The Superior National Forest is now accepting applications for people who want to spend the summer of 2016 working in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. These seasonal volunteers usually paddle in the bow with a staff ranger in the stern, making it possible to deploy twice as many canoes across the 1.1 million acres of wild lakes, rivers, and forest.
The only pay is possibly a small stipend, all the gear you need and a Duluth Pack to carry it in, a bunk in town, -and a summer in the wilderness. The schedule is a seven- or eight-day canoeing and camping trip, traveling hard and working hard, then six days off back in town, and then another work trip, and repeat for a few months.
After a week of training in skills such as cross-saws and First Aid, volunteers start their paddle patrols.
“Expect to paddle about 8-15 miles a day and portage (carry) your share of camping gear, tools, and canoes across those trails that connects our many lakes,” the job description reads. “During the work day Wilderness Rangers will be maintaining those backcountry primitive campsites and logging/brushing out those portages as they travel.”
While from about 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. they wield tools like crosscut saws, shovels, and axes, when the day’s work is done, rangers can relax in the long summer light. As the Forest Service says, “Another useful tool in the evening is a fishing pole.”
The winter 2009 newsletter from the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness carried the story of one writer who joined a ranger crew for a few days:
“The Twins had taken an early lead against the Mariners, putting five runs up in the first inning against Seattle’s call-up pitcher, who was making a 2008 season debut which must have been disappointing for Mariners’ fans. Thompson Blodgett was waist-deep in a hole, digging through dense canoe country clay, listening to the game crackle softly over a small radio wedged in a skinny birch next to him.
Aside from the ball game, all was quiet. It was mid-afternoon in the scrubby forest of Ensign Lake. We were digging a new latrine at a Boundary Waters campsite, this quiet clearing in the woods our “office” for the afternoon.
Thompson was a volunteer with the Superior Wilderness Volunteer Connection, the Friends’ and the Forest Service’s collaborative project funded by the Friends and the National Forest Foundation.
The volunteer program starts in early June, and volunteers are asked to commit to two to three months of work. Postings are available at all four wilderness districts: Kawishiwi (Ely), Cook, Tofte, and Gunflint. Visit Volunteer.gov for additional information and the online application.