Tank’s Thoughts: I’m a Canoe Dog Now

This is Tank, reporting for this week’s Notes from the Trail. When we were camped on Spoon Lake, the ice disappeared. That means we can’t walk on the lakes anymore. We have this big yellow/tan thing that Dave and Amy call a canoe. I’ll tell you all about what it is like to canoe.

First of all, it is amazing to see these lakes when they are all water. There are some birds that float on the water sometimes. Amy tells me they are loons. They make an interesting sound sometimes. There is a mammal that swims around in the water too. It is a large rodent called a beaver. They don’t make noise except when they slap their tails on the water.

A day after the ice disappeared, the water started moving. I got really excited when that happened. I thought it was maybe fish or beavers or some sort of sea monster making the water move. I started barking at the water. I ran back and forth, trying to figure out what was making the water move. I barked and barked. I got my paws wet. I even tried to bite the water. Amy told me that I was seeing waves on the water, caused by wind. I’m still not sure about that. Any time I see the water move, I get kind of anxious.


Tank barked at the first waves he saw.

What do you think was going on in Tank’s head when he saw waves for the first time?

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We use the canoe to get across the lakes. I know that it is a travel day when I see Dave and Amy pack up the tent. They carry their big bags down to the shore. They put the canoe in the water. Then they put the big bags in the canoe. We get in last. They call me and tell me to get in. It takes me a minute. I have to work up the courage to get in. The first couple of times Dave picked me up and put me in the canoe. Then they tell me to sit. I know “sit” really well. Sometimes I get treats if I sit, so I always sit when they tell me to.


Tank practiced riding in the canoe when there was still ice on most of the lakes.

Once we’re all in the canoe, Dave and Amy use these long stick-like things to move the canoe. I guess those are called paddles. I don’t have to paddle, because I’m a dog. I just sit. I sit and look around. Sometimes we go out in the middle of the lake. That is kind of boring, so I relax. Sometimes we paddle close to shore. That is really interesting. If I see something I am curious about or if I see waves, I whine.

When we are done canoeing across a lake, Dave finds a spot called a portage. A portage is a trail from one lake to another. I know what trails are because I’m a sled dog. I’m used to running on trails. Dave and Amy carry their big bags across the portage. I walk with them. During the first couple days of traveling, I didn’t have to do any work. Amy tells me that, starting tomorrow, I get to carry some things in a special dog backpack. It is kind of like a harness. I’m really used to wearing a harness. The only difference is that Dave and Amy will put stuff in this backpack, so it weighs more than a harness.
What are some similarities about traveling in the wilderness in the winter and in the summer? What are some differences?

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We do two trips across each portage. Amy and Dave carry stuff across to the new lake and then walk back to the old lake. Then they carry the rest of the stuff across. Probably the craziest thing I’ve see is when Dave or Amy carries the canoe. This great big thing that is 19 feet long is carried by one person! They just pick it up, flip it upside down and put it on their shoulders. I don’t understand why we don’t just pull it across the portage, like a toboggan on the ice and snow. Dave tried to explain the reason to me, something about rocks and damaging the canoe.
That is basically our routine. Paddle across the lakes and carry stuff across the portages. Sometimes the paddling takes a long time. Sometimes it is a short paddle. The portage trails are different lengths too. In one day we canoed across eight lakes. When we got to Newfound Lake, Dave and Amy looked for a campsite.
Do you think you would like canoeing and camping? Why or why not?

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Tank and Dave relax in camp.

At the campsite, we got out of the canoe. They unloaded everything. Then they set up their tent. I took a nap while they did that. Amy gave me my dinner of kibble. I like that. Then Dave and Amy ate dinner. Everybody went to sleep when it got dark out. The loons made noise and then got quiet. It is time to go to sleep. I guess tomorrow, we’ll do it all over again. I can’t wait to see more lakes and trails! I’m called a sled dog because I pull a sled in the winter. I think it’s fair to say that I’m a canoe dog because I ride in a canoe.

Student Response Worksheets




What should Tank carry in his backpack?

Tank has a two backpacks now, so he can carry things on each trip we make across a portage. We need your help to figure out what Tank should carry in his backpacks. What do you suggest?

Bonus question: A sled dog can pull 150% of their body weight, but they can only carry up to 25% of their weight. If Tank weighs 70 pounds, how much can he carry?

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Day 222: Gliding across Parent Lake

Parent Lake’s mirror-smooth surface enticed Amy out for a paddle yesterday evening. We had planned to travel father yesterday but after a wonderful lunch visit with our friends Steve and Nancy, we decided to stay on Parent and tackle the bushwack south out of Parent today instead.

Our sun-soaked campsite was just too inviting to pass up. This morning we are packing up camp, excited to see some new country and visit a series of tiny lakes linked by Drumstick Creek. The Wilderness is laced with hundreds of small lakes and streams that are rarely visited by humans. We are hoping high water will allow us to navigate Drumstick Creek, but only time will tell.

Daily Data

Days spent in the Wilderness: 222
High Temperature: 59F
Low Temperature: 30 F
Miles Traveled: 4
Number of Portages: 1
Number of Lakes visited: 2

Animals Encountered:
Raven 4
Common loon 3
Bald eagle 3
Red squirrel 4
Red-breasted nuthatch 7
Black-capped chickadee 12
Bufflehead 6
Common merganser 7
Herring gulls 2
Pileated woodpecker 1
Yellow-rumped warbler 2
Blue-headed vireo 1

Day 221: Enjoying Spring in the Wilderness

Spending the winter out in the Wilderness didn’t seem that hard at the time. We were focused on our daily tasks of gathering wood, chopping a water hole, setting up our tent, feeding and caring for the dogs, and dozens of other repetitive tasks that became part of our daily rhythm.

Now that the ice is gone and we are traveling by canoe, we are struck by how much easier life is. Many of our tasks melted away with the coming of spring and others require less time and effort. Even sitting outside in the sun with bare hands writing this and watching the sun turn the clouds red last night required less effort than they would have several months ago.

There is no need to warm batteries or stoke the woodstove. The singing loons and song birds bring so much joy and the sun’s warmth feels like the most cherished gift. This is a special time to be out in the northwoods. I hope you get out and enjoy the natural world as it wakes up after a long winter’s nap.

Daily Data

Days spent in the Wilderness: 221
High Temperature: 58 F
Low Temperature: 28 F
Miles Traveled: 1
Number of Portages: 0
Number of Lakes visited: 1

Animals Encountered:
Raven 3
Common Loon 4
Bald Eagle 1
Red Squirrel 2
Red-Breasted Nuthatch 4
Black-Capped Chickadee 8
Bufflehead 4

Day 220: Paddling and Portaging with Tank.

We spent two days visiting with friends and gorging on fresh fruits and veggies, sweets, and even whole roast chicken with all the trimmings. Our visitors brought in several weeks of much-needed food along with good conversation and treats. We sent out close to 100 pounds of skis, ski boots, an eleven foot Black River Sled toboggan, and a pile of winter gear.

With all that gear our 19 foot Wenonah Itasca was packed to the gills. The only spot left for Tank was wedged in the bow, right in front of Amy. Now we have trimmed down to three large packs and can easily double portage. Tank has ample room in the center compartment and he has his very own dog packs so he can portage his own food.

We have been poking about in our canoe for over a week, but today we paddled and portaged with relative ease, unencumbered by our winter gear. We are tired after traveling all day, but the relatively warm, sunny weather makes traveling so much easier.

Daily Data

Days spent in the Wilderness: 220
High Temperature: 57 F
Low Temperature: 29 F
Miles Traveled: 10
Number of Portages: 5
Number of Lakes visited: 5

Animals Encountered:
Mallard Ducks 2
Raven 5
Common Loon 6
Bald Eagle 4
Red Squirrel 5
Red-Breasted Nuthatch 7
Black-Capped Chickadee 5
Common Merganser 8
Bufflehead 8

Source of Confidence Expedition


2 Women. 4,000 Miles. A Source-to-Sea Expedition exploring the Source of Confidence on the 4th Longest River System in the World.

During the summer and fall of 2016 Lisa Pugh and Alyce Kuenzli will become the only all female expedition to traverse this river system. A once in a lifetime expedition. They will use their expedition to inspire and teach girls and women to discover their own source’s of confidence, using Adventure Learning. They will document their experiences on the expedition and upload video, photographs, and blog posts, in real time. The expedition will serve as a platform for exploring what confidence is and how to build it. Alyce and Lisa will showcase their successes, failures, triumphs, and challenges on the rivers and the tools they use to persevere. Along with a curriculum designed to build skills in communication, problem-solving, decision making, and, of course, self-confidence. Together, Lisa and Alyce have over twenty years of experience facilitating this process and want to teach these confidence-building ideas to a larger audience of girls and women.

Mission Statement: Supporting Girls & Women in Navigating Their Own Paths to Confidence.

The Why?:

As young girls and teenagers when Lisa and Alyce encountered situations they were unsure about, they often heard the phrase, “just be confident”. But what does that mean? How do I do that? It was confusing and frustrating to hear a word attached to an expectation with little understanding of how to achieve it. They needed role models, to see it and experience it, and tools to begin to understand it. It was through their experiences with wilderness travel and extended expeditions that they each discovered how to build confidence: through positive risk taking, processing both success and failure, and applying those learnings to new situations. By learning to process these experiences, Alyce and Lisa built confidence and the next risk didn’t seem so intimating. By repeating this process, both on expeditions and off, they felt an increasing internal inspiration to take on greater challenges. This is the concept Lisa and Alyce will role model and teach through this expedition.


Support Us


Are you interested in bringing the Source of Confidence curriculum into your classroom, school, summer camp, Girl Scout Troop, your every day life? There are many ways of doing this, through our educational website and activitiesPresentationsSkype in the classroom sessions, and the SOC Confidence-Building Workbook.

We would love to connect with you about how you can be involved and benefit from our curriculum and expedition. Contact us today!

Leave a comment below, with your contact information and Alyce and Lisa will reach out to you! You can also email us at: sourceofconfidence@gmail.com

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We need your help in putting our curriculum and expedition into ACTION! Visit our Kickstarter page to learn more about our fundraising campaign! Any amount is greatly appreciated! 



We hope to hear from you soon!

Confidence-Building Curriculum

con-build curriuc



As we canoe the 4th longest river system, we will use this platform to deliver our confidence-building curriculum. Bi-weekly updates include activities, simple lesson plans and structured reflection prompts, that encourage building confidence, along with social and emotional learning. With our principles of taking positive risks, processing failure and celebrating success, we aim to support girls and women in navigating their own paths to confidence. Join us today!

Reflections From the River

IMG_5630Alyce and Lisa. Ely, MN.

These are our “reflective faces”.

Check here for weekly posts from Alyce and Lisa, as we bring you on to the river with us, through our writings! From all the wonderful hours spent enjoying sunsets, fires, Lisa’s guitar playing to the days of rain, wind and soggy everything, we will bring you our stories of river life. The beautiful, the challenging and the smelly.