Every year, a group of Chrysalis students and their fathers go on an epic adventure in a canoe down the scenic Missouri River. The one-on-one time the girls get to spend with their dads is invaluable, as bonds between them are strengthened through this incredible shared experience. This year, the trip began leaving Horse House at 9 am and traveling to Coal Banks Landing in Eastern Montana on the Missouri River. When we arrived at Coal Banks, we started to prepare our gear in hopes of hitting the river in the early hours of the morning. The next day breakfast began at 7 o’clock, and we started to prepare the boats for the trip. At 9:30 am we were in the river, prepared to traverse fourteen miles downstream to our first riverside campsite.
That afternoon we ventured out on our first hike though an amazing slot canyon, with a foot and a half of water at the bottom of some portions. The slot canyon quickly turned into an awesome obstacle course with many shared laughs and scraped knees. That evening was our first group therapy session where everyone had the opportunity to share how they were feeling in the here and now. Fathers and daughters shared excitement to be spending time together and for the opportunity to build their relationships. Following that, we all listened to a reading of Lewis and Clark’s journey up the Missouri River; specifically of the portion we traveled in the morning. After that we had a little down time, until we were ready to climb into our sleeping bags.
The next morning breakfast was made and there was eager anticipation for us to get out on the river again. Everyone was a little more tired and sore from the day before. The prompt given to each father-daughter team was “discovery”, which they would share together what they discovered in group that night. Time spent in canoes involved water gun fights and battling opposing wind, while paddling up the river. That evening upon arrival at camp, we were met with the storm of the century while cooking hamburgers over an open fire. It was amazing to see fathers and daughters help each other out to pull though the storm. The time spent in the canoes and tents created a unique opportunity for their relationships to grow. Daughters and fathers both expressed feeling more connected during their time spent together on this trip.
The last day on the river was a nine mile paddle to the spot we exited the river and shuttled back to Coal Banks Landing. There we prepared dinner and participated in the final group therapy session. The last session was very powerful to observe and experience. The fathers and daughters each shared why the trip was so important and meaningful to them. The tone of this group was more serious then the night before. After the group session fathers were very appreciative that the group facilitators were able to hold the space they needed to be genuine.
Father-daughter pairs were able to navigate stressful points in their relationship as well as the physically demanding expedition through the water. Girls and fathers alike successfully demonstrated the skills they learned to everyone participating in the trip. Even though the trip was physically demanding, battling storms and winds blowing through the canyons, the fathers and daughters ended with a better relationship then when the trip began.