreaming up that perfect trip. Go big, but not too big, as we have an incredible summer of trips lined up with the first vans rolling out starting June 21st!

  1. It’s never too early to start planning. I do not recommend planning or packing out a trip the night before you leave. That time should be spent taking care of personal matters such as calling family or putting together your trip journal. So, it is essential to start hitting the maps and trip reports as soon as possible. I used to coax myself into studying during college with the idea that after a few hours of reading, I could start looking at topographical maps of the next mountain to climb, or the interstate map for the next road trip (in case you are wondering, I did graduate on time). We love getting out there and for many of us at Nebagamon, our memories of previous trips and dreams of future trips are sometimes just as powerful as a dip of the paddle in the lake or a mile on the trail. The truth is that the trip begins as soon as we start to imagine it.
  2. Jamey Sharp showing off pita pizza

    Jamey loves a good Pita Pizza

    Keep the menu simple. For anyone reminiscing about a Nebagamon trip, it is often the food that sticks out in their minds. It goes both ways. You remember that hefty pot of Mac & Pep craftily paired with a side of fresh caught Walleye. Oh, and you definitely remember the north country’s finest “bag-hit” dessert that followed. But, you also remember those meals that didn’t go exactly as planned, like that time the noodles were accidentally dumped into the dirt while attempting to strain out the water. Or, you might be shiver at the thought of the mysterious (and supposedly healthy?) quinoa curry that was prepared by your trip leader after they finished their first year of college on the west coast. Either way, feeding time is important and memorable. You can go big and try that new recipe or technique, but, sometimes it is best to go with the dish that makes everybody comfortable. Whether it is Pesto Carb, Pita Pizzas, Chocolate Breakfast Dessert, or Jambalaya, you can’t go wrong with the classics.

  3. Break your routine. While springtime is often associated with new life, growth, and blooming flowers, it feels like it is more realistically spent stuck inside with an endless assignment and the daily checklist. For many of our campers and staff, the school routine is in full swing: alarm, snooze button, alarm, wake-up, go to school, stay awake at school, go to practice, go home, eat dinner, go to bed, repeat…and don’t forget the 50+ times that we are likely to check our phones throughout the day! Needless to say, this is a great time of year to try something new. This doesn’t necessarily mean finding the most exoticdestination in the Yo Yo Islands and dragging your family there with you.  It might mean waking up early in your hometown to catch the sunrise, taking your bike instead of sitting in the morning rush-hour, and most importantly, putting that phone away. Whether you are hundreds of miles out of phone service or sitting in your living room during spring break, try a day with the phone completely off.Campers sitting on a dock, isle royale
  4. It’s the people. This is one of the most important aspects of Camp Nebagamon and our style of tripping. We don’t only go out there to cover a ton of miles, walk on uncharted territory, or as a wayof escaping. We go out there, often times with complete strangers, to accomplish something together, to learn from each other, and more often than not, just to hangout and laugh together. So, on this spring break trip, make sure that you are valuing the people that you are with.  Try to learn one new thing about everyone on your trip. Teach everybody how to play cribbage or euchre. Tell a funny story about something that happened last summer on your Mississippi River trip or try to figure out something that has been on your mind throughout the school year. My biggest life questions and challenges have been figured out through casual conversations with a buddy on the trail (it’s like counseling without the co-pay).
  5. Don’t get (too) lost. I want to be clear that Camp Nebagamon will not be liable for anybody’s search and rescue bill. Always bring the appropriate gear, do your research about where you are going, and have an escape plan. However once the essentials are covered, there is something to be said about not planning out every tiny detail and being able to go with the flow, also known as the Fornear Method. Which moments do we really remember and recount at the dinner table 10 years later? It definitely isn’t the trip when everything went according to plan, the mosquitos decided to stay home, we were in our sleeping bags by 7:30 pm, and nobody had to wake up in the middle of the night to use the pit toilet. The beautiful, interesting, full, and laugh-worthy stories always involve changes of plans, flexibility, and perhaps a little bit of adversity. While we now have the ability to read thousands of trip reports, see 5-star ratings of every single pit toilet in the BWCA, and even virtually walk into the coffee shop that we are thinking about visiting on a screen at our fingertips, a trip that is over planned loses the opportunities that present themselves along the way. That trip leader that is just so fixated on returning to that awesome waterfall that they visited 10 years ago, or finding the amazing campsite that they found online, might be blinded to the new, even better opportunity that lays right in front of their eyes. They will miss the even better waterfall or more memorable campsite that lies hidden just a few feet off of the trail just because it was not part of the original plan. So, keep your options open. Go with the flow. Don’t plan exactly where you are going to camp every night and turn around if you’re not liking what you are seeing. In other words, try to end up somewhere that you never could have imagined.