Friday, August 19, 2011

Revisiting America

On opposite ends of town you can visit The North American Bear Center, which I visited last week and mentioned in the blog, and The International Wolf Center, which I visited Wednesday.  Ely is the home of both and from the looks of the  crowds I've seen at both centers, they are a "must see" attraction for visitors. I enjoyed them both. 
 The Wolf Center is described as the world's premier wolf interpretative facility giving the opportunity
to observe the resident wolf pack and learn about their natural history, as well as tour the "Wolves and WHumans" exhibit to learn about the wolf's hunting and feeding behaviors, go on an evening howling expedition, or put on snowshoes and follow the predator's winter tracks.  There are videos, talks, demonstrations, day programs, and other adventures that make a visit worthwhile.
  I was interested too in seeing Vermillion Community College called The Boundry Waters College.
While I'm at this point let me explain about the Boundry Waters. 
When I began looking for a place to live in Ely for the month of August the initial's BWCAW were everywhere.  Well, they stand for Boundry Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  This is a unique area located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in the northeastern Minnesota.  This area is over 1 million acres in size, extends nearly 150 miles along the International Boundry adjacent to Canada's Quetico Provincial Park, and is bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park.   The BWCAW contains over 1200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2000 designated campsites.  Visitors can experience the spirit of the French Voyageurs of 200 years ago by canoeing, portage, and camping.  Wilderness offers one freedom to pursue an experience of solitude, challenge,
and personal integration with nature.
Certainly one doesn't just walk in, hop a canoe and push off.  The Basics must be tended to such as the proper permits, reservations if overnight, fees, whatever is required for your visit. 
The Boundry Waters was recognized for recreational opportunities in 1926, named the Superior Roadless Area in 1938, the BWCA in 1958, and federally designated under The Wilderness Act in 1964, and finally in 1978, by the Wilderness Act, becoming the The Boundry Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  The Act was established to provide specific guidance for managing, protecting, maintaining, preventing, and enhancing this million plus acres.  
The BWCAW contains the highest point in Minnesota:  Eagle Mountain, (2,301 feet).
There are no roads, no buildings, no sign that human beings have ever been there, except for Indian pictographs on some of the rocks,  and footprints on some of the portages, maybe signs of old campfires on some of the islands.  No motors, no airplanes, no generators, no cans or bottles permitted, unlawful to cut down a tree or even to cut off a bough or chip away bark.  Groups of more than ten canoeists must split up and go in different directions.  All of this is done to preserve and protect, while being enjoyed by many. 
I visited the Kawishiwi Ranger District Office here in Ely that is responsible for the care of the BWCAW.  They employ over 250 prople in the summer and have duties that range from fires to timber sales.  What a responsibility!
I wouldn't dare guess the number of "outfitters" that are in the area.  An outfitter can supply you, prepare you, teach you, and completely outfit you with the equipment, maps, food and techniques you'll need to enjoy a custom-designed trip that fits any ambition or ability.  Anything from a short, relaxing trek with emphasis on leisurely fishing, or a challenging two-week adventure covering miles of territory.  They're willing to share their expertise and advice so you'll make your trip with a sense of confidence
and peace of mind.  Now back to Vermillion Community College.
The College was founded in 1922, was ranked in the top 15 Community Colleges in the nation, has a student-faculty ratio of 22 to 1, has a rich mix of students, staff, faculty, and individuals that work within the college system, takes advantage of their location to offer many classes concerning Natural Resources Management, as well as Liberal Arts and Sciences, Business, Management and Tourism and Protection, Preservation, and Recreation.  I talked with Tommy Bennet, Recruiting Coordinator, and there are around 600 students enrolled in the 2-year programs, "some stay for three years," he said.  There are residential dorms also, which is a different concept from most 2-year colleges.  Students come from all over the world.  Why wouldn't you want to study in such a beautiful setting?
I am still meeting people that knew Kuralt and have some times set up to meet with them.

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