On September 22, 2015 explorers Dave and Amy Freeman paddled into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in Northern Minnesota where they would spend the next 12 months living and traveling via canoe, skis and dogsled team. In collaboration with the Campaign to Save the BWCA, the aim of their journey would be to bring awareness to threats the BWCA is facing from proposed copper sulfide mines within the Superior National Forest. If constructed, these mines would permanently impact the BWCA watershed and wilderness.
On September 21, 2016 I left Two Harbors on my Salsa Woodsmoke loaded down with banjo and guitar to meet Dave and Amy. Earlier this summer they had asked if I would come up to Ely and perform at an event scheduled to celebrate the completion of their year in the wilderness.
For roughly five years I’ve been using the bicycle as a tool to build human-powered musical expeditions around land and water issues. I spent time in Alaska this summer reawakening some of my dormant wilderness skills because I want to bring future musical expeditions even closer to the natural landscapes they advocate to protect. Instead of riding on pavement or established roadways I am seeking out routes nearer to the paths that water and animals might follow. This ride to meet Dave and Amy was a perfect opportunity to do this.
We want our children and grandchildren to inherit a livable planet. We want them to see the sun rise and set over the mountains and lakes. We want to turn on our taps and be able to drink the water. We want to ride, fish, swim, hike, hunt and paddle.
If we truly want to these things for generations to come, we are going to have to start questioning the unquestioned beliefs that much of our civilization is founded upon. We are going to have to start thinking with a different set of objectives, ones that extend beyond the mere economic gain of our human endeavors, to objectives that promote an understanding of reciprocity, acknowledging that human life depends on the the vitality of all life.
Dave and Amy’s year in the wilderness shared many such objectives. If willing to listen there is much to learn from melting lakes and soaring eagles. I am thankful for Dave and Amy’s wisdom and foresight. I had an unbelievable ride through the forest to meet them. All too often we think that to find adventure we must travel far away. This ride was an important reminder that often times we need not look further than our backyard, and when it comes to speaking loudly for quiet places, we must first protect our backyards before anywhere else.
To read Ben’s full trip report with detailed route map, head over to the Salsa Cycles Blackriver.cc page.
Also check out Ben’s music here.