Community Ed class outlines year-long wilderness adventure

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News
Dave and Amy Freeman during their year in the wilderness that would become the basis of their book.

In October, the Montevideo Community Ed department is offering an online class titled “A Year in the Wilderness”, featuring Dave and Amy Freeman of Ely, Minnesota. The class centers around the Freemans’ year spent in the wilderness of the Boundary Waters as the couple worked to raise awareness about the dangers of a potential copper mine being placed in the wilderness of the Boundary Waters area. The Freeman's adventure made national headlines and became the basis of their book A Year in the Wilderness. “We came up with this idea to bring awareness about the threats that a copper mine would bring to the region,” says Freeman. “We thought what better way to raise awareness than to be out in the wilderness. So we partnered with a non-profit organization called Save the Boundary Waters and worked with them to share photos, journal entries, and do interviews with the media while we were out there. We wanted to help people understand what a special place the Boundary Waters is.”

The trip was not without its challenges. “The thing that made it the hardest wasn’t actually the cold or the bugs. It was missing friends and family, especially around the holidays and birthdays. Not being able to celebrate with those people we care about most and not being able to call up a friend and get together for pizza and a movie…in so many ways, that was the biggest challenge. The isolation,” says Freeman. 

Of course, the adventure also had rewards. “Personally, the most rewarding part of it was just slowing down. As time progressed our senses became more heightened. We could smell wild rice as it was ripening. We sat for a whole day and watched dragonflies hatching and slowly crawling out of the water and flying away. We experienced things we’ve never experienced before. It really changed us,” Freeman said. 

National media attention included interviews with the Today show, an interview with Outside Magazine, and an opportunity to do some writing for National Geographic. “We shared our journey with people all across the country and helped a lot more people understand how special the Boundary Waters are. Getting them to sign petitions and donate, and also taking action by contacting their local officials to help protect this place that we care about so much was the most rewarding part of all. We were able to feel like we were really making an impact,” said Freeman.

Freeman plans to continue their advocacy for the Boundary Waters. “I don’t know about spending a year in the Boundary Waters again. There’s a part of us that would love to do that. It was a really transformative year. We are continuing to go on adventures and spend time in wild places,” he said. In describing what about the wilderness draws him to it, Freeman says. “It’s the silence, and the stillness and the vastness of it. The challenge - there’s always something new, some problem to solve or physical challenge to overcome so just constantly having things that are sort of testing us, and things we have to figure out. I think that’s what makes the wilderness so special and draws us to continue to keep spending as much time in the wilderness as we can.”

"A Year in the Wilderness" was written about the experiences Amy and Dave Freeman had.

The class to be held through Montevideo Community Ed will be between 45 minutes to an hour in duration. “We show photos and video clips and tell stories about this year we spent out in the wilderness. We leave time for questions so that people can ask any they have. We try to keep it as interactive as we can,” Freeman says. The class is also a point for encouraging advocacy for the nation’s public lands. “There’s a lot of things that we can do. If you’re someone that spends a lot of time out in nature using our public lands, consider taking someone with you that maybe doesn’t feel as comfortable out in nature and introduce people to those places. I think on the most basic level, if we don’t value these places then I think we’re not going to protect them. Just helping people experience places like the Boundary Waters so that they can understand why we need to protect them is important. Once we have that basic desire, supporting organizations that work to protect our public lands is an important thing to do, whether it’s volunteering or donating. Also, helping tell our elected officials on a local, state, and national level that our public lands are important to us. These are important steps that as citizens we all need to take,” he says.

For more information on the class, visit the Montevideo Community Ed website at https://montevideoschools.org/comm_ed.