This past weekend, Friends staff and members strapped on their boots, parkas, and fleece masks, and headed north to YMCA Camp Menogyn for the 4th annual Winter Sampler Weekend—a three day adventure of skiing, showshoeing, and dogsledding along the Gunflint Trail.
Being new to the Friends’ staff, it was my first trip up to Menogyn for this member event and I was blown away not only by how much fun we had, but also by the deep sense of hope and purpose I returned home with.
Sitting down to breakfast on our first morning at camp, I looked around the room, matching faces with the names I had gleaned from registration. Looking around, it struck me just how diverse our group of winter enthusiasts was. With literally a 60 year span of ages between us, three generations of skiers, hikers, and snowshoers had come together this weekend out of love for a place. Each one of us had a different story, different life experience, but what ran through each person, what drove us north on one of the coldest weekends of the year, was a sense of connection and affection for the open and quiet landscapes of the BWCA. For an experience of “spiritual oneness” as Sigurd Olson once called it, and the opportunity to share those experiences with younger generations.
That morning, as kid after kid bundled themselves until all you could see were tiny openings with excited eyes behind them, and barreled out of the dining hall, it became ever more clear to me why we do the work that we do. The looks on their faces that weekend conveyed the same emotions that I have when I am in the Boundary Waters. And, though they were not my own children, disjointedly running in their boots out into the wilderness, more than anything, I want to make sure that these kids have this remarkable place to provide them face splitting joy well into the future.
My grandfather once remarked that sometimes hardship creates the brightest beauty of all. Which I think holds true in many instances—the explosion of wildflowers after a forest burns, the crystalline and sparkling landscape of negative degree weather, the sense of community that is created when a place you love becomes threatened. We as a state are facing big decisions in our near future that will undoubtedly affect the BWCA. We have no insignificant task ahead of us, but every day we spend being advocates for the place we love, every letter to a legislator, every phone call and conversation with a friend, is a voice, a vote, for the wilderness and not one goes unheard.
The work we do, bundled in the face of hardship, is to create and sustain beauty for these twenty kids, their peers, and their children in turn. I was blessed to spend three days with them, their parents, and grandparents and I can tell you, there is beauty in the next generation.