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10/12/05 – Last night Jeff, Laura and I piled into a canoe after closing the store and headed for one of the campsites in Alton Bay. We had the lake to ourselves, and the canoe slid easily through the water, propelled by Laura and Jeff’s strong, steady strokes. After unloading the canoe we began exploring our temporary home as the sun lost its grip on the land. Red pines larger than my arms could span stood guard over our tent which was nestled amongst a small stand of white spruce. The stars shone bright by the time the tent was up and our beds made, and we immediately crawled into our sleeping bags to ward off the cold. With a flick of my lighter I ignited a small piece of birch bark nestled in a pile of dry wood. Within minutes the warmth from the woodstove radiated throughout the tent, and we were able to crawl out of our sleeping bags and bask in the warmth like painted turtles on a sun-drenched log. The hiss of the fire and a candle’s soft glow lulled us to sleep as Laura read an excerpt from the Ernest Oberholtzer biography, “Keeper of the Wilds”.
From the comforts of our warm tent it was hard to comprehend the trials and hardships Ernest Oberholtzer must have faced during his legendary canoe voyage in 1912 through the barren lands and down the coast of Hudson Bay in a wood and canvas canoe. All I could think of was how glad I was that he had made it back alive. If he hadn’t, there is a good chance the spot where we slept, and the wilderness that surrounded us, would be as distant a memory as the amazing canoe voyage he took. Later in life, Ernest played a key role in preserving what is now known as Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and Quetico Provincial Park. Many people fall in love with this great wilderness, but few leave as lasting an impression as Ernest Oberholtzer. – Dave
Fall colors make a morning commute much more enjoyable.