Dan Phipps
Hometown: St. Cloud, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC: 3 Months
Roles on the Homestead: Intern
Intern Dan Phipps

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“It means meeting new people living in a like-minded community and becoming more in touch with the natural world. In doing so, becoming more in touch with myself.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“I hope to better understand our environment, something I am constantly trying to do. I also have made it a goal to identify every tree species, which I have almost completed. But most of all, my goal is to live more sustainably in my day-to-day life.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“I spend my free time hanging out with the other Interns, going into Ely, fishing at Hobo lake, and waiting for the Sauna twice a week.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“This summer I have seen first hand that Will Steger is a leader. He puts trust in the people who work with him, even when it involves something as important as his vision of the Steger Wilderness Center. The Center itself is indescribable in words. It creates a sense of awe in me when I look at it and also a strong reminder of how important it is to protect our environment.”


Rochelle Peace
Hometown: Stacy, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC: 3 years
Roles on the Homestead: Volunteer, Intern
Intern Rochelle

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“When I first heard about Will’s I was sure it was just some cabin in the Ely woods. Not much was said to me. Only, “Rochelle, are you going to Will’s?” It took a perfectly timed story in my ethics class to peak my actual interest. I decided to go to Will’s the day before the school group left. As far as I was concerned, the people I traveled with were still strangers. Along the way, I began talking to our professor, Peter Wahlstrom, about where I’d been, where I am, and my plans for the future. I mentioned my desire to own land, and build a self-sustaining homestead, complete with solar, wind, gardens, and especially an intentional community where everyone would collectively chip in. I can only imagine what was going through Peter’s head as I laid out my dreams. He certainly knew what I was in for and only responded by exuberantly smiling with an occasional “you’re going to love it here.” I think not knowing what I was approaching added an element of wonder and awe to the manifestation of my dreams. It was almost as if I had talked it into existence and even the smallest details had worked themselves out. Up here we can see the benefits of collaboration, teamwork, and the possibilities of working together. People come as strangers, but leave as much more with every life changed and touched. I find it very difficult to depart as the threads of this place are woven into the very fabric of my being. The Homestead and vision here have restored me; and for me, hope.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“The last few years have yielded many changes in my life. I have never been more open to embracing whatever comes my way. I hope to experience everything I can by helping, learning, teaching, and growing.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“I like to be very active and seek adventure. There is always plenty to do in and around the Homestead. My favorites are hiking in and around new lakes, getting to town for a stroll, reading from the extensive library, and making new friends. I have had picnics, gone to museums, rode my bike into Ely, swam in waterfalls, picked wild berries, listened to nature, and established lifelong relationships.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“I think Will has an amazing vision for our future. He is always thinking so far ahead and attempting to reach out to future generations. It is inspiring to see him share his Homestead with so many different groups. He recognizes the necessity of early involvement, planting the seeds to sustain our environment.”


Aurora Wahlstrom
Hometown: Cambridge, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC: 6 years
Roles on the Homestead: Apprentice, Volunteer
IMG_0079

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“I’m writing this watching the rain drizzle over the grassy marsh that stretches as far into the distance as my eyes reach. It wraps around the ridge that constitutes my tent site and home this summer. I have been coming to this place since I was a kid, and sitting here now it’s easy to reflect on how much the Homestead has changed me. My summers spent here have put into perspective the reality that happiness is not an elusive thing that you can go chasing after or adorn yourself with in the perpetual search for materialistic compensation. At the Homestead we lack many of the conveniences that make daily activities easy and thoughtless, but in their absence we’ve gained simplicity of mind and spirit that has proven to be infinitely more gratifying. We don’t have attractive clothes, fancy cars, or perfect lawns, but we have a community that works together, creates art together, and laughs together. We have friendships that will last lifetimes and creations that will surpass lifetimes. In the middle of the Northwoods we have a sense of a purpose driven by natural respect for connectedness with the earth and the lessons it has to offer. It’s boundless and that gives me hope for the change of heart necessary to nurture a brighter future for all of us.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“I hope to continue learning new skills in masonry and the woodshop to help build the Center.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“In my free time I hike around in the woods, hang out with Interns, and learn to swing dance.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“Will is a cohesive element that has strengthened and grown the Steger Wilderness Center over the years. I will value his friendship and the inspiration he has fostered in me for the rest of my life.”


Jake Pekarna
Hometown: Jordan, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC: 2 Months
Roles on the Homestead: Intern
Intern Jake

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“The Homestead is meaningful to me because it allows me to experience a more simplistic lifestyle while also connecting me with nature. The result is that I am able to be in an environment that roots me and allows me to live fully in the present moment of life.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“Being part of Will’s dream and ambitions is exhilarating. If I can be a part of helping him reach his goals that is a good achievement for me. I hope to embrace a more simplistic lifestyle so that I can continuously be thankful and grateful in the future.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“In my free time I listen to music, swim across the lake, do pull-ups, feed Goliath, pet Homer, and have dance parties.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“Affable.”


Aaron Brake
Hometown: Cold Spring, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC: 2 Months
Roles on the Homestead: Intern
Intern Aaron copy

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“Everyday at the Homestead is a learning experience. The work we do and accomplishments we achieve provide us with a very content and rewarding lifestyle.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“I want to help finish the masonry, other such projects designated for this summer and to help promote the Steger Center and its goals.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“I spend most of my free time hanging out with Homer and the other interns, fishing, exploring the woods, reading 80s romance novels aloud, moving kettle bells, eating custard, and growing my mustache.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“Will has a great sense of purpose and drive that helps to guide our work here at the Homestead. His teachings and examples of a leadership serve as the foundation of the Homestead community. This is a special place that provides like-minded people with an environment to share, dream, learn, and grow.”


 

Zoe Olson
Hometown: Andover, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC:2 years
Roles on the Homestead: Intern
Intern Zoe

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“This summer has been a valuable experience because I’ve been challenged to live more simply and reevaluate which things in my life are convenience and which are needs. When you strip away extraneous things like using electronics or commuting to work, which are unnecessary here, you find you suddenly have more time to work on things that can benefit your life and well being. This experience has served to make me recognize things I can change and do to make myself a better person.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“An almost inevitable side effect of living on the Homestead is making connections with the people who filter in and out. Dozens of activists, photographers, artists, craftsmen, and volunteers come up ever summer, and I feel very lucky to have met so many of them. I hope to continue connecting meaningfully with the visitors here and keeping in contact after the summer ends. I’m also enjoying this mental and physical “reboot” I’ve been experiencing, especially in preparation for moving back to the cities and returning to school in the fall. I think my academic career will benefit from this summer well spent.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“Theres always something to do on the Homestead. After work and on the weekends I spend a lot of time either reading a book from the lodge library, baking, working on a craft project or hanging out and socializing with visitors and residents around the fire at Hobo Village.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“I love speaking with Will and listening to him talk because he has such an amazing drive to do whatever he has put his mind to, which currently means doing everything in his power to combat climate change. The Steger Wilderness Center is a reflection of that passion he has, so its a very inspiring place to be. It feels good to be in a place where change can happen.”


 

Franz Shermans
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC:1 Month
Roles on the Homestead: Master Stone Mason Apprentice Program
Apprentice

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“Living at the Homestead was one of the most grounding experiences in my recent memory. Being able to wake up every day knowing that I would be challenged with new tasks and problems truly helped me appreciate the value of removing myself from my comfort zone.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“I hope to gain skills that will allow me to be a more useful, well-rounded person. For example, the basic stone masonry, woodworking, and group communication experience that I received does not make me an expert at any of these tasks, but by working at improving myself in all of them, I have learned a lot about being accurate, efficient, and working with others on a job site. Now that I have had some time to work on these basic skills, I feel I am better prepared for my next visit to the Homestead as well as my next job, my college education, etc..”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“I enjoy woodworking, honing tools, and the like. Another interesting pastime is learning more about the history of the Steger Wilderness Center and all of its many different houses, cabins, outbuildings, and infrastructure, which I found fascinating as there has been so much change to transform this place from a simple homestead near Ely to The Steger Wilderness Center. However, at the end of the day, I often find myself satisfied just to read a book or relax and converse with others at the Lodge or Hobo Camp.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“It’s a beautiful place that has attracted some really wonderful people to come back, year after year. With the right mindset, this place can serve to inspire people to become more than they already are, and attract those who already have a lot to give.”


John Ratzloff
Hometown: Ramsey, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC:8 Years
Roles on the Homestead: Photographer in Residence and Mayor of Hobo Village
Mayor of Hobo Village and Photographer in Residence, John Ratzloff

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“My experience here shapes. Most of all, being here vastly expounds my belief of what is possible when wilderness inspires a vision and awe.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“Serenity.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“Make fire wood, wash clothes, swim, sit by my fire and contemplate the twisted path that has led me to be here.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“Awe and gratitude.”


 

Heidi Bing
Number of Years Coming to SWC:Has been coming to the Homestead since 2008
Roles on the Homestead: Cook
Heidi Bing, Cook

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“I am very happy to be able to live so close to nature here. It reminds me of what is important in life and gives me a chance to unplug and unwind. The peace and quiet is a welcome balm in a sometimes hectic, noisy world.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“I want to provide nourishing and tasty food for everyone here! When I return I will remember the friendships I made and remember my time here fondly.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“I swim, read, and observe the ever changing clouds and light.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“Will is a man with a purpose and the Steger Center reflects that. this place will be here long after we are all gone and it will be a force for change and good. It is an impressive legacy.”


Ben Tangen
Hometown: Stacy, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC:1 Month
Roles on the Homestead: Stone Mason Apprentice
Ben Tangen

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“The experience here at the SWC is much better than I ever imagined. I had lots of fun getting to work with stone and making new friends in the process. It means the world to me that I had the chance to be a part of history and make a place like this feel more and more like home.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“I hope to go in my stone masonry skills and and continue to improve on them.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“I spend my free time hanging out with the other apprentices and interns, exploring the forest/homestead, and meeting others that visit.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“The Center has amazing masonry work and I enjoy being a part of building and improving all the work that has been put together here.”


 

Jonathon Theis
Hometown: Harris, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC:1 Month
Roles on the Homestead: Stone Mason Apprentice

Jonathon Theis, Apprentice

Jonathon Theis, Apprentice

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“At the Steger Wilderness Center I get to enjoy the great Minnesota wilderness and learn something new each day I am here.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“I hope to be able to grow in my masonry skills and gain more respect and understanding of nature.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“I fish in the lake, read books, and spend many evenings in Hobo Village.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“It is a very peaceful place and I hope to return.”


 

Josh Stringer
Hometown: North Branch, MN
Number of Years Coming to SWC:1 Month
Roles on the Homestead: Stone Mason Apprentice
IMG_8307

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“The Homestead means a great deal to me- the community here is great and the work is fun. This is a place where bonds are made, and in my eyes these bonds will never be broken.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“I want to complete the stone projects we are working on here. The work goes fast with the team and the goal is to grow stronger as a team. After leaving the Steger Wilderness Center I plan to get my GED and progress in the field of stone masonry. I am thankful to have met everyone here; they support me and the choices I want to make.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“I like to explore, sit on the big rock above the ice cellar, and look at the stars above Cafe Hobo, a place that is a big part of what makes everyone here so close.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“Will really cares about the future of the environment and deeply about everyone who comes to this amazing place. He really makes a difference to everyone here-I will most definitely miss my experience here.”


 

Andrea Sandeen
Hometown: Cambridge, MN
Number of years coming to SWC: 3 to 4 years
Roles on the Homestead: Cook, Intern, Blog Author, Volunteer
Andrea 2

What does the experience at the Steger Wilderness Center mean to you?
“It is a chance to connect with like-minded individuals who share a dedication to environmental issues, and to be able to live in a community with them. its a chance to live simply and close to nature and to work hard on something that will out last all of us.”

What do you hope to achieve here?
“I hope to further progress on the Center in any way I can, whether its laying stone myself or feeding the work crew. I want to improve the Homestead a little each time i’m here.”

How do you spend your free time on the Homestead?
“I read, and enjoy being outside.”

What is your impression of the Steger Center?
“Will has a gift for bringing out the best in each person, and for being able to unite individuals together into teams, communities, and families. His vision and kindess has had a tremendous impact on how I view myself and my place in the world.”