Where’s Your Place in the Wilderness?

     I read a thought provoking article and I wondered about how some of you felt about your place in the wilderness.  I also wonder where he went into the BWCA and how many portages he took to get there because that greatly affects the number of people you will see or hear on your Boundary Waters trip. 

     I know some of the times I paddle and camp in the Boundary Waters my group isn’t very quiet.  Yelling for toilet paper from the seat of a latrine, a scream of fright from seeing a mouse, loud splashing from cannonballs and other various noises have been known to come from my campsite.  I’ve also heard similar noises coming from other campsites.

     I don’t necessarily like to be able to see or hear other groups when I’m canoe camping in the BWCA but then again I get great satisfaction knowing people are recharging in the wilderness. I also realize as a canoe outfitter I helped get some of those folks into the canoe country.  

     There are places in the BWCA I know I can go to get away from people. There are times of the year that are better than others for finding true solitude in the wilderness.  As long as those times and places exist I’m happy to spend as many nights in the canoe country as I can with or without a group of other folks enjoying the BWCA at a campsite next to mine. Wherever there is wilderness is the place for me.

Boundary Waters


Viewpoint: Our place in nature is essential

Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 12:53 am | Updated: 1:14 am, Fri Oct 12, 2012.

As a timber wolf made its way along the rocky shore of Moose Lake, barely a few paddlestrokes into the trip and still within view of the outfitter camp, its presence seemed like the equivalent of a welcoming road sign reading, "You are now entering … The Wild."

But the first few days of the week-long, roughly 40-mile trip through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness actually seemed quite the opposite.

Each day we found ourselves passing other groups of outdoor enthusiasts on the waterways and almost competing for campsites — a late arrival meaning the potential for another portage and more paddling with darkness fast approaching.

Even miles into the voyage when biology professor Todd Wellnitz required students to find a comfy spot under the full moon and take 10 minutes of silence, laughter could be heard in the distance.

And the situation was not unlike a previous trip I had been on with Wellnitz and a few of the students earlier this year to the Grand Canyon.

Much like the BWCA, there we were on the Colorado River, miles away from the nearest road in places only accessible by foot, and still contact with other people was a daily occurrence.

Considering the stunning beauty of both places it’s not hard to imagine why others would be interested in enjoying them too, but it does make one wonder just how remote such "off the grid" locations really are these days.

Both of these experiences became fodder for some thoughtful campfire discussions and raised the questions such as, "What is wilderness?" and more importantly, "What is our place in it?"

The opinions will surely differ depending on who you ask. Many of the first things that come to mind are all the things that aren’t there: people, roads, electricity, cell phone reception, rules.

But probably a better definition might include the things one can find: fresh air, clean water, fascinating flora and fauna, and piece of mind.

One thing that may tie all of those things together — regardless of actual location — is a state of purity, a pristine world which we are not accustomed to. That’s something most people can agree on. And from my perspective, that’s where our place in the wilderness comes in.

By now, we all should recognize the inherent value of wilderness areas, from essential ecosystem functions to just plain enjoyment. We should also realize the indelible impact of our actions, whether in a wilderness area or before we drive those two blocks to the convenience store instead of walking.

And while it may seem a bit strange to have a strongly hands-on approach with wilderness, in a era where not a corner of the globe has been spared from human impact, it’s also a necessity.

That’s why it’s so important to not only leave no trace while in wilderness areas, but also to support those who fight to protect them.

As urban sprawl continues to swallow up more and more of our wild places, it is without a doubt that adventure-seekers sadly will have to continue a sprawl of their own to seek the freedom they are looking for.

But if we’re mindful of what makes those places so special and try to keep them that way, the spirit of the wild can continue to thrive.

Hanson can be reached at 715-833-9206, 800-236-7077 or rob.hanson@ecpc.com.