A Year in the Wilderness

From the Freemans: Our yearlong adventure in the wild begins

Sep 25, 2015
Amy Freeman
Large group of supporters holding up paddles standing near Boundary Waters

What a whirlwind of activity! The past few days have flown by as we wrapped up all our final preparations, then packed our bags and took part in several farewell gatherings. The first day of fall lived up to expectations. After a week of gorgeous weather, September 23 was rainy and chilly. That didn't stop 80-some hearty souls from showing up for the launch of A Year in the Wilderness at River Point Resort and Outfitting Company. I'm continually impressed by the dedication of the folks we meet, devoted to protecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from sulfide-ore copper mining. 

Thank you to everyone who showed up and everyone who has pitched in to help make this project a reality. Thank you to the Koschak family for hosting the launch event at their resort. Thank you to the many businesses and individuals that have donated equipment, food, clothing, time and money. Thank you to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters for the hours and hours of work that you've put in behind the scenes—doing everything from sending out press releases to seam-sealing our tent.

Also, a special thank you to the folks who offered to bring in homemade treats on various resupply missions. Multiple people asked about our favorite kind of chocolate (dark) and we have received offers to deliver homemade granola, chicken chili made with heirloom beans, and dehydrated vegetables grown in peoples’ gardens.

On Wednesday, folks launched canoes and kayaks to paddle the first couple miles with us on the South Kawishiwi River, from River Point to the Highway 1 bridge. A sense of finality settled in as we crossed under that bridge, leaving behind our friends and family. During our two-mile paddle with that flotilla of 40 people in canoes and kayaks, people were laughing, telling stories, offering last minute advice and even singing. The serenade of “Happy trails to you” brought a tear to my eye. 

Three more miles and then we reached the Boundary Waters. Those initial portages were quick and easy. And the rain held off, despite the thick blanket of clouds

We saw several bald eagles as we paddled; one even perched on top of a white pine, surveying the water below. My favorite eagle sighting happened shortly after landing at our campsite. A bald eagle flew low overhead, directly over us and then out over the river.

We're in a five-star campsite. It has a perfect canoe landing spot, sloping granite allowing for optimal sitting and thinking right near the water’s edge. We found a good space for our tent and the view from the fire grate is panoramic.

In the days leading up to our departure, I've been relishing my final opportunity to do some things—like my last chance to eat out for a year, last shower for a whole year. People have actually pointed some of these things out to us … last chance to sleep in a warm bed under a roof, last salad loaded with locally grown vegetables. The thing is, I'd rather focus on what there is to look forward to out here. Sure, we are making some sacrifices by being out here for a full year, but in many ways we are pretty darn lucky to have the chance to observe this place in all seasons.

We're really looking forward to sharing our observations and stories with you throughout the year. Please share A Year in the Wilderness with your friends and family, and encourage them to check out all the great information compiled on the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters website in order to learn more about the threat, the science behind our concerns, and what you can do to ensure that this special place is permanently protected from sulfide-ore copper mining within the watershed.

Dave and Amy Freeman, 2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year, are dedicated to protecting the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining proposed on its wilderness edge. In 2014, they paddled and sailed 101 days and 2,000 miles from Ely, MN, to Washington, DC, on the Paddle to DC. They are now spending a year in the Boundary Waters on A Year in the Wilderness. Follow their journey on social media (#WildernessYear) and by tracking the trip on their map. More A Year in the Wilderness blog posts.