Today: Bear Paulsen, a winter camping instructor and general manager at Northstar Canoes in Princeton, Minn.


I became enamored of Sir Ernest Shackleton 25 years ago in a Pickle Lake, Ontario, motel room. A friend and I had just completed a seven-night winter camping trip where the temperature reached zero degrees. As we dried and sorted our frozen equipment, we watched, amazed as small, grainy TV described the story of Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Since then I’ve read a great many accounts of historic Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. I’m reading a biography by Margery and James Fisher (“Shackleton”) published in 1957. In the 1950s, Shackleton was not widely regarded as the pre-eminent explorer that he is today, and it’s interesting to read a biography from an era when his star had only begun to rise.


I’m always following the weather because it affects all outdoor adventures. My outdoor activities follow the seasons: from cross-country skiing in the winter, to paddling spring rivers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, then heading to Canada for a long summer canoe trip, and finally fall trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I follow snowfall and rainfall, and, of course, temperatures. There’s nothing more fascinating to follow than the weather.


I compulsively watch river levels. I always slow a bit and sometimes stop when driving over a bridge that spans a river. I have the U.S. Geological Survey water levels, Canada’s real-time hydrometric data, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources water trails webpages bookmarked. With Northstar Canoe’s new IXP lamination — making for a more durable canoe — I can run rivers and paddle white water in our high- performance composite canoes.


I’m forever planning and going on camping trips. I recently returned from two and a half weeks on a New Year’s trip in mid-January to the BWCA for the 19th consecutive time. Spring weekends are for paddling new rivers. I’ve had the pleasure of exploring more than 80 creeks and rivers in Minnesota and Wisconsin.