Boyd 1996
Dave 1985


Trip Description  History  Rules  Grin and Bear It 

trip description

the he-man canoe trip is an annual canoe trip in northern wisconsin's vilas county. the trip typically starts on the friday night of memorial day weekend and ends on the evening of memorial day. it includes crossing beaver dams, portages and paddling up stream. the first night is spent at the roloff's cabins, the other two nights are spent at dnr canoe campsites within northern highland state forest. 
besides the competitions listed below, there are many traditions with the he-man canoe trip. traditions include the trout lake swim, he-man t-shirts, and monday supper at paul bunyan's in minocqua. and of course, a considerable amount of time in the evenings is spent around the camp fire recalling the adventures of previous he-man canoe trips. 


in 1984, dave becker and boyd roloff were looking for a diversion while studying for exams at university of wisconsin, madison. boyd's family owned a cabin in northern wisconsin. dave and boyd decided to do a canoe trip which ended at trout lake, where the cabin was locate. in may after final examines, boyd's mother dropped dave and boyd off at high lake where the adventure began. a combination of factors made the trip difficult: inexperience in canoe camping, extremely high winds and waves on island lake, not knowing the route, and not being prepared for paddling up the current of trout river. at least dave at the end of trip believed that this was a once in a life time experience that was not worth repeating. 

in early 1985--after some of the painful memories of the trip were forgotten--dave and boyd decided to invite four of their friends to canoe on a similar trip. it was decided that the trip should be called the he-man canoe trip because of it's difficulties. and then the traditions of the trip began to form. 

a number of different routes have been used (see alternate routes). a circular route which begins and ends at trout lake was settled on as the best route (see route). as both the experience of the participants increased and the equipment used improved, the trip was getting too easy. a number of competitions were added to make the trip more challenging. 


the following are not allowed on the trip:  there are also the following rules: 

Grin and Bear It

Essay by Dave Becker - 2016

One of the characteristics of the He-Man is stocism. It is a trip that pushes your physcial limits. And as a result of that, participants experience pain. But we do not want to hear about it.

As I reflect on this characteristic of the He-Man, I realize that much of it comes from the founders of the trip. Boyd and I where both born with physical disabilities (Boyd's more severe than Dave's). Since childhood both of us have experienced pain and clumsiness. But that is not something that we advertise and generally talk about. In fact the He-Man is a chance for us to push ourselves despite our physical limitations.

There has been a disturbing trend the He-Man. As some of the participating He-Men get older, they have fallen into the habit of giving updates on their aches and pains before the trip. Such things as: "I'm recovering from a back injury" or "I have battled a sholder injury". Even worse is during the trip some will whine about how much they are hurting and then win one of the physical competitions.

My honest response to this is GRIN AND BEAR IT. Of course if you are experiencing a medical emergency during the He-Man and need to get evacuated from the trip - we want to hear that. But I don't want to hear about you aches and pains. Let you Yes be Yes to the He-Man and your No be No. Don't couch your participation on the He-Man with a maybe if I feel good enough. If you can't go on the trip without whining about how you feel - then maybe you shouldn't come.

Yes, as I get older certain parts of the He-Man are more difficult for me. My physical recovery is getting slower and I have certain past injuries that will always bother me during the He-Man. But I want to retire from the He-Man as a He-Man. Lord willing I will be able to particpate in 10 or 15 more He-Mans. But I don't want to be remembered as a He-Man that in his last years fizzled out - complaining along the way.

Therefore I ask all future He-Men to Grin and Bear It.

he-man canoe trip web pages 
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last update:  05/25/16 May:05:1464219843