Teenagers invited to enter wilderness essay contest for a chance to win a “no parents” Boundary Waters trip

The winner of the first annual Boundary Waters Teen Essay Contest was Julia Ruelle (wearing the yellow jacket, above). (Photo courtesy Ely Outfitting Co.)
The winner of the first annual Boundary Waters Teen Essay Contest was Julia Ruelle (wearing the yellow jacket, above) with her friends. Photo courtesy Ely Outfitting Co.

An Ely, Minnesota canoe outfitter is once again sponsoring an essay contest for teenagers, seeking to promote Boundary Waters paddling, and the outdoors in general. The writer of the winning essay will receive full outfitting for a self-guided, five-day canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) for themselves and up to three friends. No parents are allowed.

“Recent studies show that young people today spend as little as four to seven minutes outside each day – less time outside than prison inmates,” said Ely Outfitting Co. owner Jason Zabokrtsky. “A culture of fear and bubble-wrapped experiences is infringing on young people’s abilities to have free ranging outdoor experiences. Time in front of a screen is replacing time around a stream and this new reality is leading to health issues including increased anxiety, obesity, and attention deficit disorder. This is our response and attempt to buck the trend.”

The contest sponsored by Ely Outfitting Co. is open to current high school sophomores, juniors and seniors anywhere in the US. Essays should answer the question, “Why do you want to go on a parent-free, BWCAW canoe-camping adventure with your friends?”

The entry deadline is Feb. 10, 2019. In addition to Zabokrtsky, contest judges include Joseph Goldstein, 17-year-old founder and president of Kids for the Boundary Waters; Dave Freeman, author, adventurer, and wilderness advocate; and last year’s essay contest winner, Julia Ruelle.

Empowering young people

In her winning essay, Ruelle wrote that her previous Boundary Waters trip had provided a much-needed respite from digital distractions.

“These days are when I feel most connected to my soul and surroundings and most at home, with no social media or material concerns to distract me from the purity of the air in my lungs, dirt beneath my feet, and the sounds of birds, water, and all things natural in my ears,” Ruelle wrote.

After her trip with friends last summer, Ruelle said she was hooked. The group produced a video about the trip that was featured on Quetico Superior Wilderness News.

“I’m now a little biased toward adventuring parent-free,” Ruelle said. “Ely Outfitting Company supported us every step of the way and made sure we were prepared as we paddled into the Boundary Waters.”

Contest entrants will also be eligible for other prizes, such as calendars, shirts, hats and water bottles. Everyone who enters will receive a coupon for outfitting and equipment rentals.

The outfitting package offered to the winner includes ultralight Kevlar canoes, backcountry tents, sleeping bags, specialized trail meals, navigation maps, and more. They will also be provided an emergency communication device.

For information, rules, and submission guidelines, visit https://elyoutfittingcompany.com/boundary-waters-teen-essay-contest/.

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