Passing On the Canoeing Love: From Dad to Daughter

Emily Hanson canoes on Lake Nipigon
17-year old Emily Hanson paddling onto Lake Nipigon in Ontario


Of course, Larry would be proud of Emily even if she hadn’t done a 34-day canoe trip. But as he said, “You take great joy in seeing your kids doing the activities you find so much fulfillment in.”

Emily’s Canoeing Background

Larry had Emily in a canoe very young. He took her on her first overnight trip in the Boundary Waters as a 3-year old. It wasn’t until she was 13 when he took her out again, along with her younger sister, for a few days. Emily shares,

“I have good memories canoeing with my dad from a young age. I love being outside, I love doing things with my family. I heard about my dad’s trips with his friends and his stories. That’s where the desire came from. Then I fell in love with canoeing once I got to Menogyn.”

Emily Kopka Ponds, Ontario
Emily in the Kopka Ponds area


Emily started wilderness canoeing through Camp Menogyn in northern Minnesota, just before her freshman year of high school. During her first couple summers there, she went with other girls and a guide into the Boundary Waters for 11 days, then 14 days.

group of canoeing girls
The Nor’wester crew: Willa, Christa, Ellie, Jena, Margaret and Emily


Her third summer, the trip went into Quetico Provincial Park, just across the Ontario border. That one was 21 days long. That same group ventured further into Ontario this summer of 2019, and completed a 34-day trip Menogyn calls the “Nor’wester,” their premier advanced trip.

The 34-Day Nor’wester Canoe Trip

After a couple of whitewater training days on Minnesota’s St. Louis River, the group drove 7.5 hours into Ontario to Savant Lake, then took a train to the Allanwater River bridge. They spent the next 28 days canoeing and portaging through the wilderness of Wabakimi Provincial Park and Kopka River Provincial Park.

canoe trip map
The rough area of Emily’s Nor’wester canoe trip


Emily describes her Nor’wester trip as, “Absolutely incredible!” Her favorite segment was the Kopka Ponds Region

“There were a few unnamed little puddles…Ginormous waterfalls…beautiful cliffs we hiked up with fantastic views…great swimming. It was really, really incredible and so relaxing.”

Other than the typical rain here and there and one very cold day, the trip went off without a hitch. Even the bugs weren’t that bad.

The hardest part for Emily was being away from home for so long, and wondering what she might be missing out on. But eventually those feelings were left behind, in large part because she loved the group of girls she was with. They’re best friends, and are in almost daily contact despite their homes being in different parts of Minnesota.

group with waterfalls
Emily’s group in front of some of the amazing waterfalls they encountered


Like all Menogyn canoe trips with the older kids, they used old-fashioned aluminum, plastic and wooden canoes. This group of teenage girls had no problem with that:

“It’s a really good feeling getting to the end of a portage with an 80-pound canoe and seeing a guy with a kevlar!”

Dad’s Canoe Background

Larry worked for the Boy Scout canoe base in Ely, Minnesota during the summers of 1982-1985, guiding trips into the BWCA and Quetico.

“Canoeing has been a huge part of my life, and part of my inspiration to become an outdoor sales rep. I sold canoes for Old Town Canoe, among other things. And I got to know Bending Branches really well. The outdoor industry is a small world!”

canoeing group
A tough group of girls on this 33-day wilderness canoe trip


About watching his daughter grow in her love for and skills in canoeing, he said:

“I always thought it’d be cool if my kids had some kind of canoe experience. We started them off in the YMCA program (at Menogyn). You never know how a kid’s going to react to it. This daughter, Emily, just took to it right away.

“At age 16—a year ago—she took a 21-day canoe trip. That’s a huge trip! She was doing stuff at the age of 16 that I wasn’t doing until later in life.”

“How thrilling that she’s wanting to follow in this pathway. The greatest satisfaction is knowing that the experience that led to my passion for wilderness canoeing—she caught onto that same thing, and she got to do it at a very young age.”

emily with rainbow
One of the best things about rain is rainbows (especially double ones)!

Keeping the Dreams Alive through Your Kids

Wabakini hit Larry’s bucket list about 20 years ago when it started getting some notice as a prime wilderness destination. But as he got older, got a job, got married and started a family—and his canoeing buddies did the same—it got harder and harder to find the time for a trip that big.

“How thrilling to send my kid off on a trip that I’ve wanted to do for so long. You get to live a little vicariously through them. But another part of the emotion is, “This kinda sucks! She’s getting to go on a trip I’ve been wanting to do for 20 years—I’m a little bit jealous. ‘It’s so cool you’re doing this—but, I want to go with you!’ ”

Knowing he planted the seed and was involved in her motivation, though, gives him the ultimate fatherly satisfaction.

“One day she’s a little kid with a Bending Branches Twig paddle—now she’s a grown woman going out on a 30-day trip in the wilderness. How does this happen?!”

dad and daughter with bending branches paddle

dad and daughter with bending branches paddle

(Any other parents out there who can relate to that?)

Get our free download: “Basic Canoe Trip Checklist”

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