Tuesday, March 25, 2008


No sooner had I seen my friend Eduard off on a Chicago-bound bus on Thursday, March 13, then I was northward bound early the next Monday morning (March 17) to that area of Minnesota known as the Northwoods.

I found myself in this beautiful part of the state as the result of my young friend Joey asking me to accompany him and his classmates as an adult chaperone on their school’s annual sixth grade Environmental Studies trip to Camp Widjiwagan, situated near the town of Ely and on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northeastern Minnesota.

Above: I traveled to Camp Widjiwagen with five parents who were also serving as chaperones. On the way we stopped at the town of Cloquet – which boasts the only gas station to have ever been designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Above: Another place we visited while traveling toward Ely and Camp Widjiwagen was the memorial for the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila, their daughter Marcia, and several others who were tragically killed in a plane crash on October 25, 2002, just outside of the town of Eveleth.

Above and below: Founded in 1929, Camp Widjiwagan aims to help young people develop respect for self, community, and the environment through environmental education and wilderness adventures, such as hiking, cross-country skiing, and wilderness survival activities.

Above: For many of the inner-city kids involved in this four-day visit to Widjiwagan it was their first time being in a wilderness setting and participating in activities such as cross-crossing skiing. Accordingly, it was quite something to be able to witness and share in their wonderment and excitement at all the new experiences they were encountering. And, of course, my time with them reminded me of my teaching days in Australia.

Above: Cross-country skiing on the snow-covered frozen lake.

Above and below: On Wednesday, March 19, I accompanied camp team leader Andy and a group of students on a half-day “eco hike.”

Above and below: Andy - with his playful and gentle spirit - was a real gift to the young people. His obvious love and respect for nature was readily discerned by all, and instilled, I’m sure, in many. During the course of our hike he showed us how to make tea out of white pine needles, taught us how to identify and differentiate between various types of animal tracks, and demonstrated how to prepare and make a fire in the winter wilderness.

Above: Lunch in the wintry woods!

Above: Three students with “Howard” - whom, as you can probably tell, is quite harmless. (For one thing, he has no teeth! Oh, yeah, and he’s been dead and stuffed since the 1920s.)

Above: My cabin mates, among whom I gained a reputation for being an “awesome” ghost story teller! My retelling of Charles Dickens’ The Signal-Man was particularly memorable, or so I was told the following day - and by some who weren’t even present for the retelling! Word sure gets around fast at Camp Widjiwagan.

Above: The view from our cabin.

Yeah, it was cold. But that didn’t stop us, on our last night, from jumping into the lake through a hole cut in the ice, after spending fifteen minutes or so in the sauna! I guess that’s some kind of Norwegian custom - and one that actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds.

Images: Michael Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
A Snowy December - with an Aussie Connection

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