Today: Jason Zabokrtsky of Ely Outfitting Company, who has a zeal for getting people into the wild. He started an essay contest last year for teenagers, with the winner getting a trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This year's contest is under way. See "Essay" at


High school students are submitting essays for our contest, explaining why they want to go on a parent-free adventure with their friends. I'm impressed by how much young people crave the opportunity to explore the BWCA, challenge themselves, and unplug from social media. It's inspiring to hear from young people who care about the wilderness. On my nightstand is "Desert Solitaire" by Edward Abbey. I'm reading this for the first time. It's fun stumbling across some of his well-known quotes in their original context. I'm also appalled that he went down the Colorado River without a lifejacket.


The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and efforts to protect the BWCA from risky sulfide-ore copper mining proposals on the edge of the wilderness and along waters that flow directly in. The BWCA is an incredible, unique treasure that deserves protection because of its value to people who find meaningful connections to nature and their friends and families there. And it deserves protection as an important resource that drives the economy of the Arrowhead of northeastern Minnesota. I'm also closely following the partial government shutdown. BWCA quota entry permits for this summer will become available Jan. 30. The federal government has moved to a new vendor for the permit reservation website, and permit-issuing cooperators like my business have not yet seen the cooperator interface on the website or been trained on the new system. Training is scheduled for next week, but it is unclear if it will take place.


Nature signs fascinate me. While cross-country skiing this week, I discovered tracks from a wolf with an injured, bleeding paw. My mind wondered about the cause and whether my hunch of an injured paw was correct. We found a piece of a deer's leg further down the trail and I wondered if we may ski upon the results of a successful kill by the wolf's pack. We didn't see more wolf sign.


I listen to a variety of outdoors and news-related podcasts. The storytelling of the "Dirtbag Diaries" podcast is fun, and I enjoy WTIP's "Boundary Waters Podcast."


I'd wanted to explore a particular seldom-seen, remote BWCA lake for some time. It's a smaller lake and easy to miss on the maps. It's not on a travel route, there's no navigable stream into or out of it, and no maintained portage leading in. I decided I wanted the right winter conditions to make my way to it: solid ice, not too much snow, and hopefully no slush. After analyzing the navigation maps and topography and getting a good conditions window, I made a plan and dashed in on backcountry skis.