Mindful Paddles by Points Unknown Boundary Waters
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GRAND MARAIS, MINNESOTA - June 9,, 2019 (LSN) We are so fortunate to have a wilderness area like the Boundary Waters on our doorstep. Its scale and beauty and wildness are known all over the country and even the world. And yet, it can be hard for people to go into the Boundary Waters: that’s why Points Unknown has started offering “Mindful Paddles.”
Some people feel they are too old or they don’t have the equipment or they’re maybe not fit enough or their knee bothers them. And given the fact that those of us who live (or spend lots of time) in Cook County, see young (usually) men heading into or coming out of the Boundary Waters—that makes sense. If you overhear their tales, there are snippets—“yeah that portage with the knee deep mud for quarter of a mile…” “and when that wind came up and we were out in the middle of that lake” “that pack musta weighed sixty pounds”—you might think the Boundary Waters is just for the young, fit and macho.
By definition, wilderness is wild. In some ways it is the opposite of so much in our society that is about control, acquisition, being connected. Maybe that’s why some people feel the need to be macho, to ‘conquer,’ to beat the conditions.
I know the Boundary Waters as a transformative place—a place of peace, beauty, and life changing experience. I have come to believe that Sigurd Olsen was right when he wrote of this area as “the singing wilderness” and why The Wilderness Act (that set aside the Boundary Waters area as wilderness) speaks about the importance of a place where people are visitors, not permanent inhabitants.
That’s why I’ve taken groups into the Boundary Waters for years—to help all kinds of people feel safe enough that they can begin to realize that they are strong enough and able enough to be there. For almost twenty five years I’ve taken groups—mainly of women, sometimes youth, occasionally men—for multi-day BWCAW experiences.
Last summer, I joined forces with Linda Newman at Points Unknown to take people into the BWCAW for shorter four-six--hour trips we call “Mindful Paddles.” I know—the word ‘mindful’ is overused. But the idea at its best is about being present where you are, when you are, to what is there. I believe that’s what the Boundary Waters offers those willing to enter on its own terms.
A few hours looking carefully at a sphagnum bog with its pitcher plants, sundews, tamaracks and mosses; plants, fifteen minutes simply listening to breeze in trees, a Winter Wren, toads. A swim (or at least a foot dip) in a pristine lake. The feel of paddle in hand. Different kinds of ferns. All of these—seen, smelled and felt.
My hope is that those who experience this taste of wilderness on its own terms will want to come back. A few hours is too short, but it can be transformative. And sure, people can just rent a canoe and go in for a day, but it’s crucial, I believe, to feel safe enough to be able to deeply BE there.
And this is our wilderness: we have this ‘glimpse of heaven’ here.
For more information, go to Points Unknown website http://www.points-unknown.com
By Mary Ellen Ashcroft
Guide & Author