According to Wilderness Center board member Peter Wahlstrom, his connection with nature, especially wilderness, began with the spin of a steering wheel.

“When it came to going on family vacations, my parents, bless their hearts, turned the car north. I think that’s one of the most consequential things of my life,” Wahlstrom said. “It’s where my passion is. I like to consider myself a wilderness evangelist.”

Tree-thumping aside, Wahlstrom said wilderness has profoundly developed his character and transformed him into a better human being. As a philosophy and humanities instructor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, he feels one the best things he can do for students and family members is expose them to that “wonderful shaping influence.”

“I think serving on the board of the Steger Wilderness Center will allow me to keep doing that in more of a formal capacity. Basically, that’s a shared vision that Will has as well,” he said.

Wahlstrom has worked with Will Steger for 10 years and is one of the Center’s founding board members. He likens the Center to “raw material,” especially for youth, who yearn for meaning in their lives. For many of them, it starts with an interest in the outdoors. But when they see the Center’s sustainability, they’re struck by how Steger has figured out the good life off the grid.

“They become so enchanted by that idea that they want to keep coming back. They immediately glom onto it. It’s like suddenly their lives have purpose,” Wahlstrom said.

He added they also experience a community that not only lives sustainably and serves as a demonstration model, but they’re exposed to occupations that they really latch onto. These include Old-World skills like carpentry and stone masonry.

Wahlstrom, 56, lives in Harris, Minnesota. He said he derives deep satisfaction from his time and service at the Center. “In this one life we have, that might be the best we can do. It’s looking back on what we did and saying, ‘that made a difference’… For the teacher in me, it’s the most uplifting experience I can have.”

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