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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


Full Circles at Wilderness: the Promise of Renewal

One of our favorite times of the summer at Wilderness is when the Nominations campers arrive on base. Because of their positive attitudes and great work ethics, these campers were nominated by their previous guides to return to Wilderness to complete a longer, more challenging trip. This year, we had the opportunity to guide a “Noms” group that paddled east along the border route, ending with the 8.5-mile Grand Portage to Lake Superior.

Nominations Campers!

This trip was meaningful in the ways that most canoe trips are. Our shared struggles and triumphs quickly fused our group together, and we shared many laughs along the way. This trip was especially meaningful for us guides because we were both Noms campers ourselves in 2009 and 2011. It was surreal to be leading the same trip that we had participated in as campers – it felt like our Wilderness journeys were coming full-circle.

Jarrod and Rachel! 
Camper Rachel, on Nominations in 2009!

We see these full circles everywhere at Wilderness: campers become guides, birches and aspens grow taller each year, and burned pieces of land become blueberry patches. Wilderness is always in cycles of growth, renewal, and change. At the same time, Wilderness is also a constant, steady home to return to and an ever-growing family comprised of all the people that are connected to this place. As we’ve both discovered, Wilderness is a place that takes hold of people and never really lets them go. We are so grateful to be a part of this place and its beautiful, changing cycles, and we know that it will continue to be an impactful, sacred space as our campers become guides and the cycles continue.      

— Rachel Enwright and Jarrod Klopp, Canoe Guides 2015

Notes from a Swamper

The 10-hour drive to camp from my hometown began with familiarity as my dad and I drove on roads and passed landmarks we recognized. Only once we were through Duluth did I begin to feel like a stranger in a new land.
Wisconsin to Minnesota – not too different, right? They’re neighbors! Farther and farther north we drove, without the destination appearing to inch any nearer on our cell phone’s GPS. I began to feel very, very small. We had only driven between two states in one of the world’s largest countries that takes up only a fraction of the globe- and THAT trek felt huge.
Having spent a few days at WCB now, I have done many new things and seen even more beautiful sights than I could count, but the one thing I have certainly gained is perspective. It’s been incredibly humbling to sit on enormous rocks that have been in their spots since before humans, or to stare up at the vast night sky and imagine all the possibilities of eyeballs that have seen the same sky- voyageurs, explorers, cartographers, or a gentle moose.
The vastness of God’s creation should never be belittled. Being here for the first time has allowed me to look at the little red squirrels in the woods with the same understanding and compassion as I would look at my own sister. Because in the family of God, every creature, tree, and drop of water are brothers and sisters in Christ.


Haley Winckler, Swamper, July 2015

Sunrise, Sunset

This summer, my first
summer working as a canoe guide at Wilderness Canoe base, I have gained a new appreciation for sunrises and sunsets. During my time spent on base, I often spend my evenings observing the sunset view easily seen from upstairs of Pinecliff. It’s incredibly peaceful to watch the sun dip down behind the spires of the
chapel on Dominion, the sky tinted orange with the heat of day and the clouds pink and wispy and the trees silhouetted to black. Once I even watched the sun set twice in one evening, first down low from the dock, then again much higher up in Pinecliff. I think that the reason I like sunsets so much, apart from their obvious aesthetic beauty, is that they offer a time to slow
down and focus on accomplishing absolutely nothing, a luxury seldom afforded to

Sunsets on trail have an entirely different meaning. It is rare that I actually
get to see a sunset while leading a group on trail, sometimes because my selected
campsite is not west facing, but more often because I like to get my groups in
bed by 8:30 pm, exhausted from waking up at 5 am and a long day of paddling.
However, the few times I have witnessed a sunset on trail have been special
moments for my campers and I, perhaps because they were some of the only quiet
moments from the trip, or perhaps because the sunset touched everyone in a
different way although we experienced it together. I think of a quote from
“Paddle Whispers” by Douglas Wood, “So why… why go through it?
Why even be here [in the Boundary Waters}? […] Because “here” is
where the beauty is. Here is where the sunsets are.”

Before my times on trail this summer, I had seen very few sunrises. Usually I
like to get up before my campers, gathering my personal belongings, lowering
the food pack (hung high in the trees to protect from bears}, and heating up
some camp-stove coffee in peaceful silence before the hustle and bustle of the
morning begins. During these quiet moments I am able to enjoy the beauty only a
morning on trail can offer, as the fog clears from the still lake, not yet
stirred by traveling canoes and afternoon winds. Therefore, for me, seeing a
sunrise is often a solitary endeavor, a chance to gather my thoughts and
prepare for the day ahead.

Although you may not be spending your summers in the BWCA like I am, I
challenge you to find your own meaning in sunrises and sunsets, and enjoy the
beauty and tranquility only they can offer.

– Megan Ecker, Canoe Guide


Reflections on a Mosquito

One does not need know me long in order to find out how much I hate mosquitoes… especially in
a place like the Boundary Waters, where every molecule of air seems to produce another
mosquito.  I can frequently be seen doing a strange mosquito-swatting dance while making weird yelling noises when those tiny, humming bugs are particularly fierce.

About this time last year, I determined that I would probably achieve enlightenment the day I found out why mosquitoes exist. Well, today I’m here to report back.  No… I still haven’t learned why they exist, nor do I expect I will anytime soon.  But I have had a few realizations in the past year, and one in particular pertains to mosquitoes.

The outhouses at Wilderness Canoe Base are a great way to attain information.  There are posters about nearly every plant and animal you can find up here.  One day earlier this summer, I found myself reading a poster about luna moths.  I wasn’t trying particularly hard to retain the facts I was reading, but one fact stopped me.  Did you know? Luna moths store up all their food and energy in their caterpillar stage and don’t eat at all once they become moths.  They only live about a week and their primary goal before their death is to reproduce.  My first thought was, “if that’s all they do, why do they even exist?!” A couple days later, I read a similar poster about mosquitos, and was once again awed by their short lifespan and how they only eat (mostly our blood) and reproduce during that time.  Once again, my thought was “Why do they exist?”

And then it hit me.  “Why do we exist?  Why do humans exist?” Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question any more than the same one in reference to mosquitoes.  Biologically speaking, homo sapiens really aren’t that different from mosquitoes and moths.  We may live much longer and place more meaning on our lives, but our main focus as a species is to eat and to reproduce.  Furthermore, humans certainly must do more harm to the Earth than mosquitoes do, mostly because we live as though the Earth and all its creatures exist almost entirely for our
use and benefit.  I suppose I can’t say for certain that mosquitoes don’t  act and feel the same way, but it seems to me that they are more “one” with the world and creatures around them than we are.

These thoughts reminded me of a song that has sort of become my motto or “spirit song” when I am up here.  Now I recognize that the Disney movie Pocahontas is not historically accurate, but it conveys some strong messages and the song Colors of the Wind is one of the more profound songs I’ve heard in my life.

You think you own whatever land you land on.

The earth is just a dead thing you can claim

But I know ever rock and field and creature

Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.

You think the only people who are people

Are the people who look and think like you.

But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger,

You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.

Come run the hidden pinetrails of the forest.

Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth.

Come roll in all the riches all around you

And for once, never wonder what they’re worth.

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers.

The heron and the otter are my friends.

And we are all connected to each other

In a circle, in a hoop that never ends.

I find these words to be so humbling. Though intended for a European settler arriving in the “New World” in the 17th century, they are still so relevant today.  We, humans, so often see the world as something for our benefit and we question the existence of things that don’t benefit us…like mosquitoes.  But this song, though it does not speak explicitly of God, can be understood as saying that all living things, all of Earth, all things under the sun are equal and beautiful to God.  Even living and non-living things are equated – “the rainstorm and the river are my brothers.
The heron and the otter are my friends.”

Furthermore, there are so many systems, processes, and cycles that connect all beings, that the complexity of the human body and brain is only a mere reflection of the complexities of the earth and the roles of each drop of water, each landslide, each sunset, and each mosquito. Who am I to say that I am of more value than a luna moth because I am bigger and live longer?  It, like myself, is part of God’s great colorful canvas of creation.

Perhaps my favorite part of “Colors of the Wind” is the refrain:

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the bluecorn moon?

Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grins?

Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain?

Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Those last two lines especially catch my attention, because they don’t immediately make sense.  Of course, mountains can’t really sing and the wind has no color, because it can’t truly be seen at all.  Yet, as I dwell longer on the lyrics, I once again consider the complexities of the world that we likely haven’t the capability to understand.  I am only limiting myself by dwelling on what my senses tell me the wind and mountains cannot do.  By opening my mind to the possibilities that mountains can sing and the wind can have color, I am also expanding my senses to endless possibilities of new experiences and understandings.

There was a time when our senses were all we really had to survive in the world.  People would track animal herds for food, smell the coming of a storm, taste whether berries were good to eat or not, feel the warmth of a fir, and listen to animal calls for warning signs.  But as our technology has advanced, we have weakened our senses and our value of them.  God gave us five (or more) incredible senses so that we could navigate, appreciate, and learn from the world.  We should make a goal to focus on expanding our senses, one at a time or all at once – taste the sunsweet berries of the earth, smell an approaching storm, touch the hand of a friend, hear the waves hitting a canoe, see the spider webs that thread between all things.  By doing so, we open ourselves up to the complexities and connections, to the colors and songs, to the simple beauties that God created… and, if we’re lucky, we might find the value of a pesky little mosquito.

— Solveig Orngard, Naturalist at WCB, Summers ’14 and ’15

A Place to See God

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
Psalm 32:7
It is impossible to talk about a place without recognizing the people that exist within that place; the relationship between people and place is complex and dynamic. At Wilderness Canoe Base, the physical land that comprises the Cove, Fishhook Island, and Dominion Island is intertwined with the intangible essence of the community that thrives upon it. Some of the summer staff have shared about certain places in camp that transcend this boundary between the self and environment and how these places facilitate experiences with God. The interviews below will provide a glimpse of these special places to tide you over until your next visit to Wilderness!

David (pontoonist, rock tech, maintenance)
  •  Tell me about your favorite place in camp.
    • The bridge – I like it because from an architectural standpoint it’s so different than anything else. It connects the two main islands and without it things would be dysfunctional. You get more of a view here than anywhere else on camp. We go over it every morning and the water is like glass. It’s also nice to see it at night with the stars – it’s like you get opened up to an entire new world. When the sun is setting and you get pink reflected off the water it’s nice to be above eye level.
  • Tell me about your first impression of this place
    • It’s the first thing you see when you enter camp – this monumental bridge. It both stands out and fits in with the landscape. It’s a nice contrast to the chapel. Walking down it is like walking down a long tunnel. There’s just something really cool about walking on the bridge. I really like the metaphor it represents of connecting the two islands. In my architecture studies I try to make a design reflect the environment around it and in the boundary waters, which is so simple and elegant, the bridge does just that.
  • Tell me how you see God in this place.
    • It’s like the metaphor of God connecting the two islands as one. Without God and without the bridge connecting the two, camp wouldn’t be what it is. The bridge takes so much foot travel, day in and day out, rain or shine, and still supports us just like God supports us. We take care of the bridge. It stands out because it’s not made of the same materials we see surrounding it in nature, just like God stands out in our lives. The bridge is the first thing you see when you enter the islands and God is also the first thing you see when you come to this place. Here you see God’s world, not the man-made world of the cities.

Kennedy (guide)
  • Tell me about your favorite place at camp.
My favorite place in camp is on Sunset Rock, on Dominion.
  • Tell me about an impression or memory from this place
    •  To me, the time that pops into my memory is actually not even during my first summer here, but it was during last summer.This was the first time I came up and I wasn’t on staff but I was just up to help with staff training and cook. The first night I got here, I just walked out there to watch the sunset by myself just because it was the first time I’d been back here in quite a while. I just wanted to be able to sit – and from that point you can see so much of the islands because you can turn around and see Borderline, and you can see Trail Shack and Pinecliff and you can see the tops of the chapel and watch the sunset. It’s like a 360 view.
  • Tell me how you experience God in this place
    • I think I experience a God moment there every time I just sit there by myself in silence. That first time I went there last summer was just really nice because I was coming up for the week and knew that I was going to be part of staff training but I wasn’t going to be able to stay all summer. I was upset about the fact that I couldn’t work here last summer but it was so nice to sit there and I just sat there for a very long time feeling grateful for where I was. Because when you’re sitting on Sunset Rock everything echoes so you can be watching the sunset, but if there are people jamming out to music in Pinecliff you can hear that, or if there are kids playing games on the beach you can see them, or if there’s a camper group on Peanut doing wild things you can hear them laughing too. And it just felt so good to be sitting there watching a beautiful sunset and also be hearing all the laughter and all of the community that’s at camp. It’s the best of both worlds.

  • Tell me about your favorite place in camp
    • My favorite place at camp is Sunset Rock. I love to hike there and then climb on top of the rock and see the whole camp. It’s really cool.
  • Do you have a favorite memory of this place?
    • One morning last year, I got up really early at 4:30 and I walked there and I sat on it and watched the sunrise and it was really cool.
  • How do you experience God in this place?
    • I experience God in that place when I look over his Creation and see from His point of view how beautiful the world is and how small we are in comparison.

Caitlin (Trail Shack coordinator)
  • What’s your favorite place in camp?
    • My favorite place at camp is the boardwalk up to the Confessional (a new outhouse near the tent pads). I think it’s probably the best view at camp because you’re at one of the highest points on Dominion and you can see all the way 360 around Seagull and the islands. It gives the best view of the Chapel during both sunrise and sunset, which are both great. Also, the Confessional is probably the best outhouse because it’s hardly used and it’s a hilarious concept. That’s my favorite spot.
  • What’s your first memory of this place?
    • My first real experience at the Confessional was my first Project Success group last summer. We stayed on the tend pads our first night, and I got up in the morning at probably about 5:30, before I woke my campers up, and I just remember standing on the boardwalk and it was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen at Wilderness. I just stood there for a while and soaked it in. And now that’s my favorite place to go to watch to watch the sunsets or the sunrises after vespers or before first word.
  • How do you experience God in this place?
    • It’s just the views and the fact that you can see the chapel. So watching the morning light come up with the chapel above the treeline in the background, is just really amazing. And how the sun sets and lights up the chapel as if a spotlight in the soft evening
      light is really nice.

Renewal and Thin Places

           In Celtic tradition, it is said that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in “thin places” that distance is even smaller. Harvard Theologian Peter Gomes writes that “thin places” are locations where God’s presence is more accessible than elsewhere, places where the space between heaven and earth, holy and human, meet for a moment. Last night, after sauna-ing and eating popcorn in Pinecliff, Ty, Solveig, David, Emily and I laid outside on the rocks by our cabins and watched the Northern Lights until early in the morning – in that moment, falling asleep under a sky of stars and swirling light, the distance between earth and heaven felt small. Wilderness is a thin place, a place that always seems to say: “God is present here.”
           It seems to me that everyone who visits WCB, whether it be for seven days or for seven years, shares a thread of understanding: what it is to be present, to be in awe, to be tiny in an incredible way. This is the place where my friendships have been the closest, my voice has been the strongest, and my arms have been the sorest. With soreness and a spirit of work comes a sense of purpose, a tangible knowledge of what it means to serve and to give willingly to the patchwork community of visitors who seek this place in search of peace, faith and rest.
          Renewal is important to me because Wilderness has provided me with strength and inspiration, just as much six years ago as a wide-eyed, over-packed camper as it does today. The experiences I’ve had here are meaningful and grounding – from early mornings on the dock to late nights in the kitchen, I am thankful for all of the time I have spent on Seagull Lake. Wilderness is a “thin place,” a sanctuary of green trees and clear, deep waters, a place that has given so much to me, and will continue giving for as long as there are people seeking a place for sunsets and blueberries, for peace and adventure – which, I think, will probably be for a very long time.
                                                – Kate Kinkade, WCB Summer Staff ’14, ’15


The first groups of the summer are on trail!

Matthew 19:13-15

                     The little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. 

                     This week, Wilderness’s first campers of the summer arrived from Project Success, an organization that works with students from the Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools. Along with Project Success comes boundless energy, wide eyes and a seemingly endless number of questions – while watching fourteen trips leave canoe beach earlier this week, I found myself thinking a lot about what it is that makes these kids so incredible. I remember last year, after leading a swim and swamp orientation for a group of 7th graders, one camper confided in me that she hadn’t ever swum in a lake before that afternoon: this unbridled attitude of “I’ve never done this before, but here we go,” is something that is so present in these campers. After my fifth summer at camp, I sometimes forget to stop and look around – watching the kids from Project Success see this place for the first time has helped me to re-open my eyes, and remember how truly incredible Seagull Lake is. I am so lucky to be here!

             Your friend in the woods, Kate

Knowing God, Help us remember what it is to be childlike – to be tiny and
mighty, to be alive and awake. Help us to see your living creation through the
eyes of 100 project success campers, brave enough to spend this week in a big place, in wool and wet shoes and sunscreen. Fill the gaps in our fingers with pine needles and a spirit of exploration. Help us, with patience and openness, to serve and to grow through and with all who we welcome in to this place. Amen!

Hello and Happy Summer! 

Things are starting to come together here at Wilderness Canoe Base as we near the end of staff training! The camper season approaches and we have been busy preparing the islands for all the groups who will venture up the Gunflint the summer! Cleaning and packing gear, First Aid and Wilderness Water Safety Training, perfecting paddling and portaging techniques, and the countless other tasks for prepping the base for our first groups next week. The past two weeks have been a wild mix of preparation and excitement for the weeks to come. 
As a returning canoe guide, I had long been looking forward to returning to Wilderness this summer. I made the long drive north while thinking about great trip memories and friendly faces. I was beyond excited to live another summer as a canoe guide. Since arriving here, another theme has resonated throughout the days: gratitude. Words can barely express how thankful I am to live another season in this place and share the BWCAW with a new group of people every week. Every day I am struck by little moments of beauty. I am so humbled by where I find myself every morning: walking a bridge over clear waters, among cedars, toward an open air chapel, where I sit and listen to the Word of God — living in a community of my peers, all committed to their faith, cherishing the beautiful space where we live, and serving others.
I decided to wander the islands the other night during a clear, sunny evening, and soak in the scenes of Fishhook and Dominion. The blooming lady slippers, young tamaracks, the breeze felt while watching the sunset from atop Dominion, the foundations of Morningside, and many more. My camera and I spent some quality hours capturing scenes that I hope will bring some happiness or good memories or hopeful anticipation for a visit this summer!
Peace to you,
Kennedy Reed 

A Note to the Staff

A few days ago, I was working the lunch shift and I found myself rushing around the kitchen. I hurried
outside to the walk-in refrigerator to get a half-gallon of milk for a few loaves of prairie brown bread I was making for dinner. Covered in flour, I was
met outside the kitchen door by Maggie, the resident blue tick coonhound at WCB
this summer, who was lazily sprawled on a warm, smooth patch of rock, sleeping happily
and quietly in the sun. I sat down next to her and petted her for awhile, listening to the bugs and the wind and the sound of voices coming from the
pontoon. After an entire day of rushing to make food for other people, I did
something for myself – I let myself be still. The bread would still be there
when I came back.
In the rush of staff
training, a joyful (yet busy) week brimming with endless discussions about how
to splint an arm, remedy homesickness, and care for others, don’t forget about
yourself. You are precious and rare and complex, and we need to learn how to
love and respect ourselves in the same way we love and respect this place – are
you not just as deserving of love as any camper, any tree, any baby moose that you find here?
Yesterday, we all
sat in the Pinecliff living room and talked about mental health and care for
the new people we meet this summer; today, I invite you to try factoring
yourself into yesterday’s discussion. Give yourself encouragement, respect, and
– perhaps most importantly – time for rest.
So rest. Retreat. Find
joy in sun-soaked dogs, cold lake water, and late-night discussions of Mulan songs
in the kitchen as Sunday’s cinnamon rolls rise in the oven.
Sunday is the
Sabbath day, a God-prescribed of rest. Be where you are. Stay still and listen.
Sleep deeply, walk slowly, be mindful and present. Ask for what you need. Fold
your tents, do what you have to do, but remember to breathe. Take time to rest!
Take a nap. Take a hike. Go find a turtle.
With love, Kate Kinkade
Maggie on the pontoon

Bill helping in the kitchen

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