The worldwide Augustana College experience

Rafting the South Nahanni – with Augustana and the liberal arts

Aug. 1

I’ve come to think that flourishing consists of putting yourself in situations in which you lose self-consciousness and become fused with other people, experiences, or tasks. It happens sometimes when you are lost in a hard challenge, or when an artist or a craftsman becomes one with the brush or the tool. And it happens most when we connect with other people.
— David Brooks


Jane and I spent 12 days rafting and camping along the South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories of Canada. This is one of the seven great expedition rivers in North America that we have committed to rafting before we turn 60. As with the others it can be a challenging river, which is why we always go with professional guides.

We met our lead guide in Fort Simpson, in the Northwest Territories, as we prepared to board a Twin Otter floatplane to land in the wilderness. To our great surprise, our guide, Lara Fenton, was a graduate of Augustana. But it was the Augustana campus of the University of Alberta in Camrose. Augustana College in Alberta, founded in 1910 by Norwegian settlers, merged with the University of Alberta in 2004. The University of Alberta-Augustana in Camrose is known for its strong wilderness education programs, and Lara is now working on her PhD.

We met our other two guides when we flew into the wilderness. One, Emily Cole, wore an Augustana shirt. She will be a senior at University of Alberta-Augustana. The third guide, not affiliated with any Augustana, will be starting a PhD in philosophy at Northwestern University in Evanston, where I went to law school.

Our 12-day adventure was outstanding, with the splashy whitewater, the deep colorful canyons, and the company of our fellow adventurers. It was also outstanding because of the conversation. We passed the hours on the rafts and around the camp not only talking about the river and about our own lives, but also talking about philosophy, literature and the arts.

Note to self: Contact University of Alberta-Augustana about a possible exchange program!

(See also Jane Bahls’ Arctic Adventures blog).

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