Giving a Zoom presentation about Wintering in the Wilderness on the shortest day of the year and the first day of winter felt quite appropriate to me. I had the opportunity to reflect on the year that my husband, Dave, and I spent a whole year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in an effort to help the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters call attention to the threat posed by sulfide-ore copper mining being proposed upstream from the BWCAW. That's 366 days (it was a leap year) of camping and traveling under our own power in the 1.1 million acre Wilderness Area. During that year, we traveled roughly 2,000 miles by canoe and ski with three amazing sled dogs, visiting about 500 lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the year. Although it was 5 years ago, I still find myself regularly comparing the present moment to what we were doing on the same day or time of year back then.
As the fall season progressed into winter, we learned to slow down. For all of our previous expeditions, we had to keep moving because we had a destination in mind. A Year in the Wilderness was different— it was about bearing witness to this place we were trying to save and sharing it with as many people as possible by posting photos on social media, writing blog posts, recording a podcast, making a short documentary film, etc. So, the point was not to get somewhere as quickly as we were physically able, but instead to truly experience the BWCAW.
Waiting for freeze-up tried our patience. The holidays highlighted for us the fact that there were no material things that we missed from the outside world. Instead, what we sorely missed were family and friends. Acknowledging certain holidays helped us reconnect. Even though we were physically apart, just knowing we were cooking the same sort of meal and upholding some traditions made us feel as if we were home, celebrating with family and friends.
We added three canine teammates shortly after New Years. Our friend, Frank Moe, dogsledded in to drop off Acorn, Tina, and Tank. Traveling and camping with them added much variety and joy to our days. The new year also brought with it a flood of visitors who trekked in to say hi and drop off some tasty treats. People arrived by foot, snowshoe, ski, and dogsled, helping to make the rest of the winter fly by.
One lesson that I actually didn’t share during the Zoom (but wished I had) was the way in which people have come together to share their unique talents to support this cause. That is, in a nutshell, what Dave and I did— we knew how to paddle, camp, dogsled, and document a journey, so we did just that during A Year in the Wilderness. There are so many who have contributed by using their talents for this cause— writing songs, running for the BWCAW, biking for the BWCAW, writing letters to the editor, you name it, people are doing it. Please keep it up and consider lending your talent, whatever it may be, to this cause.
The light is now returning, both literally and in terms of our efforts to protect the BWCAW. With the change of administration comes a chance for real progress in gaining permanent protection for the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.