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Paddling into Spring
The moment that signifies the arrival of a northern spring is the first time you slide a canoe into the water. There may still be some rotten ice along the shoreline and lingering patches of snow in the woods, but the first stroke of the paddle pushes winter behind you. Ahead lies months of time on the water. The canoe is the vessel of the North. For centuries, it was the primary mode of conveyance during the open water season, because paddling and portaging along interconnected waterways was far easier than making your way on foot or horseback through dense boreal forests. Today, canoes are mostly used for recreation, but very often they remain the best or only way to get from Point A to Point B.
In this issue, we explore the world of canoes, as well as the people who make and use them. In a lovely essay, Mike Furtman takes us deep into the canoe country to discover the gifts of the canoe. Peter Fergus-Moore introduces us to a woman who makes canoes in Atikokan. Eric Chandler visits a paddle-maker in Duluth. Naturalist Emily Stone explains how canoeing can be an excellent way to observe the natural world. Julia Prinselaar reports on a 50-year-old high school program that culminates with a 12-day canoe trip into Quetico Provincial Park. Northern Wilds’ favorite historian tells us about the world’s oldest canoes. Delving into the Thunder Bay Art Gallery’s permanent collection, Breana Roy shares canoe-themed artwork. Joe Friedrichs tells the stories of the two last residents of the canoe country, Benny Ambrose and Dorothy Molter. Veteran canoe-tripper Chuck Viren explores the specialized world of canoe cuisine.
In this issue, we introduce two new writers. Jolene Banning of the Fort William First Nation takes us to an Anishinaabe sugar bush, where people continue and celebrate the ancient spring tradition of collecting and boiling maple sap. Duluth writer Shelby Lonne-Rogentine catches up with Eric Schultz, who creates everything from pontoon boats to bridges. Outdoor columnist Gord Ellis highlights the life of Nipigon angler and conservationist Ray Dupuis, who was inducted to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in March. Rae Poynter introduces us to the sweet, yet challenging hobby of beekeeping in the North. Last, but by no means least, Joe Shead of Two Harbors shares his expertise in the spring pastime (make that obsession for the likes of Joe) of searching for antlers shed by deer and moose during the previous winter.
We are hopeful that by the end of April, most of the snow will be gone from the Northern Wilds landscape and ice-out will soon follow. Just like you, we are itching to get on the water. Also, be sure to enter our new Facebook contest to win a Duluth pack.—Shawn Perich and Amber Pratt