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