“Why does the Boundary Waters need to be saved?” I was asked that question in late August when I joined nearly 100 others in volunteering at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters booth at the Minnesota State Fair. I was happy to answer questions like that by sharing how the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining threatens the wildlife, habitat, interconnected waters and surrounding communities of the Boundary Waters.
Located to the right of a sausage stand and across from the turkey booth in the Dairy Building, our exhibit at the Great Minnesota Get Together featured expansive color maps of this spectacular wilderness area, three iPads for those who were interested in signing our pledge, a prize wheel where you could win fabulous prizes (aka “free stuff at the Fair”), a large video monitor showing our new animation video and a photo kiosk with a wilderness backdrop where people could send themselves a memento of their support.
As the morning wore on, orange stickers dotted the maps as people selected their favorite places in the Boundary Waters. And then the iPad screens had to be cleaned after being touched with fingers that had already seen their share of greasy fried food! One of the main benefits of being at the Fair is the sheer volume of people you can reach – we had seven staff members and volunteers at our booth and were consistently busy throughout my shift.
And, as we were in the Dairy Building, it seemed like everyone who walked by or stopped at our booth had ice cream. (I decided my favorite was the strawberry rhubarb sundae. I also decided that Great Old Broads for Wilderness was my favorite of all the partners listed in the booth.)
The overwhelming majority of people I had the chance to chat with were either unaware of the issue and interested in learning more or already knowledgeable about the topic and eager to sign our pledge. Several people thanked me for being there and one gentleman, with a look of bewilderment on his face, said “I don’t see how this is even a question.” It seemed one woman had specifically sought out our booth. With a very serious expression on her face, she saw our petition and asked, “Where do I sign?” In addition to Minnesotans, we had visitors from Ohio and Illinois who weren’t familiar with the Boundary Waters, but had enjoyed their time at national parks and appreciated the efforts to conserve those areas.
As with most exhibitions, a few people politely declined to take our information (and one man memorably said, “I don’t want to know nothing about nothing”) but I was impressed because when I left to spend the rest of the day at the fair with my family (it’s a tradition), we had already collected nearly 300 signatures – pretty amazing for the first morning! I have portaged some of the lakes and used a few of the campgrounds in the Boundary Waters so I know firsthand what a privilege it is to have this pristine wilderness right here in Minnesota.
After all the deep fryers have been turned off and another state fair is in the books, the work of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters continues. Onward!
During the 12 jam-packed days of the Minnesota State Fair, 90-some volunteers helped in the booth, more than 9,000 people signed our petition and more than 1,300 people and families used our photo kiosk to send pictures to decision makers.
It's almost time for the Minnesota State Fair. Time to celebrate the end of summer, back to school and all things Minnesotan, like award-winning cows and fancy chickens, Minnesota-made honey and beer, giant stuffed midway prizes, food on a stick, and our natural treasures, like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
I’ve been looking forward to the Fair since I first entered the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters for a spot for last fall. Once we found out space was available, we chose the Dairy Building to make sure we caught crowds as diverse as Minnesota’s population and won’t just be preaching to the choir, but reaching many new people who haven’t yet joined our efforts. We can also keep an eye on the butter sculptures and grab a milkshake when the line isn’t too long!
For the last few months, our State Fair planning team, many of whom are volunteers generously dedicated so much of their time to make this happen. With their help, we've designed and produced a beautiful and educational booth that shows off the splendor of the Wilderness through Brandenburg photos and makes clear the threat posed by proposed sulfide-ore copper mining. The booth backdrop is a huge map where visitors can point out their favorite lakes and see potential mine sites on the Wilderness edge and the path of pollution leading into the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park.
Like so many of our projects, we couldn’t do it without scores of committed volunteers. At our series of volunteer trainings, we've briefed seasoned and brand-new volunteers on our Campaign history and strategy, basic tips for messaging and outreach, and tested out all the elements of our booth. Those fun booth elements include a new iPad pledge app, a prize spinning wheel and a social-media enabled photo-kiosk. All these interactive elements will help draw people to our booth and allow them to take meaningful action that will catch the eye of our decision makers, many of whom will have their own presence at the Fair.
So come see us at the Great Minnesota Get-Together! The Dairy Building is on the south edge of the Fairgrounds, at the corner of Judson and Underwood across from the Haunted House and Agriculture Building. The booth will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. August 27 through September 7.
On August 9, 2015, Kathleen Ferraro will begin a thru-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. Kathleen decided to hike in support of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and use her hike as a chance to educate people about the risk posed to the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining. This blog is the second in a series about her adventure. Read her first post here.
As the start date to thru-hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) draws nearer, my hiking plans grow more concrete. The route is set: south to north, hiking 10 to 19 miles per day. My packing list is complete, my GORP recipe ready and my gear laid out. All there’s left to do is stuff my pack, put on my hiking boots and get on the trail.
In more detail, the route follows the Superior Hiking Trail Association’s guidebook suggestions, meaning I’ll experience all sections of the SHT. The trail largely sticks to the coast of Lake Superior going through various rivers, ridges, peaks, creeks and nearby trails. The end of the trail dumps hikers just seven miles from the Canadian border.
This hike is also an exciting opportunity to meet other adventure-lovers in northern Minnesota. The Superior Hiking Trail runs through myriad towns and state parks, complete with lodges and avid outdoor enthusiasts.
As I mentioned in my first post, my love of the wilderness up north extends to both the SHT and the Boundary Waters. Throughout the hike, I’ll be stopping at lodges in said towns and state parks to disperse Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters literature and collect petition signatures. I’ll be making these stops on the way to and from the SHT, as well as during resupplies every week, though I will be camping on trail.
Anyone I stumble across on trail will likewise be educated about the need to protect the wilderness and hopefully contribute their signature to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters petition. All in all, the goal is to encounter as many individuals and places as possible to spread the word while exploring. The Campaign calls this type of activity “adventure advocacy.”
Only a few more days before getting this show on the road, and I could not be more excited!
Two months ago, I loaded up my parents’ Subaru with all of my belongings, my kayak strapped firmly to the roof, and made the roughly four-and-a-half-hour trip north from St. Paul to Ely, Minnesota. It was not an unfamiliar drive, but rather one that brought back memories of countless journeys that I had made to Ely and the Boundary Waters with my family and friends throughout my young life. Despite the nostalgia, as we neared Ely, I could not deny that this adventure had a decidedly different feel to it, as well as a different purpose.
I made the decision to move to Ely in large part because of the surrounding wilderness, the endless miles of forest to be hiked and waters to be paddled. I also came here to answer a call from this very same wilderness which has given me so much, a call for defenders who will work to protect this uniquely special place now when it needs them most.
I am an intern here at Sustainable Ely, the home of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Along with our Northeast Regional Organizer Jake Flaherty and our fabulous team of passionate volunteers, I help keep the office staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week.
Our mission is to spread awareness about the threat to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining to the people who come to Ely to enjoy this precious wilderness. We work to educate and provide accurate information to visitors about this newest threat to the Boundary Waters, share what this wilderness means to the region and to the 250,000 people who visit this national treasure annually, and tell them how we can all contribute to the effort to protect it.
We also bring the Campaign to exciting events in and around the community, such as the Fourth of July Parade and Blueberry Arts Festival in Ely and the Boundary Waters Expo on the Gunflint Trail. Sustainable Ely also works with the many local businesses who recognize the value of the Boundary Waters and help us in our efforts to protect it by promoting our growing national movement.
If you find yourself in Ely, be sure to stop by. We have a large selection of of brochures and educational materials that will help you understand the issue and let you know why it is so important that we act now to protect this wilderness. Sustainable Ely also has a number of displays that explain where these sulfide-ore copper mines are proposed and the areas that they could impact. These resources are intended to help visitors take an informed stance with regards to proposed sulfide-ore copper mining in the Boundary Waters watershed, but also to provide our supporters with the tools that they need to educate their friends and family about this issue.
The staff at Sustainable Ely are knowledgeable and always excited to have a conversation about protecting the Boundary Waters, a place that we all love and that we want to make sure is here for future generations.
Please come visit us here on 206 E. Sheridan Street to find out more about the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, chat with me about paddling, talk to Jake about fishing hotspots, or find out about the best places to visit in town from the longtime residents of Ely who volunteer here daily. Before you leave, be sure to sign your name on one of our Wenonah canoes and our petition in support of the National Park and Wilderness Waters Protection Forever Act to permanently protect the Boundary Waters from the dangers of sulfide-ore copper mining.
Photo Credit: Becca Dilley
On August 9, 2015, Kathleen Ferraro will begin a thru-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. Kathleen decided to hike in support of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and use her hike as a chance to educate people about the risk posed to the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining. This blog is the first in a series about her adventure. [Katheen pictured on right in photo]
My connection with the wilderness is both old and new. Having grown up in Minnesota, I’ve always considered myself a part of a body of people uniquely attached to the environment--it’s the land of 10,000 lakes, after all. Growing up with wilderness literally minutes away, hiking, swimming, sailing, skiing, camping and biking have always been favorite pastimes. There is also a certain environmental spirit that Minnesota and Minnesotans alike embody: an innate regard for the outdoors in both work and leisure, and physical and spiritual senses. Where going “up north” is synonymous with going outside, where deadly winters are just an opportunity to play pond hockey, Minnesota has a harmonious environmentalist spirit that I love, respect and hopefully embody.
Beyond that, my backpacking days began at Project Wildcat, a pre-orientation program before I started college at Northwestern University. Project Wildcat features a body of student counselors that take incoming freshmen on eight day backpacking trips on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) in northern Minnesota. I did it, I loved it and I became a counselor. Since then, I’ve been planning and leading trips every year with a great group of outdoor devotees.
Since becoming a counselor for Project Wildcat, I’ve done everything possible to continue to engage in wilderness around the world, including working with a guiding company in Iceland and trekking in South America. All the same, good ol’ northern Minnesota is still my favorite place.
Whether its the fact that its home or the many Project Wildcat-related memories I associate with the SHT, I would drop anything to head up north for a few days on trail (in fact, I did drop everything: I’m sitting on a boat in Lake Superior writing this right now). After these experiences, I’m a firm believer that being in the wilderness strips you down to the best, most authentic version of yourself, and if wilderness can do that to me then it's only fair that I do everything I can to maintain the best, most authentic environments on earth.
Naturally, with a few weeks off at the end of this summer, what better adventure to undertake than thru-hike the SHT? And how better to do it than in support of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters? I wanted to do my part to support their efforts to protect the area from the proposed sulfide-ore copper mines. And I was certainly inspired by the adventure advocacy efforts of the Bike Tour to Save the Boundary Waters and Dave and Amy Freeman’s Paddle to DC and upcoming Year in the Wilderness.
What the SHT is to hikers, the Boundary Waters is to canoers. I know that my experiences on the SHT have helped me grow as an outdoor enthusiast and as a person. I also know the power of the Boundary Waters and the impact that wilderness has had on me and many others.
My adventure begins August 9, 2015. Let’s hike!
We are humbled and inspired by the passion shown here by Joseph Goldstein. It’s amazing to see how the Boundary Waters has impacted his life and inspired him to make it his mission to protect the wilderness. The following is a letter Joseph drafted and sent to decision makers in D.C., which he shared with us.
My name is Joseph Goldstein. I am 13 years old, I live in Springfield, Illinois, and in October of 2014 I was diagnosed with leukemia (ALL). I’m writing today to request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the protection of one of America’s most beautiful and pristine wildernesses: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This very special place is at risk from sulfide-ore copper mining, and I have made it my Wish to permanently protect the BWCA from this danger.
When the Make A Wish foundation first came to me, I was pretty surprised and didn’t really know what to say to their offer. The idea of having a wish granted was...uncomfortable. They talked to me a lot about all the Wishes they grant every year – trips and swimming pools and ponies. I’ll admit that I did like the idea of asking for a trip to the North Pole, something my dad and brother and I have talked about doing with our friend and explorer, Paul Schurke, but it just didn’t feel right – it didn’t feel BIG enough.
After we left the hospital, I kept thinking that a wish is an important thing. I think it should be about more than just me. It should be about my brothers and my friends and my parents and all of us – a wish for my generation and everyone after. I have been exploring the Boundary Waters since I was 5 years old, both summers and winters. I know what an important, beautiful place it is, and I know how much my friends and teachers all want to hear more about where we went and what we did. I want them to have the chance to be there and love it, too. I want them all to know what it feels like to pull a huge Pike from the lake, to clean and cook it over a fire they built, and to be able to drink straight from the lake (I know I’m not supposed to but the point is I CAN). Everyone I know is interested, even if they haven’t yet had the chance to experience it, and I want to protect that opportunity for everyone, forever.
Because of my experiences in the BWCA and the friends we have made there, I’ve had the chance to travel to and learn from a lot of other wild places. I have seen, first hand, that a lot of damage has been done because of short sightedness, and I know that there is no “safe” way for the area around the BWCA to be mined. Water and runoff won’t understand man’s boundaries, and sulfide-ore mining for copper and nickel will create destructive pollutants that will poison the water, and kill the fish, the animals and the forests of the Boundary Waters. This type of mining is just shortsighted destruction for temporary gain. I know that there are people who call this job creation, but I hope we can come up with something better.
Wilderness is important. It is important for its own sake. It is also important for the sake of all of us. My dad says that wilderness is a place to learn and grow and be challenged to be more. My mom says it’s a place that can heal who we already are. I think they both are right. I know that the BWCA is a place I want all my friends to see and experience. It is a place I want my brothers to grow up with, too. It is a place I want my kids to know and love someday. It is a place that can change who we are, for the better. It also is a place that can’t protect itself – wilderness relies on us to understand its importance in our lives and guard it for the future.
Nearly 100 years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt understood the need to guard our beautiful, natural resources and began protection of the Boundary Waters. Fifty years ago, the Wilderness Act made those protections stronger. Today, we have a chance to permanently save this special place for everyone, forever. Edward Abby once said, “Wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.” I am proud to use my Wish as a defender of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, asking you and all our leaders to please, permanently protect this beautiful, important wilderness.
Cancer doesn’t make any sense at all, and my mom says there’s no use trying - we can’t choose what happens to us, we can only choose how we respond. My choice, my Wish, is to try to make things better. I’m very grateful that I have a lot of friends who were already working on this, and I truly hope you will join us in this, too.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has always been a part of my life. My father started taking our family there when I was a baby, and it quickly became an annual trip. We would visit other states and Canada, but we would make sure to come back to Boundary Waters. My father would always say the most beautiful place he had ever seen was still the Boundary Waters. I went to the Boundary Waters in 2002, and not long after that I was deployed to Iraq, during the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
When I returned my father was losing his battle with cancer and I could not find my place "back in the world." After my father passed away from cancer, I did not return to the Boundary Waters, though I thought about it all the time. When I returned from my 2008 deployment to Iraq, I began to struggle with PTSD, alcohol, depression and suicide. On the insistence of my wife and friends, I finally went back to Boundary Waters. What I found back in the BWCA was a sense of peace that I thought I had lost forever. I could feel the poison that had infected my soul from the horrors of war being drawn out of me. The trip started the healing process, and when I could make it back it would always refresh me.
This past December I was lucky enough to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine to dogsled in the Boundary Waters. It was through Voyageur Outward Bound School with other veterans. It was on this trip that I finally felt like I could move on from the war and live fully back in the world. On that trip, I found other veterans felt the same sense of healing as I had. The poison that had infected us was pulled out of us by the peace and quiet of the wilderness. Now that peace and quiet is threatened. The mining proposed near the Boundary Waters will forever alter and destroy that peace of the wilderness.
Already the noise of the exploratory activity of the mining interests is doing this. One instructor remarked that a trip for one veterans group that summer was not peaceful because of explosions coming from the exploratory site. These veterans that fought for their country were not able to have the same peaceful experience because of the interests of foreign mining interests. The Boundary Waters and places like it are one of the reasons I pledged my life to this country. The Boundary Waters is a rare commodity in this world, a place that has remained the same as God created it. We can visit it, play and pray in it, or we can destroy it. If this mine goes through, we will forever lose one of God’s most peaceful gifts to all of us.
For more on the importance of the Boundary Waters to veterans, visit Save the BWCA Veterans Group on Facebook.
Every year I like to take a winter camping trip into the Boundary Waters. Just this past week, I joined Vermilion Community College’s Outdoor Leadership and Outdoor Recreation Therapy program as base camp support for students taking solo trips as part of the Outdoor Pursuits course.
My first time winter camping was a painful learning experience; my roommate and I were clearing the Four-Mile portage from Fall Lake to Basswood and we camped out at the start of the portage. On our first night, condensation rained down from the ceiling of our Quickfish 6, a pop-up ice shelter we used. The second night was horrible, as unbeknownst to us the stovepipe had become clogged with soot. Smoked billowed into our shelter forcing us out, coughing and gasping for air while trying to stomp our feet into frozen boots. Both our eyes were burning with tears streaming down our faces. The ski back was brutal. I could only keep one squinty eye open while my partner, who was unable to open his eyes, followed me by the sound of my skis gliding over the ice. The lesson I learned from that trip is to check the stovepipe every day and to avoid burning punky cedar wood.
Since that first trip I have gone on four other volunteer trips that ranged from three to five days long, working to clear dogsled trails and rehabilitate campsites affected by the Pagami Creek Fire. Winter camping is hard work. If we were not clearing trails and cutting down hazard trees, we were constantly gathering wood, stoking the fire and boiling water for hot drinks. The only time it seemed we could relax was after dinner, but after the first few trips I really began to enjoy winter camping.
By the time the Vermillion group reached the landing on Snowbank this past week, it was snowing heavily and I could not wait to put my skis on and get out on the lake. We had two groups that departed at different times in order to stay within the bounds of our nine-person permit limit. After discussing where we would set up our two base camps, the first group of students departed. A half-hour later, Mark and I skied out followed by the second group. We set up our camp on a small bay along the western shore of Disappointment Lake. From there the other students in the group dispersed to set up their solo sites and build a shelter for the night. For their shelters, students just used a tarp set up low to the ground with snow piled up along the sides to block the wind. It was not too cold the first night and all the students were in high spirits.
When we awoke around seven in the morning, the temperature had dropped to negative 10 F. We skipped breakfast and headed out to check on all of the students. Mark and I did not stay the second night; instead, we went back to town. That night the temperature dropped to negative 25 F. I was a little worried about some of the students out on Disappointment, but knew they all had solid shelters and warm sleeping bags. Sunday morning we headed back to Snowbank to pick up the students.
Just as we got to the landing, we spotted the second group returning across the lake. Their faces were red and frosted over; one of them had the biggest ice-coated beard I have ever seen. The wind was coming out of the northwest that day and it was bitter cold. We drove out on the ice road to wait for the first group. After half an hour of waiting, we decided to head down the portage into Parent to see if we could find them. We reached Parent at the same time as the first group and helped them get their gear to the vehicles.
I’m sure at times during their winter solo trip it seemed like a brutal challenge to camp out in extreme temperatures, but it is one of those great experiences in college that students will look back on fondly. Getting out and winter camping is a way to see the Boundary Waters in a different light. I think it is important to have diverse experiences in a place; these help build on our relation to it. I have been lucky enough to travel throughout the Boundary Waters and the Crown Lands of Ontario and Manitoba, experiencing the landscapes different moods in all four seasons. These experiences have fostered a deep sense of care for this landscape and have led me to take action to protect it.
Appreciation for wilderness is part of who I am. I think it is a part of all of us. My passion for the wilderness began on canoe trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. I grew up paddling and camping there with my parents. My appreciation has only continued to grow. I've guided dogsledding trips out at Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, played my fair shake of broomball, met adventurers like Dave and Amy Freeman and even embarked on a solo canoe trip.
Living in Ely, a community based on its proximity to wilderness, has turned my passion to action. It led me to a yearlong internship with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters supporting our goal to protect the clean water and forest landscape of the Boundary Waters and its wilderness community out of Sustainable Ely. We started by scrapping old paint off of the façade of a quaint house on the main drag of Ely. There, we collected signatures on a Wenonah canoe to be paddled to Washington D.C. and presented as a petition to President Obama. No one could anticipate that the Paddle to DC would make waves in every town that it passed through, across America and Canada, and become a true movement.
Sustainable Ely serves as the very active birthplace of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. There, we host monthly movie nights, bring in nationally recognized speakers, connect adventurers to the issue and host discussions on the mining threats. Next time you venture out to enjoy the beautiful wilderness lakes and serenity here, stop by Sustainable Ely and see the work that goes into protecting the Boundary Waters and its wilderness-edge communities.
As users of this land, we have to remember that it is not an accident that the Wilderness exists. It is not an accident that some of our most beautiful and precious wild places are set aside for public use. It took action.
Activism and adventure go hand in hand; they are part of our national heritage reaching back to Lewis and Clark, Alexander McKenzie and others who explored and mapped the vast expanses of North American wilderness. Adventure and social change are also not a new idea. Ansel Adams explored and documented the beauty within his favorite wilderness areas, and his images were used to expand the American National Parks System, saving these areas for generations to visit and marvel in, rather than develop.
Protecting wild places comes in many forms. Here are six simple ways that you can do your part as a wilderness traveler and speak for the trees:
1. Learn about the existing threats to the area that you are enjoying. Being informed is the first step to action. Want to understand the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining to the Boundary Waters, scroll our homepage.
2. Do something cool! Next time you go adventuring, share those images and stories with a purpose. We'd love to see your Boundary Waters photos on Instagram.
3. Share your experiences on social media! Next time you post a picture or share a story of your favorite place, tag the organization working to protect it. Share your Boundary Waters story with us on Twitter or Facebook.
4. Find a relevant #hashtag and use it. This is sometimes the easiest way to spread information about an issue. We use #SavetheBWCA.
5. Tweet your representative. Tell them that you care about the issue! Tell Rep. Betty McCollum you love the Boundary Waters, for instance.
6. Work for wilderness! Spend an internship with an organization that is doing good. Working for creative team of fellow outdoor enthusiasts will not only serve wild spaces, but also inspire you in your future work and connect you to the outdoor community. We have openings right now!
Best of luck to any of you searching for your voice who will speak for the places that have none. I hope it leads you on many more outdoor adventures!
One of the things I enjoy most about living in northern Minnesota is the constant change seasons. The longer days and brilliant wild flowers of spring, boating and fishing in the summer, fall colors and hunting in the fall, and last but not least, winter—my favorite season of all. For me, winter and dogsledding go hand in hand, and most winters Amy and I live and work at Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge on White Iron Lake.
Shortly after paddling into Washington D.C. on December 2 after our Paddle to DC adventure, Amy and I were back in Ely prepping dog sleds, helping to train and care for 69 sled dogs, and leading our first dogsled trip of the season. The trips typically last four or five days and each week we get to meet people from different parts of the country—even far corners of the world. They come here to experience the wild beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Superior National Forest, and learn to dogsled.
Most the groups are all adults or families, but our last trip was with 16 seventh and eighth grade students and their two teachers from Illinois. They were here for seven nights and we spent three nights camping out on a remote lake called Crockett. I love working with young people because, like the sled dogs, they are full of energy and excitement. With a little guidance and encouragement they will jump into most any task, from collecting firewood and cutting it into pieces to feeding the camp fire, chopping a hole through several feet of ice to gather water, or caring for and working with the dogs.
Our second night at Crockett Lake was clear and cold. After dinner we left the warmth of the fire and walked through the cold night air onto the frozen lake. The moon would not rise through the scraggly spruce trees across the lake for another hour and the Milky Way shimmered overhead.
I helped the kids find the North Star and pointed out a few of the constellations, which we take for granted, but are hard to see from their urban backyards. More than anything they were taken back by the silence. When they finally quieted down, which a group of kids that age rarely do, there was total silence, no cars, no wind, nothing but the sound of the cold snow shifting under people’s feet as they shifted their weight from side to side to try and stay warm.
The silence was broken by the faint call of wolves in the distance, which elicited a chorus of howls from the 22 sled dogs bedded down back at our campsite. We returned to the warmth of the campfire to fill everyone’s water bottles with boiling water and have a snack before bed. Then each kid ran back into the cold to stick the water bottle into his or her sleeping bag to help warm it up before climbing in for the night. As I headed off to bed I wondered how everyone would sleep. Surely some would sleep well and others would wake up several times and have trouble sleeping, but regardless, they were making memories that will stay with them for a long time.
Helping people experience dogsledding, sleeping on a frozen lake, the silence and beauty of this place, and the skills and confidence gained through wilderness travel reminds me why the Boundary Waters is so special. This thought helps me focus my efforts to help protect the Boundary Waters for future generations. Amy and I will continue to introduce people to the joys of dogsledding and the winter woods for a few more months, but we are also continuing our work with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters to educate people about the threats that mining in a sulfide ore body bring to this region. Last Saturday I gave a presentation about Paddle to DC at the REI in Bloomington, Minnesota, that was hosted by the Minnesota Canoe Association. Save the Boundary Waters Volunteers Ann Cosgrove and Margot Monson were there with a table full of information to share with people—thank you Ann and Margot!
On March 14, Amy and I will be speaking at Canoecopia, which is the world’s largest paddle sports expo, in Madison, Wisconsin, and we will be volunteering at the Save the Boundary Waters booth throughout the weekend. Plus, we will be speaking at the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis the weekend of April 24-26. We are also planning events at the Patagonia stores in Chicago and St. Paul in April. I hope you can join us at one of these events—and bring a friend or two with you!
Dave Freeman and Amy Freeman were named National Geographic's 2014 Adventurers of the Year. They lead educational adventures through Wilderness Classroom. Paddle to DC, their 2,000-mile, 101-day paddle (and sail) from Ely to Washington, D.C., last year supported the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.