A Year in the Wilderness

Sometimes, a place becomes a part of you. For me, that process began more than 20 years ago as a 7th grader, gazing across the glassy surface of a wilderness lake, listening to the haunting call of a loon on my first trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I felt like we had paddled to the end of the earth on Alton Lake. Now, after years spent exploring the intricate maze of lakes and rivers that form it, this million-acre wilderness feels like home. My wife and I have been introducing people to this place for more than a decade. Plying its waters by canoe in the summer, and harnessing sled dogs or clipping into cross country skis once it’s blanketed in snow.

The Wilderness continues to teach us, and over time, our lives have become more deeply entwined with the Wilderness. Our way of life is  deeply rooted in this place. Several years ago, we heard rumblings about a sulfide-ore copper mine that was being proposed along the southern edge of our nation’s most popular Wilderness. The more we learned, the more concerned we became. Pollution from the mines would flow directly into the Wilderness and would turn the edge of it into a vast industrial mining zone.

We have come to realize that blisters and cold fingers are not the only price we must pay for the lifetime of knowledge and memories we’ve gleaned from the wild. Generations before us have fought to protect our public lands, and we are benefiting from the fruit of all their efforts. Experiencing the outdoors is not enough; we must speak loudly for quiet places like the Boundary Waters so that they will be preserved for future generations, and we must introduce new people of all ages and walks of life to the forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains so that they will hear the singing Wilderness and continue to amplify its call.

My wife and I have spent the last 118 days bearing witness to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It was -26F when we woke up in our tent this morning, and we are almost a third of the way through our year in the Wilderness.

You can learn more Dave and Amy Freeman’s journey and follow along at www.wildernessclassroom.com and www.savetheBoundaryWaters.org/WildernessYear. To follow their social handles, check out @freemanexplore and @savetheBWCA.

Wizards Eye

The Red Island of Madagascar materializes out of a clear blue horizon, steadily growing into existence. Its silhouette framed against a night sky as a full moon rises over the island. The ocean, now sheltered by the jutting mass of land, has gone from an onslaught of white capping waves to a glasslike plane. The Wizard’s Eye breaks free, running with the current pushing 8 knots and hurtling us towards another great adventure. I have crossed thousands of miles of ocean and half the planet to finally arrive at a place I have been before; a place with rivers raging from the mountains, a place still rich with exploration, rawness, realness, a place of thick African nights, wood smoke, and dense forests – Madagascar. My dream is being realized as a team of friends – Benjamin Hjort, Isaac Levinson, Taylor Smallwood – and I sail into Africa.

The Wizard’s Eye Expedition is a test for me. The proving grounds of my theory that for any dream to come into existence simply requires one ingredient: action. Throughout my life, I have come against obstacles, created challenges, staged expeditions, and generally have strived to open my mind to all kinds of dreams. I’ve worked hard to bring everything I dream to reality, accomplishing this to a large extent. Not by fortune, but by force of will. Finally, after paddling the tallest waterfall attempted, I had climbed my personal mountain. I accomplished my childhood dream, not of the world record descent, but allowing myself the opportunity to pursue my dream of living life one river to the next. I had succeeded.

My dream had become reality and was a dream no longer. I began asking myself questions: What now? What next? What is it that I truly desire? This of course led to the question: What is the ultimate adventure? What is an expedition so wild that it will bring me to the very edge of my ability? The answer I found was to sail the planet, seeking out and exploring every land I encounter by means of adventure sport, diversifying my experiences and pushing myself far away from my comfort zone. My journey would stage expeditions big and small and create a medium for continuous documentation and storytelling. With a boat, I knew I would have the ability to put at my disposal an array of tools by which to explore, document, and attempt the largest scale adventure sport expedition I could imagine. However, dreaming is just the beginning. Then stems a journey to find the path, which coalesces imagination into existence.

Tyler Bradt holds the current world record for tallest waterfall ever descended in a kayak. For more on his Wizards Eye Expedition, visit wizardseye.tv/.

Benjamin Hjort is a Norwegian adventure photographer who has traveled the globe in search of powder and whitewater. For more of his images check out hjortmedia.com/.

Art as a Lens

My work stems mainly from the beauty and detail found in nature, which is my greatest joy and inspiration. Having grown up in Utah, I was exposed early and often to four distinct seasons, and a myriad of vastly different landscapes from alpine lakes, to desert expanses, to alien boulder fields and salt flats. The outdoors play a constant and tugging role in my life, and consequently, the content of my work has a focus on botany, wildlife, and landscape. Natural elements intrigue and call out to me. Longing to live outside as much as possible, I have done my best to arrange my life to allow for this. Recently, I began painting with watercolors directly onto maps. This has become an expanding part of my portfolio, as my mind rarely deviates from the subject of travel. The road is where I feel most at home. Some key tools for the outdoor lifestyle, such as headlamps and tents, have lately edged their way in between all the birds, beasts, and flowers. I aim for my imagery to also speak of spirit and dreams, whether personal or collective in the realm of myth, folklore, philosophy, psychology, and mysticism. I use art as a lens through which to explore my varied interests, and I am always working to develop a visual language that translates what I learn onto paper.

Hallie Rose Taylor is an Austin, TX based artist working mainly in watercolor, gouache, and ink. For more of her work, check out hallierosetaylor.com.

Chin Deep in Japan

Japan is every skier’s dream. From waking each morning to find that the mountains have been completely refreshed by constant storms blowing in from Siberia, to experiencing a level of hospitality that makes you want to be a better person. The Land of the Rising Sun is a skier’s paradise.

On our first trip to Hokkaido a couple years ago, we learned that the Japanese do après a little differently. Most nights, you could hear crickets at even the biggest ski areas after a day in the mountains. Any lively izakaya (small Japanese bar) is most likely packed with Aussies, well into their pints and raucous conversation. If you look around the bar, you won’t see many locals. They’re all getting their soak on, chin deep in their favorite onsen.

The onsen of Japan are more of a public bath house, or an indoor hot pool buried deep in a lodge or hotel. There are some outdoor onsen (roten-buro) and even what they call ‘wild’ onsen, which are more like the rock-enclosed pools we’re used to finding in the wilds of the American West. Different onsen are known for a variety of healing properties, taking care of aches, pains, and infertility.

Matt & Agnes Hage make their home in Anchorage, Alaska and shoot pictures for a variety of outdoor brands world-wide. They look for any excuse to work hot springs and cold beer into their assignments. Check them out at www.hagephoto.com