Life on Pine Island

Life on Pine Island

We live much of the year at our wilderness homestead located just outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).  Living here beyond the easy reach of civilization requires a certain level of self sufficiency.  There is no modern means by which to get building materials, or any other provision to our homestead, because getting here requires, not only a water crossing, but also a short (1/4 + mile) but vigorous hike to the top of the highest point anywhere along Minnesota's famous 40 mile long Lake Vermilion.  Some of the seasonal islanders have taken to calling it "heart attack hill",  but hey it's Minnesota, it's not that big of a hill.  While getting to our homestead does take a little extra effort, and I will admit it is not for everyone, there is a special joy and sense of place and meaning that comes from living here, a little closer to the land, surrounded by nature, creating a hand made life from the woods, in the woods. 

Many of our custom trips and courses are based out of our homestead on the 7 mile long Pine island.  Life here moves a little slower than life on the main land in the absence of cars/other machinery and running water. Our only power comes from a small solar panel for running our business, and charging our visitors devices.  The homestead is surrounded by forest and thousands of acres of public lands, giving us, and our visitors, plenty of freedom to roam. Our hilltop perch has an awe inspiring view overlooking one of the islands two lakes, as well as, Big Bay of Lake Vermilion, with distant views of Giants Ridge 25 miles away (the Laurentian divide). 

There are many bonuses to living beyond the easy reach of civilization like solitude, peace and quiet, wildlife watching, frequent hiking and exploring trips, fishing, swimming, canoeing, gathering wild edibles and craft materials, campfires, and all the things associated with life in the Northwoods.

Ashlee and Lindy's cabin is built of logs harvested directly from their property with ax and crosscut saws.  The log cabin itself was constructed using traditional tools like ax, gouge, chisel, handsaws, ropes, pulleys, and good old fashioned human power.  The islands forest like much of the BWCA has not been subjected to commercial logging since the White Pine Logging Era of the early 1900's thus the forests here are something to behold, and it is not uncommon at all to come across ancient white pine and red pine that survived that early logging era.

Our homestead is still under construction, visitors can camp here for free while taking a course or before heading out on a trip with us.  Our vision for this place, and indeed the vision for all of our trips and courses, is to blend the traditional handcrafts/skills taught at many folk schools with the life ways, and landscapes that these crafts evolved from and are adapted to. 

When not living on Pine Island, Ashlee and Lindy make there tiny off-grid cabin in the Rocky Mountains near Montana's Big Blackfoot River home.  Living a portion of the year next to the BWCA and the rest of the year within the Crown Of The Continent Ecosystem, where grizzly bears still roam, gives them incredible access to some of the lower 48 States most amazing and wild landscapes.  Living simply, and having access to these public lands from their small homesteads greatly enriches their lives.

The Gallery Below is composed largely of pictures from our Pine Island homestead, and the surrounding landscape, as well as featuring some pictures of hunting in the mountains and other gathering activities etc. that are central to our way of life.


Why Traditional Gear

Why traditional gear?

This is no doubt going to be one of the most frequent questions we are asked as we launch our traditional canoe tripping and handcraft courses.  It is a good question whose answer is complex and diverse.  There are issues of sustainability, economics and accessibility, aesthetics, and function among other things, but I am going to focus here on what I see as some of the core ways in which I think traditional gear and knowledge benefits the individuals who choose to pursue traditional wilderness living skills and experiences.

Utilizing traditional crafts, gear, knowledge, and skills (“Traditional Ways” from here forward) in our outdoor pursuits connects us to the land, the past, and ultimately ourselves in deep and meaningful ways (“Deep Relationships” from here forward) that modern alternatives to Traditional Ways cannot.  Furthermore, learning the knowledge and skill inherent in crafting  handmade traditional wilderness material goods like birch bark canoes, hand carved paddles, wooden snowshoes & toboggans, bow drill fire kits, mukluks, buckskins, and traditional food from the land, and using these goods as they were intended to be used, is a rewarding and interesting, often life changing experience.

When we rely on the land and the Traditional Ways passed down to us by countless generations of nameless craftspeople, and hunters of old we are transformed from mere visitors (in some ways alien) to wild places to active participants (more at home) in the natural world we all depend upon.  Practicing Traditional Ways is a deeply empowering experience that fosters a strong sense of self-confidence, practical knowledge, and Deep Relationships with the Land, the Past, and Self that cannot be achieved through theoretical knowledge alone.

Hands on experience in Traditional Ways in wilderness settings and the Deep Relationships and appreciation for the land that Traditional Ways foster is largely lacking, or poorly developed, within our modern disconnected relationships with the land. Conventional wilderness recreation, in some cases, fosters similar relationships through environmental lessons, tripping, and skill development, but it does so in a more abstract and theoretical way, that is not the same as knowing by doing.  Our Wilderness trips and wilderness based courses create real tangible connections and relationships between people and the land, while also, changing people’s inner landscape, the way that only hands on experiences can.

Boundary Waters Bushcraft & Wilderness Adventures: Wilderness trips and courses are designed to reconnect people with wilderness ecosystems in real and tangible ways while also awakening their human capabilities to live, create, and commune directly with, and from wild lands sustainably and responsibly.