It is no exaggeration to say that Appleby's Northern Campus in Temagami was my favourite experience and has been my most enduring connection to the school.
As a student, I participated in the Upper Two winter camping trip, returning as a JOL and SOL. There was such great value in that program. No matter how much prior experience one had had outdoors, if your attitude was positive, so was your experience and the experience of those around you. Pretty great stuff. Challenging, no doubt. A night hike back to Rabbitnose because the forecast had changed for the worse? No problem. Stay together. Follow the track. Press ahead, on your snowshoes. Great stories back in the cabin as everyone shook the snow off and thawed out. I was sold.
After graduating in 2003, I heard that spring trips had started for Upper One students through the ASCENT program. I asked Doug Stamper whether he could use any homegrown guides, and was so happy when he agreed to have me back.
For the next three or four years, after finishing my exams at McGill each spring, I went up to Temagami to work as a guide in the ASCENT program. It was a welcome change of scenery, an overall fantastic experience. I eventually got used to being called "Mr. Porter" by the students. The group of guides assembled each year, led by Stamper, were such talented outdoor educators and fantastic individuals, each of whom shone in that environment. The enthusiasm was contagious. I can't recall ever laughing as hard or as often as we did between trips back on the Island during the transition and program days. Several guides had prior connections to Appleby, as students or otherwise. My sister Katherine Porter ('05) even joined one year before her work as a canoe tripper with Camp Kandalore (of all places). Great teams, and great memories.
It was always a pleasure to see the students get so much out of the ASCENT program. The program always offered them opportunities for insights and personal growth early in their high school careers. Start with a few days away from your device, and go from there.
For me, the time as a participant and then guide in Temagami was irreplaceable. On occasion, one would get a quiet moment with a coffee looking out over Lake Temagami, or Lake Obabika, chatting with my co-leaders, having obtained some distance from life "down south", reflecting on how special the experience was up there. I hope to return to Rabbitnose one day to revisit and renew my relationship with Temagami and the Northern Campus, perhaps with my own kids. I look forward to telling them about my time in Temagami as an outdoor leader at Appleby's Northern Campus.