At 1.1 million acres, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the largest and most popular backcountry destinations in the U.S. and a longtime proving ground for adventurers. But now the region is facing the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining. Stephanie Pearson paddles into the wild.
The new moon is invisible, and the night is black.
My sister, Jen, is paddling in the stern. Her shivering wobbles the bow where I’m sitting. Canoeing in 45-degree weather at midnight dressed in T-shirts and underwear is not our normal behavior while camping in northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in September. But an enormous black bear is on its hind legs, ten feet away, aggressively swiping at the food pack dangling from a low tree branch at our campsite. By the sound of its grunts, it’s hungry.
In our panic, we failed to forage for layers. Jen scooped up her sleeping bag and white Labrador, Sunny, I grabbed my knife and headlamp, and we tripped over ourselves to get to the water’s edge, where we launched the canoe.