Submitted/Sammie Messick

A group of women with KU ties recently returned from a kayaking adventure in northern Minnesota. From left to right: Margy Rose, Mary Chappell, Debi Taylor, Mia Willoughby, Kris Barlow, Micky McKillip, Lori Hougham and Sammie Messick.

'Hawks on the water

Group of KU women take to the lake for team building, bonding

Eight women with KU ties have just returned from an adventure of a lifetime — kayaking near the Boundary Waters region in northern Minnesota.

The group, which included Mary Chappell, director of Recreation Services, and Sammie Messick, an administrative assistant at the Lied Center, abandoned e-mail, Internet access and, yes, even indoor plumbing in favor of open water and the great outdoors from Aug. 6 to 10.

Chappell and Messick stressed that the vacation helped solidify the bond between the women, who range in age from 35 to 62. Some were KU staff members, others were KU alumnae. They came together through involvement in Altrusa, a civic organization. They plan to make the trek again next summer.

After 16 hours in a passenger van, the women arrived at Wintermoon Summersun, a 400-acre wilderness area managed by Kathleen Anderson. Guests stay in rustic wood cabins, eat meals prepared from food grown on the property and get personalized kayaking lessons from Anderson.

“It really pushes you beyond your comfort zone,” Chappell said.

For three days, the KU women paddled their way through some of most beautiful scenery in the country. The Boundary Waters region straddles the border between the United States and Canada and is known for its vast network of waterways and wildlife viewing opportunities. Chappell said the group saw bears, woodpeckers, loons and deer.

And although they enjoyed the majesty of nature, the kayaking is quite physically demanding. The women must not only paddle for hours at a time, they load and unload all of their own equipment each day.

This was the second trip to Minnesota waters for Chappell and the third for Messick. This year, Chappell, who has limited vision, was able to kayak by herself with help from the other women. Messick said that was her favorite part of the entire trip.

“Seeing Mary out there by herself, so confident, was just wonderful,” Messick said.

Chappell was able to kayak solo with the help of voice cues from a partner.

“You steer with your feet, so they would tell me, ‘Push on left.’ Everybody wanted to help. It was pretty cool,” she said.

In addition to kayaking, the women attended the Two Harbors Kayak Festival, shopped for homemade syrups and jellies at a local mercantile and visited the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn.

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