Wilderness Word – June 12, 2018
by Jenna Pollard

I woke up at 4:30am today to the morning chorus of warblers outside my cabin window. In the three weeks I’ve been at the Steger Wilderness Center (SWC) this summer I haven’t yet adjusted to being able to sleep through it.

The morning began with drizzling rain, yet the forecast promised sunny skies to come. Breakfast was delicious – a combination of leftover oatmeal with fresh strawberries and breakfast burritos made with last night’s taco leftovers. We try not to waste anything around here!

At our 8am meeting, we divided goals for the day and set to work. The Summit Academy students were split into three working groups. One group assisted Mike Deboer in completing the framing of a 20 ‘ x 24’ framework for a wall tent to be used by future student groups. Another group worked with Beth Halverson to layout the piers for a second tent platform.

One Summit Academy student worked with Elena Lavorato and Al Osberg in the wood shop to plane down pine boards for the tent platform’s floor. The resident crew supported Summit’s work by digging stumps, trenching a waterway and mixing concrete with our concrete mixer, “Mixy”. The concrete pour lasted all morning and into the afternoon. There was hardly time for a dip in the lake over lunch.

Resident Trevor Hawver spent the entire day in the Bobcat, excavating soil and gravel to make room for the foundation of our new solar array which will go up later this summer. Resident Justin Halverson and I worked together in the afternoon to complete much-needed structural and flooring improvements in our main gathering space – The Lodge, the Center’s longest-standing structure.

We ended our day with a meal from the grill – chicken, brats and vegetarian falafel. Many went to jump in the lake to clean up a bit before heading into Ely for once-weekly “town night”. We choose Tuesdays because the local farmer’s market is held in the city park on Tuesday. In-town errands are run, laundry is done, live music is danced to and a restaurant-made meal is indulged on. Tonight it was Vietnamese food from Oriental Orchid and homemade custard from Red Cabin Custard for many. We carpool into town, and on the way home my car stopped all along the driveway to harvest wild rose petals.

Once home, we made them into jam, known by many as “Ambrosia”. Indeed it is! The night wrapped up with a kombucha-making instructional in the Lodge kitchen. Many residents are interested in crafting their own kombucha, and because the kombucha’s scoby self-propagates weekly, we’re able to share the skills and delicious drink with all who are interested.

On most nights the crew is in bed by 10pm. Sunset is just a little before, and the sunrise comes all-too-soon at 05:00. It can be challenging to get enough sleep with all of the good things to do here!

The photos below are from the first couple weeks of this summer’s wilderness crew in action. Check out the Snapping Turtle laying eggs in the warm fire pit. Snappers and Painted Turtles have been laying eggs in the sandy soil all over the homestead this past week.

In the photo of the canoe and floating moss hummock, you’ll see the carnivorous Sundew (Drocera rotundifolia). Amenities Director Mabel Smebakken and I took a paddle trip into the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness last weekend. We saw swans, fox, turtles, beaver, and a host of other bird species during our trip. We regularly take advantage of nearby paddle opportunities throughout the summer to refresh our minds and our bodies for the next work week. This was the season’s first!

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