Shoulder Season Thanks

Wilderness in the late fall is an interesting time. It is filled with preparation and anticipation for the season to come, and “winterizing” is the major theme of the work we do. We take special care of our water system to prevent pipes from freezing, we clean and maintain the heaters in our year-round buildings, we take out docks and motorized boats, we swap the paddles and life-jackets for skis and snowshoes, and we make sure the fire-suppression system is drained and ready for next spring. There is also a sense of urgency to get things done before the lake freezes, which can occur surprisingly quickly – overnight, in fact! Folks who have been at Wilderness in the late fall can probably relate to the predicament of not being able to canoe straight from one dock to another like usual, but rather having to portage the lakeshore around hunks of ice to find a spot to put in and land your canoe! All in all, it’s certainly a busy and dynamic time at the base.

This transitional period runs the risk of being a time in which we are constantly looking forward, rather than mindfully attending to the “now.” Yet this is such an incredible time to be on the Gunflint Trail! Getting a glimpse of a snowshoe hare that has only just started to turn white, seeing the diversity of animal tracks on the snow-covered road, listening to the groans and cracks of the ice at night, and having so many hours of darkness to gaze at the stars or see the northern lights (or have movie nights!) helps to keep one firmly grounded in the present. Being in community with a small but very mighty staff and having the opportunity to spend time in God’s creation during this shoulder season is a gift.

As the fullness of winter rapidly descends upon Wilderness Canoe Base and we eagerly anticipate our next retreat season, we pause to give thanks for the now.

-Kristin Middlesworth, WCB Guest Coordinator & Office Manager

Cedar Sprig Thoughts

Photo Credit: Trent Erickson https://www.instagram.com/tericksonphotography/

If you have been to Wilderness before, you know the tradition here that whenever we leave a campsite, we leave a cedar sprig on the fire grate with a small rock on top of it to keep it in place. I’ve told my campers that we do this for two reasons: first, to show others who camp there next that we have left the site better than we found it, and second, if another Wilderness group camps there next, they can know that friends have been there.

This symbol was also used by the Voyagers and fur trappers when they left a campsite to signify that it was a safe place to camp, a safe place to call home for the night. For the Voyagers and for Wilderness campers alike, this symbol of safety and stewardship is like a big welcome mat as you scope out your home for the night.

This Wilderness Ethic of stewardship and supporting those who follow behind you is evident throughout the generations of those who have come to these islands and lakes. There is a constant cycle of learning from those around you, and then turning around to teach it to others also around you. Everyone has stories of how they came here, what they’ve learned here, of what they’ve taken home with them, but also how they can still come back and call this place a home.

Not only in learning how to paddle, bake bread, or tie a bowline – I’ve experienced this ethic in faith within this community. There are a lot of tangible learning experiences that happen here and therefore people are able to learn a lot about themselves and learn a lot about God. I’ve experienced God’s fingerprints in picking blueberries, wearing rain gear to church, and laughter while washing pot and pans. I’ve been encouraged to ask tough questions, challenge structures, and grow deeper.

I am so thankful for those who have come before me to create opportunities for me to experience this, so that we may in turn pass it on to others down the line. If you spend time at Wilderness, you will be challenged by the steep learning curve, physically and spiritually. As you learn and grow, remember those who have blazed the trail before you, and also remember those who will be following in your footsteps.

-Anna Erickson

Guide ’15, DHS ’16, Program Coordinator ’17

Wilderness Life: A Reflection by Guide Paul Kinkade

Photo Credit: Trent Erickson https://www.instagram.com/tericksonphotography/

This is what my summer was like: Walking into cloudy water with a metal canoe on my shoulders on slippery rocks where I don’t know how deep it is. Making whirlpools in the lake with each stroke of my paddle. Diving head-first into Duluth packs to retrieve duct tape, pot lids, and bags of food. Getting wet up to the elbow dunking water containers in the cool lake and hearing the glubglubglub of bubbles hitting the surface. Feeling the smooth metal of clanking tent poles as I assemble them into a frame. Unhesitatingly stepping my shoes and socks in mud. Hiking over rocks and roots and down slopes and around trees to get from one place to another.

           

Why can I sleep so soundly on the hard ground? Why does rehydrated camp food taste so good? Why don’t I pace aimlessly around the campsite trying to motivate myself to do my work, like I do when I’m at home? Why can I rise and shine at 5 in the morning, when in the city it feels like a hardship to be up before 9? Why does every shipment of eight new strangers end up feeling like family?

           

I noticed that the tasks on trail share a few characteristics. First, they’re tangible. They have a sight, a sound, and a touch sensation that let your mind know you’re working on them, and produce a physical result when they’re completed. Second, there’s always a visceral reward when you finish them: a cold splash in your throat when the water’s filtered, changing into your dry clothes once camp is set up, taking the canoe off your shoulders when the portage is done, food in your mouth when dinner’s cooked, rushing into the mosquito-free (or “mosquito-lite”) tent once the bear pack is hung. Third, they’re necessary for survival. There’s no temptation to procrastinate paddling out to fetch clean water when you and your campers are thirsty. There’s no question whether you are going to set up tarps and rain flys when storm clouds are rolling in, or paddle back to camp before your food runs out. That’s why we can work so hard out here without complaining. That’s why lying on a rock in the sun after a long paddle is so much more restful than guiltily surfing the internet on your bed. That’s why teenagers find it desirable to go to bed at 9:30pm. That’s why the tasks on trail fill us with so much meaning and satisfaction.

           

The tiredness clogging your eyes and weighing down your chest is burned up by the bright sunlight. The tension and self-consciousness about being dirty and smelly is totally lifted as you blend into your surroundings. You’re surrounded by organisms in every stage of life, from newly born, to thriving, to long dead. Nothing around you is square or organized like it is in our human world–nature is wiggly! And it’s all illuminated by the full-spectrum lighting of the sun. You’re on a journey with your tribe-for-a-week–the only friends you’ve got–over hills, through cracks, and around bends, on a venture where you literally cannot see the end. This is the way humans were meant to live.

           

We are seldom reminded that big cities have only been in style for a few hundred years. Most humans who have ever lived have been hunter-gatherers, and the rest were farmers. They lived a hard outdoor life of dirty work under the sun. They lived close to their family and friends, and were forced to work together just to make their livelihood possible. The sun was their alarm clock, and they lived at the mercy of the weather. This is the norm. This is the lifestyle our systems were calibrated for. I think this is why a canoe trip feels not like I’m far from home, but like I’m finally back in my element.

           

By the end of the summer, something about the way I carried myself had changed. I no longer smiled just with my mouth; I smiled from the width of my stance to the looseness of my hips to the openness of my chest. It was like I had settled into my own skeleton. I knew I could turn in any direction and confidently jump into any task I saw. I was simultaneously alert and relaxed. I was absorbed in the flow of life around me.

           

It would be wasteful for me to let this state vanish the minute I leave camp. My life is flexible. I can get out and spend more time in the elements. I can get rid of all my possessions that don’t serve me. (On trail, my personal items fit in a bag the size of a pillowcase!) I can clear my schedule of obligations that don’t fulfill me. I can choose housemates who don’t just live beside me, but work with me every day on projects we care about, be it gardening, making music, pursuing a spiritual path, or serving. I can walk out of my door and go on adventures to places I’ve never been. I can throw it all out and start over if I want. What, from my usual life, did I have with me when I was on trail? And I was happy then.

Help Support Wilderness!

Over the summer season, Wilderness Canoe Base is blessed with all sorts of love and support:  from prayers, to words of affirmation and positive thoughts being sent our way, to generous donations of time and talents and money.  We are always amazed and inspired by the ways in which the broader Wilderness Canoe Base community joins together to help ensure that this ministry continues to run smoothly every year.  In so many ways, it is because of the generosity of people’s time and resources that our staff is able to provide incredible weeks in and around the Boundary Waters for kids of all ages.

Throughout the year, we always have people ask about what other types of items we may need at camp in order to do even better ministry up here.  And so, we decided to put together a list and add it to our blog in case anyone was curious about what type of in-kind donations we are in need of.

In this list, you’ll find things ranging from small (ear protection buds) to big (boats, trailers and snowmobiles), and everything in between.  We obviously know that some of these are much more realistic than others for people to have and be able to donate, but also know that this network reaches far and wide, and wonder if there is indeed someone who has a snowmobile that they are looking to pass along.

Thank you for the support that each of you shares with Wilderness Canoe Base.  Again, we fully believe in the phrase ‘it takes a village,’ and are grateful for the ways in which the Wilderness Canoe Base village loves and cares for this place each and every day.

 

Prayers Of The People by Emily Kimball

Prayers of the People – July 16

Awe-inspiring Creator, thank you for this community here at Wilderness Canoe Base.  We pray for the health and joy of all who share in this space.  We also ask for your guidance as we navigate our community’s imperfections, constantly transforming into something more reflective of you.  Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Cultivator of curiosity, we thank you for the young people who enter this place to paddle and portage.  We thank you for their questions, such as ‘Can owls swim?’ or ‘How does that tree grow sideways out of a cliff?’ or ‘What if we had jet packs on portages?’  We thank you for their minds and we pray that the world can respect their curiosity rather than condemn it.  Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

God of warmth and hospitality, we pray for the health, safety and dignity of our elders.  Our mentors, our parents and grandparents by blood or by choice, our role models, our community leaders – all of whom constantly look after our needs.  We pray that the world is receptive to their wisdom.  Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Gardener of abundance, we also thank you for our elders in our greater creation family.  While we humans recklessly stumble around like toddlers in pursuit of more,
we thank you for the trees.  They are content to plant roots with their neighbors, enjoy the rain and sunlight, create food and medicine and oxygen, and then freely give it away.  May we learn from our elders and care for them in return.  Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Lover of all, we pray for the whole word.  We pray for the humility to admit when we are wrong, the courage to speak about injustice, and the collective motivation to act.  May we recognize how we are complicit in mass consumption, poverty, systemic racism and other forms of oppression, and may we strive for reconciliation so that we can be aligned to how you intended creation to be.  May we transform and be transformed.  Lord in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

God, we lift these prayers up to you, knowing we need you and each other.  May we be the change we wish to see in the world.  Give us the courage to trust you in every step.  Amen.

-Written By Emily Kimball Guide ’17

-Pictures By Nicholas Nicome Camper ’13-’16, Swamper ’17

Reflection by Guide Britt

This morning is motionless. There is no breeze; no leaves rustle as I walk by. A few birds sing, but I don’t try to find them. Instead, I’m listening to the footsteps. Ahead of me are a dozen people on a rocky trail. The crunch of gravel, the rustle of pant-legs against grasses, the occasional sound of a boot sliding across a rock. No voices. Just people walking together.

But I can’t see anyone else. The path winds too rapidly for a lengthy view, and a thick fog hides what land I can see. The fog disperses the trees, disperses the rocks, extends the bridge. When I arrive at the bridge, I can’t see across; it vanishes into nothing.

I can’t see, but sounds are enhanced. As I follow the footsteps, I feel close to the other walkers. The fog hides us from each other, and yet we are drawn together through the sound.

Back in the city, I am often either excited or overwhelmed. I chase the next adventure – going to dinner at that new vegan restaurant, checking out that show at the Guthrie Theatre, meeting a potential new friend for coffee – or retreat to my cozy apartment, my yellow lamps, chocolate-colored curtains, the sofa, the cats. On a cold morning, I grab tea, crank the heater, and avoid going outside. Life is low stakes. Comfortable.

Here, there is little choice. We continue with our scheduled routine and alter it according to safety rather than comfort. Already this year, we’ve hauled concrete under a humid sun and have practiced diving despite the chilling rain. These things must be done despite weather. And our actions, despite weather, because of the weather, draw our community closer together.

I’m pulled back to this place for this reason. I recall waking, last year, to thunder, feeling my body tense at the sight of lightening. It was 3am, but within a few minutes I’d called my campers out of their sleeping bags and under the blue tarp to tremble in lightening stance and to watch the bending trees. I was cold, tired, helpless to the natural world… and yet I find myself back again.

Back at the headquarters of the camp, our community has been gathering this year for numerous routines.  We get up every morning and congregate for First Word before breakfast – a ritual of walking in silence across the bridge, meditating on a Bible verse in the open-air chapel, and returning in silence to the dining hall. We share family-style dinner three times a day and pray before eating each time. We stay up in the evenings to write letters, read, plan day-trips, and chat.

Last night, we didn’t plan, but instead reflected on our past week. Two dozen yellow swallowtail butterflies took flight when someone stepped into a campsite. A little green bug hung onto a sweatshirt for an entire yoga session. A recently matured dragonfly dried its wings on the back of someone’s head. A moose swam out of Canada. And the turtles flicking sand into a small hole – were they nesting or laying eggs?

We share stories and laugh and bond. After all, we have little choice. We come here to an island together and now are stuck with each other for the summer. There is no technology to distract us. No quick trip to a friend or pastor to calm us during a storm. Our problems must be dealt with as they come. So for our safety, we learn to trust each other. And yet, as we support each other, our friendships become our comfort.

Here at Wilderness, we seclude ourselves in community onto an island. Together we come, denying our chocolate-colored curtains and cats, and we choose to live in a place with less choice and less comfort. So why do we willingly come back to this place of restriction? And yet, as I cross the bridge for First Word, as the fog hides our community from my eyes, one of the reasons we come becomes apparent. Because, this place, by its very nature, causes us to experience community in ways we otherwise wouldn’t.

– Written By Britt Bublitz  Guide ’16-’17

– Picture by Mercy Garriga Guide ’17

Winter Camping at Wilderness

Wilderness has borne some of the most uncomfortable and formative experiences of my life, and my first foray into winter camping was to be no exception! My companions were my father, Jeff, an enthusiastic, pastorly man, and Bill, camp manager and wilderness savvy guide, who also happens to be my boss. Dad had dreamt of winter camping for years, and in the Sackett family, dreaming is usually synonymous with obsessing. He had perused website after website, watched countless Due North videos, and had finally met Bill at WCB, who agreed to guide the adventure. After a few days of preparation and 8+ inches of snow, Dad arrived up north and we covered last minute details over malts at Trail Center, as any professional explorers are wont to do.

The morning of our trek was bitterly windy and cold, marking around -10 degrees. We loaded up our sleds with gear (tents, fishing gear, warm clothing, food), and safely burrito’ed them into tarps until they resembled massive body bags. Bill taught us to strap the sled ropes to webbing wrapped around our torsos which would enable maximum power in our pull, and boy howdy, did we ever need that maximum power. As we began the journey away from warm, cozy Pinecliff, I quickly realized that this was no ordinary summertime-single-Duluth pack-on-a-portage trek. These sleds were full of frozen food, metal stove parts, canvas tents, and boots, everything necessary to keep us alive while camping – if we survived the trek.

Bill forged ahead, breaking trail through the mounds of new snow like nobody’s business, and Jeff threw his hands triumphantly in the air, finally achieving his dream (obsession).  I would like to credit the moral support I offered them from the caboose of our train. We ski-trudged along, and as I grew painfully accustomed to my newfound life as a sled-dog, I began to take in the absolute beauty surrounding us. The wilderness blanketed in white, dark pines silhouetted… these were our remedies to ski boots that rubbed and backs that ached.

Once we mercifully arrived at our destination of Miles Island, we raised up the hot tent before starting the work of foraging for firewood. After about an hour, Dad and I had successfully hauled 5 sleds worth of small cedar branches. After about 10 minutes, Bill arrived at camp with 3 giant cedar logs slung over his shoulder. A fitting analogy of our skills, I believe. We snacked and fished the rest of our daylight away, returning to the tent for a night of freshly-caught lake trout, and cribbage (let the record show that bossman Bill lost to me, little canoe guide Hannah). Bill returned to his teepee tent, where he slept the night away. Jeff and I however, faced a steep learning curve of winter camping sleep… should we sleep soundly, let the fire go out, and wake up with potential icicle toes? Or sleep fitfully, at the dying fire’s beck and call? We managed to find a happy medium of both very little sleep and very little warmth – but the only way to go was up! Another beautiful snowy day lay ahead of us, complete with more wood chopping, warm food, and fishing. It’s the simple things, really, and Bill/Jeff were the most hilarious duo I could have asked for. Dad and I worked our way up the steep learning curve, and achieved a much warmer and more restful night of sleep, and we were ready to begin the trek back the next morning.

The trek back to base was warmer, although just as snowy and just as plodding, but as Bill cheerily stated, “Well, there’s no other option! Just think like a horse to the barn door!” Very optimistic for somebody about to break trail through knee-deep snow. We maintained that infectious optimism, stopping to photograph one another and truly admire the breathtaking wilderness landscape surrounding us on Seagull Lake. Dad continued to excitedly throw his ski poles into the air, loving every minute of the exertion because, “WE DID IT”.

Yep, we did, and it was a truly wonderful first experience winter camping. It was gritty, working hard to survive and stay warm. It was sweet, watching my dad realize his dream. It was humbling, swallowing my pride to learn so much from Bill. It was wild, finding otter tracks in the snow, staring down the wonderland of tundra that is Seagull, nourishing ourselves with fresh lake trout. It was sacred, experiencing the stillness of God’s creation in community with two of my favorite people, both of whom have influenced my love of wilderness greatly. When I woke up after my 14 hour sleep the day after, my StoryPeople calendar read: “Trust love. That’s pretty much it…. Except, maybe, drink more water.” Basically, my first winter camping lessons in a nutshell. I invite you to take a step (or leap) out of your comfort zone, and join us at Wilderness Canoe Base! Let’s trek together through this crazy, holy world together.

-Hannah Sackett, Guide ’16 & Retreat Staff ’17 (pictured with her dad Jeff in the top right picture)

Interested in scheduling your own winter trek with Bill? Contact the WCB office at wcboffice@campwapo.org or (218)388-2241

Introducing the Yurt

 

yurt-2We are thrilled to announce the completion of our newest housing option, our yurt-inspired cabin! After a year of planning and many helping hands over the summer and fall, it is open for business!

The Need:

Wilderness is seeing an increased need not only for more housing in general, but a desire specifically for family-sized housing units thanks to our growing number of families who are visiting both in the summer and year-round. Furthermore, our growing retreat season numbers dictate a need for more winterized spaces. This new building addresses both of those needs while also providing a unique housing option for outdoor adventurers looking for a new way to get outside.

 

 

The Specs:img_4674

This 12-sided wooden cabin boasts all the charm of a traditional yurt while providing a permanent structure to serve our guests for years to come. It is a fully winterized building for up to 4 guests which utilizes a wood-burning stove for heat and solar power for lighting. It is located near the beginning of the Janzig trail behind Selah cabin.

Take a virtual walk through of the yurt!

 

The Helping Hands:

Hauling lumber to the yurt site

The volunteer participation in this project was enormous! We received significant design and construction help from general contractor Jack Harness who helped us transform our vision into a reality. Once the building process began, we had help from work-service summer groups, church work-groups during the retreat season, summer staff members, retreat staff members, and casual volunteers from May through October of 2016. We are so thankful for our volunteers!

 

We would like to specifically recognize:

  • Our Saviour’s, Minneapolis MNimg_4675
  • Christ Lutheran, Marine on St. Croix MN
  • Lord of Life, Baxter MN
  • First Lutheran, Amery WI
  • Como Park, St. Paul MN
  • Christus Victor, Apple Valley MN
  • Normandale, Edina MN
  • Mt. Olivet, Plymouth MN
  • Our Redeemer, St. Paul
  • Prince of Peace, Brooklyn Park MN
  • Shepherd of the Hills, Shoreview MN
  • Grace, Albert Lea MN
  • Hope Lutheran, Minneapolis MN
  • National Smokejumper Association

 

The Future:

imgp4128Plans are underway for a second yurt to be constructed nearby to the first one in 2017. This would allow an entire canoe group to be housed between the two yurts, or two families or smaller groups to have more private housing. We are looking for members of the Wilderness community to contribute to this project with the knowledge that we cannot do it without you! Donations can be made online or in the mail (for more info please click here) and be sure to designate your funds to the project. If you would like to volunteer your time and talents, please send us an inquiry at wcboffice@campwapo.org so we can get connected with you!

Come Visit!

Email wcboffice@campwapo.org if you want to come stay in our yurt (or any other cabins, for that matter!) We would love to host you.

Community Singing

This summer, a new tradition began at Wilderness – Naturalist Solveig and Guide Alison introduced us to “community singing.” Community singing is singing in the oral tradition for the joy of singing. There is no audience or performance – everyone sings, regardless of musical ability. Community singing songs are taught by rote, not sheet music, and often include layered parts, harmonies, and rounds.
In the beginning of the summer, Solveig and Alison taught the staff lots of community singing songs that many guides in turn taught their campers on trail. On base, we shared community singing songs at Sunday church, evening Vespers services, and campfires. By the middle of the summer, it was not uncommon to hear community singing songs sung spontaneously in Pinecliff or hummed along trails – Wilderness was full of beautiful music!

IMG_8969

Solveig, teaching us a song during vespers.

Community singing is fabulous for many reasons. The songs themselves are lovely. They are often short and repetitive, but full of thoughtful and inspiring messages. For example, in “One by One” by Michael Stillwater we sing “One by one everyone comes to remember, we’re healing the world one heart at a time.” Or in “Humbly” by Laurence Cole, we sing “Humbly we walk here, humbly we sing here, humbly we bless this ground / Humbly and with gratitude, remembering the ancient ones who walked this ground / Humbly we walk this ground with the spirit of blessing in our hearts.” These lyrics are especially powerful when sung by many voices.
Community singing is also wonderful because it perfectly fits the spirit of Wilderness. Community singing is all about making music accessible to everyone, regardless of musical ability, much like Wilderness aims to make canoe tripping and wilderness experiences accessible to everyone, regardless of canoeing or camping experience. The lyrics of the songs, and the act of singing together in harmony, evoke the commitment of Wilderness to community building, peacefulness, faith, and love. We are so thankful to Solveig and Alison for teaching us the tradition of community singing and we are excited weave these songs and this type of singing into the fabric of Wilderness.

 

-Emily Spoden, Program Coordinator 2015

Blueberry Season

An exciting time has come in the north woods: blueberry season.  Whether it is by the sauna, on the Janzig nature trail, or on a portage, these little morsels can be found everywhere, and often in seemingly endless quantities.

The staff go on hikes around camp, relaxing and picking berries, and bring back yogurt containers full of the blue gems.  Visitors at camp do the same, enjoying the free, fresh fruit that does not grow in the cities down south.

One thing that struck me as I filled my bag one day, collecting some berries to bring home to my family, was that there were so many berries.  We could all go out and pick for hours, taking large jugs back, and there still would be countless berries.  This almost endless supply reminded me of one of the passages I read on trail, from Psalms 139.

 

Your eyes saw my unformed body;

    all the days ordained for me were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.

 

How precious to me are your thoughts, God!

    How vast is the sum of them!

 

Were I to count them,

    they would outnumber the grains of sand—

    when I awake, I am still with you.

 

Psalm 139:16-18

 

Since I cannot fully comprehend the vast number of grains of sand, I likened this verse to the blueberries.  No matter how many picked, there were always more.   If these berries seemed endless, how vast the grains of sand must be!  And God’s thoughts about his children outnumber the sand, and outnumber the blueberries.  This was a humbling fact as I watched new groups each week go and pick in the abundant berry supply.  God’s thoughts and plans about me outnumber these berries! 

Another interesting fact about these lovely blueberries we have enjoyed is that they would not be possible without the clearing of trees that was made by the Ham Lake Fire in 2007.  The burn area has fewer trees, more sun, and more acidic soil, making it a perfect habitat for the blueberry plants.  We would not be able to enjoy these little blessings without the destruction of the fire.

Sometimes God works in mysterious ways.  Sometimes the tragedies and the hardships are just making a more fertile soil for his countless blessings to spring forth, much like our lovely blueberries. His thoughts, blessings, and mercies keep coming…and coming. They outnumber the blueberries on the island; they outnumber the grains of sand.

Alison Vuolo, Canoe Guide 2015

 

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