September 23, 2015 08:01 PM
More the six dozen supporters of the Save the Boundary Water campaign gathered Wednesday afternoon in Ely for a canoe flotilla and sendoff for a couple planning to spend a year in the wilderness.
Dave and Amy Freeman plan to travel 3,000 miles by canoe, foot and dog sled team in a campaign to permanently protect the area from proposed sulfide-ore mining.
"The last couple weeks have been really hectic just trying to get everything ready to go," Dave Freeman said. "We're just really looking forward to getting into the boundary waters and just slowing down and enjoying the wilderness."
With the community converged on River Point Resort and Outfitting Dave and Amy were making final preparations for a year in the wild. The two said they are canoe and dog sled guides, so they were fortunate to have the flexibility to make the long trip.
"We've spent a lot of time out in the wilderness, but this will really take it to a new level," Dave said. "This is certainly on the extreme end, but I feel lucky that we've been able to arrange things in a way that allows us to do things like this."
Last year, the couple made a 2,000 mile trip from Ely to Washington D.C. to help protect the boundary waters, but the the two said they haven't spent more then six or seven weeks in the wild without making stops in towns along the way. Even so, Amy said they're ready for the challenge.
"We're up for it. We have all of the appropriate gear and plenty of practice traveling in these conditions," Amy said.
Both Dave, a chicago native, and Amy, a St. Paul native, said they spend most of their time in Ely and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. For the Freeman's, wilderness has always felt like home.
"For both of us, it's the first bit of wilderness we were exposed to as kids," Amy said. "There's a certain amount of nostalgia, for us. It's a place we both just fell in love with."
In the 1.1. million acres of the Boundary Waters, nature takes over the hustle and bustle of life.
"It's a place where you can unplug and not worry about traffic or emails, and I think it's important for everyone to have the chance to experience nature on this level," Amy said.
"There's just something really special about a wild place like the boundary waters were you can go and it's untrammeled by humans. It's like it's been forever," Dave said.
The Boundary Waters is the nation's most visited wilderness area, but it may be in danger.
"We're very concerned that they would propose a mine right here because they're prospecting less than half a mile from the wilderness, and any pollution from the Twin Metals Mine or any other mines that would be built right in this area would flow directly into the Boundary Waters."
As the duo launched on Wednesday, the community arranged a sendoff, and local activists made a plea. He and his wife Jane and son James have been organizing a group that's voicing opposition to mining in the area.
A flotilla of paddlers went out on the water with the Freeman's for the first part of their trip.
"We have grave concerns, and that's why we are supporting this cause and hoping you all stay with us on this journey," Steve Koschak said.
The Freeman's journey and year is dedicated to showcasing what's at stake.
"We really see this as our job. We really feel like our job for the next year is to share this place and really bear witness to it, and help people understand that if Twin Metals or other sulfide/ore mines were built right into the wilderness that it would have a really negative impact on the region," Dave said. "it's just not the right place for this."
Dave and Amy and their friends from the "Save the Boundary Waters" campaign plan to document the expedition to draw attention to the cause in a year that they say is critical to stopping the mining comes through the peaceful piece of nature they love.
"We have to speak loudly for such a quiet place," Amy said.
Updated: September 23, 2015 08:01 PM
Created: September 23, 2015 07:48 PM
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