In the five years they’ve been married, Amy and Dave Freeman have traveled about 30,000 miles, paddling through the Amazon and dog sledding by the Arctic Ocean. Now they’re jumping into a canoe for the longest journey yet: a year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The Freemans, from Grand Marais, Minn., say they’re undertaking the trek to draw attention to the potential effects of proposed nearby sulfide-ore mining on the BWCA’s watershed.
A contentious battle is being waged over proposed copper-nickel mining near the BWCA and Voyageurs National Park. Opponents have argued that tapping into the mineral deposits would harm the area’s pristine environment, particularly the watershed. The industry and its backers have said it would have safeguards in place and that the watershed would not be polluted.
The couple partnered with the Save the Boundary Waters campaign to bring awareness to the issue, and to the environmental fragility of the sprawling wilderness area.
“Sometimes when something is in our backyard, we don’t realize it’s valuable,” said Becky Rom, the national campaign chair of Save the Boundary Waters.
The Freemans will kick off their 3,000-mile voyage at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday on the Kawishiwi River, at the River Point Resort and Outfitting Company in Ely, Minn. Family, friends and supporters will paddle the first mile with them.
The couple will use a satellite terminal to blog and send pictures that will be used in classrooms, posting the adventures at savetheboundarywaters.org/wildernessyear. They will also collect water sample.
Dave Freeman, 38, said they hope to share their journey with as many people as possible. The BWCA is “really like no other place on Earth,” he said. “It’s a national treasure.”
He and Amy, 33, both work as canoe and dog sled guides in the Boundary Waters. In 2014, they were among recipients of National Geographic’s 2014 Adventurers of the Year award.
This isn’t the couple’s first time raising awareness about the threat to the BWCA. Last year, they made a 101-day trek of about 2,000 miles from Ely to Washington, D.C., to highlight concerns about sulfide-ore mining. After that trip, they came up with the plan for their yearlong stay in the BWCA.
The Freemans will not be alone on their journey. Every two weeks, volunteers will travel to restock them with food and clothes. Volunteers, who will spend about three days with the couple, will bring dry foods like oatmeal, powdered milk and rice. In the winter, the Freemans will use three dogs to sled through the snow with their supplies.
The only luxury item they are lugging with them is a camping chair.
Much of the supplies, including food and their canoe, were donated, Dave Freeman said.
Amy’s father, Jim Voytilla, 66, said he will join the couple sometime during their travels. “My wife and I can’t stand the idea of not seeing our daughter for a year,” he said.
The Freemans will end their expedition along the path of proposed sulfide-ore mining.
Like most couples, the two expect to have some arguments on their trip. Dave Freeman said they typically work them out right away.
“Our relationship is probably better when we’re out on these long expeditions, because we have to rely on each other so much,” he said.