A Wilderness Canoe Trip Goes Downhill

The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?


This morning, day seventeen, my blueish lips burned in the freezing wind and my soaked hair clung to my face. In what seemed like moments, however, I was in the canoe, watching the sun begin to rise above the calm Canadian river. Cicadas serenaded us and the rain had finally stopped. Today was beginning to look up after yesterday’s exhausting six hours of walking our canoes through a turbulent river.

I looked at the canoe to my right and noticed Olivia, one of the other girls, mouthing something. Confused, I looked at my boat partner and trip guide, Dana, but she wasn’t paying attention. Glancing at Olivia, I then realized she was mouthing, “Where are the fire irons?”

There’s no way I forgot the fire irons. We’re miles down the river already! Fire irons, although simple, are an important campsite tool. The two metal rods are the only thing protecting our pots, full of food, from being engulfed by flames. Desperate, I turned to check, only to see they were nowhere. How could I have let this happen!? Dana was unaware of the unfolding catastrophe. I turned to Olivia for help.

“Uh...Dana? Where are the fire irons?” Olivia asked.

“Whadya mean?” We had paddled seven kilometers with the current and now, with eighteen days left, we had...

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