Northern Lights Qajaq Society

About Northern Lights Qajaq Society

Northern Lights Qajaq Society is the product of a shared obsession. We’re northern paddlers who have fallen for the subtlety and brilliance of Greenland-style paddling techniques and equipment. Most of us have splashed at the water for hour upon hour and year after year as we’ve attempted to master some portion of the repertoire of Greenland rolls. Others have carved traditional paddles, built Greenland-style boats, or made tuiliks (the combination paddling garment and sprayskirt). Some of us have made harpoons and, to the befuddlement of onlookers, practiced chucking them at imaginary seals.

boatlineupTwelve years ago, our mutual interest got us talking about the idea of a casual get-together, where we could yap about our pursuit without enduring the bemusement of the uninterested. This simple idea was seized on and vastly elaborated by Jo Hamilton, who became the mother and guiding light of the first Traditional Gatherings. Jo steered the Gathering to its original home at a quiet resort near Akeley, MN. She organized piles of food into delicious meals. And she created a welcoming atmosphere that helped make the first Gatherings such a huge success. Her death in 2008 left a tough-to-fill hole in the Gathering, in the Minnesota paddling world and in the broader community.

We reorganized the Gathering to meet some changing desires. As a tip-of-the-hat to a tougher economic climate, we made cuts to keep costs low. We moved the Gathering to the splendid Lake Carlos State Park, where we reserved a group camp site to minimize the cost of accommodations. Requests for more lodging options, desire for bigger water and TPG growth necessitated our move to the Parker Scout Reservation.

The Parker Scout Reservation is on large, lovely and clear North Long Lake, in Merrifield, MN. Our lodge accommodations are varied. Your can bunk in a medieval castle, or camp along the water. If you desire more privacy, there are additional camping areas. The dining hall and pavilion are near the water, and there’s a sandy beach for launching. Driving time from the Twin Cities is about two and 1/2 hours— considerably closer than our former Akeley location, and about the same commute as Lake Carlos.

We also decided not to provide meals for participants. That’s a way, again, to keep costs low. But also it was an acknowledgement that the work of providing meals was creating too much of a burden on the volunteers who handled the job. Again this year, folks, you can eat as simply or as extravagantly as you wish, but you’ll have to manage the cooking yourself.

The future of paddling is in our youth. As part of our association with Qaannat Kattuffiat, and Qajaq USA, we are encouraged to get our youth involved in traditional paddling. As part of our association with the Parker Scout Reservation, we are again encouraged to do the same. As a result, we’ve added a children’s track, a Saturday only event. All attending children (13-18) and Scouts may participate. Scouts will be able to earn a “Sea Kayaking Merit Badge”.

At the 2017 Gathering you can expect to experience what is Minnesota’s original harpoon contest. Throwing a harpoon tests many of your paddling skills, and has been a staple and well loved event for many years. North Long Lake is known for its fishing, so be sure to bring a handline, and participate in our Sunday morning contest. Even with our “catch-and-release” contest, you will need a Minnesota Fishing license!
As always, deep thoughts will be thunk around a campfire. There will be plenty opportunity to say kayak, kayak, kayak over and over again, to people who will regard you as utterly normal. Or, as normal as they are.
If you’re crazy about traditional paddling, consider yourself invited.