What is Wilderness?

We’re podcast fans over here. While we give a listen to a wide variety topics, we always get excited when we find a good outdoors-themed discussion. And we think this episode from Backstory is a winner. It tackles the concept of American “wilderness” — what does that mean today vs. what is has meant in centuries past? Can our modern notion of wilderness actually exist without the interference of man? Does “wilderness” have an inherent goodness? And what happens when people’s competing ideas of wilderness collide?

Backstory's historians and guests present this fascinating topic in a challenging, yet enlightening way. Give it a listen, and tell us what you think. 

Turning lemons into... breakfast burritos.

This past weekend we had big plans to have a meet-up in Linville Gorge. We had over 100 folks sign up for a Saturday full of yoga, a "backcountry brew methods" coffee lesson, climbing, and group-hiking. Unfortunately, the weather turned out to be less than ideal for camping- let alone sun rise yoga or trying to enjoy breakfast with (possibly) 100 people outside- so we had to make the heart-breaking decision to cancel it. We didn't want our hard work and breakfast supplies to go to waste, so we decided to have a last-minute gathering at Paris Mountain State Park in our hometown of Greenville, SC...and it was a blast! Even after the cancelation of an epic weekend, everyone showed up in good spirits and with big appetites. We got to meet new friends and chat over Methodical Coffee, Mount Gilead Granola, and breakfast burritos made with farm fresh eggs from Merciful Hearts Farm. It was a delightful group of about 40, and it made our morning to see person after person show up excited about gathering together with friends and strangers who share a love for community and the outdoors. Below are photos from the day taken by our fellow adventurer, Jesse Barber. Click here to read his full story and to check out more photos of his weekend in beautiful Greenville. (A re-scheduled trip is in the works for later this summer, so keep an eye out for info on how to RSVP!)

"Make the most of every day, work hard, follow your heart, and don't treat anyone like a stranger. You'll never know where you'll end up." - Jesse Barber
"Make the most of every day, work hard, follow your heart, and don't treat anyone like a stranger. You'll never know where you'll end up." - Jesse Barber

"Make the most of every day, work hard, follow your heart, and don't treat anyone like a stranger. You'll never know where you'll end up." - Jesse Barber

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Emilie Goes to Utah

One of our own, Emilie Hollenbeck, recently took a trip to both Arches and Canyonlands- her two new favorite parks- while in Utah. Read below for some great stories, tips and suggestions if you're planning on traveling to Utah in the near future!


We drove from Salt Lake City to Moab in the dark (and a terrifying snowstorm - in the mountains), so we couldn't see what we were driving through, but we knew it had to be awesome because you could see hints of a crazy landscape even in the dark. Seeing the surroundings of Moab for the first time in the daylight was breathtaking. We covered a lot of ground in Arches in one day, and it felt like we had the whole park to ourselves. This trip really made me a firm believer in off season travel, which I highly recommend! I can't say it enough. Even if you only have a day to spend in the area, DO IT. It's totally worth it. 

We went to Canyonlands on a super foggy day, which was actually really awesome. We hung out at a lookout point for about 15 minutes and while we were there, the fog subsided to reveal an amazing view. Within minutes, the fog moved back in to completely hide the view. It was mysterious and amazing. This happened at a few different lookout points, and I'll never forget it.

I've visited a lot of places, but Utah is my new favorite. Arches felt surreal. The mix of the giant arches with a desert feel and snowcapped mountains in the distance was unlike any other scenery I've experienced! Canyonlands felt like the Grand Canyon with snowcapped mountains in the background. I think the biggest thing that stood out to me was the vast amount of change in landscape. I loved it, and I'll remember it forever. There's just something about snow and desert combined that's magical.

I highly recommend exploring the areas outside of the parks. Some of the coolest views we experienced on our trip were from a trail outside of Arches in Negro Bill Canyon. Some new friends at Outdoor Retailer told us about this area, and I'm so glad that we took their advice and went on the Morning Glory Bridge Trail. This hike was amazing; it was about 5 miles round trip with beautiful views along the way and an incredible natural bridge at the end! Apparently, Canyonlands is huge. If you want to explore the whole park (or several parts of it), I would recommend planning on spending a few days there. We definitely only saw a small piece of the park, but I'm looking forward to going back!

Also, if you end up in Moab and you're hungry, eat at The Spoke on Center - they have awesome burgers!

"The Listener's Yosemite"

What is true silence? Is it something that is possible to find? I’ll confess, I hadn’t given it much thought, until I listened to a recent episode of an On Being podcast. 

In this episode, entitled Silence and the Presence of Everything, Krista Tippett interviews a man named Gordon Hampton. Hampton is an Acoustic Ecologist, a profession that Google defines as “studying the relationship, mediated through sound, between human beings and their environment”. As a young man, he had a sudden epiphany of sorts, and from that day forward he has had one goal: to become a better listener.

Gordon Hampton has invented what he calls Silent Activism. He believes we live in a world where “silence is on the verge of extinction.” He has spent the past 30 years compiling a list called The Last Great Quiet Places. Of the 30 places on this list, only 12 are in the United States, and of those 12, none are protected land. Olympic National Park, also referred to by Hampton as “the listener’s Yosemite”, is where he has focused most of his study and attention. In particular, an area of the park that he calls the “Cathedral of the Rain Forest.” Here you can find some of the world’s tallest trees, boasting heights of over 300 feet. What’s even more impressive is that this area has the least amount of noise pollution of anywhere in the United States. 

Hampton tells us that true silence does not actually exist, that because of everything going on in the atmosphere there cannot be a real absence of sound. But what we can find is silence from modern life, away from unnecessary filler sounds of which we have become numb, and into the world of the natural acoustic system. 

We invite you to give the episode a listen, and allow the beautiful and peaceful sounds that Gordon Hampton has captured from Olympic National Park to inspire you to discover the world differently- to think about what it means to really be in a place and to be mindful of what is all around you. 

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

SUPs for G.O.A.T.

The relationship with our charitable partner, GOAT (Great Outdoor Adventure Trips), is one that is very dear to our hearts here at The Landmark Project. It is a joy not only to contribute, but to witness first-hand their mission to help at-risk youth reach their full potential by engaging them through nature and teaching them invaluable life skills. Each year, we see GOAT use the great outdoors as a platform to mentor and train over 1,000 kids! 


What’s equally important is their passion and unique ability to build real, lasting relationships with the kids and teenagers in the program as they take on the roles of mentor, trainer, and friend in each of their lives. That means that somewhere along the way we get the privilege of sharing in those friendships as well! This year, we wanted to think of a fun and creative way to give the gift of outdoor adventure to all of our friends at GOAT. 

With the help of our generous neighbors, Invert, we were able to raise money to purchase a fleet of 15 paddle boards to donate to GOAT for their summer trips. Our hope is that these boards will provide endless amounts fun, adventure, and new learning experiences on the lake for years to come. We’re excited to hear all of the stories that we hope these boards will help create, and even more excited to tag along for a trip or two this summer!

A portion of the awesome fleet of 15 Invert SUPs.  

A portion of the awesome fleet of 15 Invert SUPs.  

We absolutely loved receiving this super creative thank you note from our buddies at G.O.A.T.! 

We absolutely loved receiving this super creative thank you note from our buddies at G.O.A.T.! 

Grand Teton National Park

Looking for an escape after 7 days dedicated to Outdoor Retailer’s massive August trade show, we set our compass North to discover Grand Teton National Park. Typically we avoid travel during peak tourist season (which it most definitely was), but we ventured out nonetheless.

Where to stay?
Traveling in peak season near Teton or Yellowstone is expensive. Even the most basic accommodations in Jackson were $250+ a night. If you’re on a shoestring budget, consider camping in one of the many public campgrounds in the area, which unlike other parks, did not seem to fill up. If you’re the type of person who wants to play in the mountains but not necessarily sleep in them, then Teton Village is the place to be. The village offers immediate access to the mountains by trail or by tram, bike rentals, boat rentals, and is the starting place for countless guided adventures. Even paragliding from the 10,400 ft Rendezous Mountain.

Here’s what we did:

Arriving in Jackson at Dinner time, we went straight to the park to scope out a place to watch and photograph sunset. We settled in at the iconic Snake River Overlook where Ansel Adams once photographed this landscape 75 years ago. The sun sets behind the Tetons here, producing rays of light that filter between both sides of the Grand’s deep glacier-carved canyons.

Grand Teton National Park, Snake River Overlook

Grand Teton National Park, Snake River Overlook

After sunset, grab dinner at the local brew pub, Snake River Brewing, where they make a killer burger or cup of chili out of Montana Bison.

On our second day, we rose early to beat the crowds at the Jenny Lake… But not early enough. A ferry ($15 round trip for an adult) crosses the lake, taking hikers to the trailhead leading to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, then Cascade Canyon. I highly recommend being on the first boat at 7 AM. The likeliness of seeing Teton’s abundant wildlife is much higher in the morning along the shores of Jenny Lake. Thankfully most of the tourist turned back at Inspiration Point. Inspiration point is beautiful, but true reward is the solitude found in Cascade Canyon. Cascade Canyon’s 3.3 miles of moderate trail display towering walls on both sides, an ice cold stream, and (for us) at least 4 moose sightings.If you have the time, continue on to Paintbrush Canyon and Solitude Lake.

We made a lunch out of Epic Bars, who were our booth neighbors at the OR show last week. They sent us well prepared.

After a day spent hiking the canyons, we fiercely craved coffee. Thankfully Jackson has an unbelievable cafe and bakery called Persephone Bakery that serves up intelligentsia coffee, afternoon cocktails, and fantastic confections. This became our favorite watering hole during our short trip.

Our third and last day in Jackson began with a 4:30 AM wakeup call to watch the sunrise. A 30 minute drive from our accommodations brought us to Hendricks Pond Overlook off of HWY 191 north of the airport (not on most maps). Be here a half hour before sunrise to catch first light and to watch nature wake up. The likelihood of seeing moose, bear, and other wildlife here is very high. We stayed here and enjoyed the solitude for about an hour and a half before we saw another soul.

Grand Teton National Park, Hendricks Pond Overlook

Grand Teton National Park, Hendricks Pond Overlook

After another pastry breakfast from Persephone, we bought tickets to take the Mountain Tram from Teton Village to the top of Rendezvous Mountain (the tickets are cheaper online by the way). After a 12 minute ride to the top, you’re greeted with 360 degree views, including seeing the Grand to the North. Be prepared to feel the effects of less oxygen at 10,400 feet as you enjoy the high elevation trail system at the top. There is little tree cover, so bring sunscreen and chapstick to protect yourself from the sun and wind exposure. More adventurous hikers can scramble to a neighboring peak with some basic class 4 climbing. After a short attempt and a minor injury, we decided to cut our losses and take a more well-trafficked trail. The Cirque trail descends 1400 feet to another Mountain Gondola that greets your tired legs with a restaurant and patio. A great place to grab food and a drink before the scenic ride down the mountain.

Having to be back on the road for Salt Lake City by mid-afternoon, this was a perfect half-day commitment.

Because our trip was so short, we have vowed to come back and hit up a few more Landmarks in this park suggested by locals. Such as:

Lake of the Crags. A relatively short unmarked trail from the Jenny Lake ferry stop that quickly ascends 3400 feet to a pristine alpine lake fed by glacial melt and surrounded by steep canyon walls. Only the locals know about this one. We had to coax it out of our server at Hatch Tacos.

Float the Snake. But not whitewater rafting - paddleboard the series of connected lakes and waterways at the base of the Grand, maybe even taking it all the way back to Jackson.

Ascend the Grand. No it’s not too ambitious. Athleticism aside, no advanced climbing skills are needed to make an ascent of the Grand. A good mountain guide can get you to the summit using routes no harder than a 5.4 and it can be done in two days. The precarious exposure at times may not be for the faint at heart.

Live Bluegrass at the Wort Hotel. It happens every Tuesday night and the here-say is that you don’t want to miss it. Too bad we had to leave town early.

Remember to pack out what you pack in, and be kind to fellow travelers! Happy Trails! 

Back to Yosemite Falls

When I was in college, Upper Yosemite Falls was my spot.

It may not have been a secret or solitary place, but the beauty of Yosemite Valley unfolding before my eyes and the surreal feeling of sitting on the edge of the tallest waterfall in North America was exactly what I needed to re-center.

This year I returned to the park with plans to climb and built an itinerary that did not include the trail to the falls. Yes, it was a classic, but I had granite to rub my fingers raw on!

But the day I left, I couldn’t resist the lure of Yosemite Falls crashing down 2,425 feet. I longed for that feeling of tranquility, that connection to my past.

I convinced my friend to hike the 7.2 miles in 2,700 feet and we navigated switchbacks through woodlands and then up an open rocky path.

We sat on Columbia Rock and basked in the sun. We snapped pictures of the valley below and the falls mere feet away.  I let the spray of the chilly water soak my smiling face. It felt like coming home.

Within a few hours, we were on top and peering over the edge. We exclaimed over the rainbow. Over the close-up of Half Dome. Over the exhilaration of being so high up. Over the pure joy on the faces of tourists around us.

Then I perched on the edge, just like I did when I was in college, and closed my eyes. No place leaves a more lasting impression.

Stacia Glenn | @Staciangeliques

Max Patch Instagram Meetup

Gorgeous views, an incredible sunset, delicious breakfast burritos - all with a group of friends, new and old, brought together for one night by a mutual love for community and the outdoors. Sounds perfect, right? It was pretty dang close!

Right off of the Appalachian Trail, Max Patch has hands down one of the most gorgeous 360 degree views of the Smoky Mountains. You have the option to hike or drive in, each route being very accessible and well-marked. If driving, there is parking available at the bottom of the grassy summit, with a short yet tiring walk to the top. But every second of that cardio-inducing incline is worth it. I found myself wishing I could walk backwards uphill just so I wouldn’t miss a second of the endless mountain views around me. After taking in the picturesque view literally surrounding me on all sides, I realized something just as wonderful as the scenery was awaiting at the top— a group of friends and strangers  sharing meals, drinks, stories and laughs. And what a welcoming group it was! As the sun began to go down, we all migrated to the highest part of the bald. Together we got to watch, and try to capture in endless photographs, arguably one of the most stunning sunsets in the southeast. There is really nothing like enjoying a camp meal in your sleeping bag surrounded by good people as the sky changes from one gorgeous color to the next. Night began to fall and we all headed back to the fire for warmth and good conversation. Although quite windy, the star gazing was unbelievable.

In the morning as I unzipped my tent, I was greeted by rays of warm sunshine peeking over the vast hills, with the smell of breakfast burritos cooking in The Landmark Project tent (lovingly referred to as the space station- if you ever see it, you’ll know why). After finding one of the dogs that wandered off during breakfast and a few fun group photos, we all broke down our campsites and said our goodbyes. While some of us headed back home, others off for a day in Asheville, and the ones that couldn’t get quite enough of that perfect weather and lush green forest set out for a day-hike on the AT, we all left with full bellies, new friends, and some pretty magical memories. I have to admit, I have always been a little skeptical of the whole “Instagram meet up” idea, but this trip squashed my doubts and proved that if done with a good attitude, an open-mind, and in my opinion, while in the great outdoors, it is truly an awesome way to meet quality, like-minded human beings. I cannot wait for the next one!

-Jennifer Hall @jenkhall

Yes, you can climb ice in the South.

But if you want to, you have to be somewhat of an opportunist. 

The same granite slabs that glisten with spring water on a summer day become encrusted with thick, dense ice after a week of below-freezing temperatures.  Any North-facing wall keeps its ice throughout the warmest part of the winter day. The spring water continues to freeze in layers, creating a shadowy blue wall that is ready for a good send. Enjoy it while its there, because even though Western North Carolina has the highest mountains east of the Mississippi, warm air tends to punctuate our winters unexpectedly.

Two great places to climb near the Asheville area are Bear Wallow Falls near Chimney Rock or the icy walls South of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Highway 215. 

Need more info on ice climbing (or want to try it for the first time?), ask Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School.  They’re the local pros.

While you're driving around looking for ice, don't forget that the Blue Ridge Parkway closes in winter to vehicles. But don't let that stop you from snowshoeing the National Park in blissful solitude.

Contributed by The Landmark Project @thelandmarkproject

Hike the Magical Ridges of Oahu

Sunrise on top of Olamana Mountain.

Sunrise on top of Olamana Mountain.

Legend tells of Olamana, a 30-foot warrior who ruled the lands until the King of Oahu sent Palila, a soldier with supernatural powers, to challenge him. During the battle, Palila sliced Olamana in half. His torso landed in the Pacific while his bottom half became the mountain over which we climbed during a trip to Hawaii. 

Olamana Three Peaks is often called the most treacherous hike on the island, and it certainly can be when the weather rolls in. But if you love 360 degree views and class 3 scrambling, this is a must on Oahu! It's a 5-hour journey through mud pits, up vertical rock (with the help of ropes), and along narrow ridges with steep drop-offs on each side.

Only 10 miles outside Honolulu, the trailhead starts at the Luana Hills Country Club, just up the road from the guard shack. Be warned that they will block off the trail if it's rainy due to dangerous conditions. It was raining the first time we attempted the hike, and we were turned away. We rose early the next morning so we could get on the trail before the guard showed up at 6 a.m., and it was well worth the effort. As the sun lit up the valley, we approached the top of the first peak. We scrambled up the rocks even faster so we could catch the golden light. After hours of climbing by headlamps, we were awestruck at the beauty that lay before us. Our sweaty backs, muddy legs, and rumbling bellies all faded in the magic of the moment. The Koolau Ridge glowed green to our right, the third peak jutted in front of us. From our vantage point we could see and hear the happenings around town from Kailua to Makapuu.

The third peak of Olamana, known as Ahiki, intrigued me since the first time I saw it in a picture. A thin, vertical ridge covered in lush green plants shooting straight into the air with views of the Windward Coast sprawled around it -- I needed to see it in person. Once there, hanging out atop a rocky outcropping on the third peak, we reveled in the beauty of the island and the legends of its landscape.

Should you ever make this trip, I would recommend a stop at Maunawili Falls afterward to cool down in a pool beneath the 15-foot falls. It's an easy 2 1/2 mile hike. But you should expect company - it's a popular spot! 

Contributed by Stacia Glenn

Moab in Winter, Experience Snow in the Desert

Standing under Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Standing under Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Want the National Parks all to yourself? Go to the desert in the winter. Arches, Capitol Reef, and Dead Horse State Park are all in close proximity, but I prefer Canyonlands. Whether you want a long day hike or you're going on a road trip and want to see some quick cool spots, Canyonlands is hard to beat.

Its worth the early morning commitment to Visit Mesa Arch at sunrise. The way the light hits the bottom of the arch is absolutely beautiful, and the hike is quite easy. I also recommend the the Aztec Buttes. I won't give away my secrets, but if you do some exploring around there you may find some incredible caves to explore. Another cool geological feature is Upheaval dome because of the altering effect that it has on your depth perception!

Stay in Moab and it's a quick 35-45 min drive. Word of advice: If you're trying to catch the sunrise, allow for an hour or driving because once you get into the park, there is a bit of a drive before you can access any of the destinations.

I stayed at the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab! It is awesome, friendly, and 30 bucks a night. They have a kitchen where you can cook up your own meal, put your stuff in the fridge, or try out some of Denali's homemade pancakes or soups.

Contributed by Sam Cook

Land of Waterfalls, Western North Carolina

Triple Falls, Dupont State Forest, NC

Triple Falls, Dupont State Forest, NC

Driving to Dupont State Forest, you pass the continental divide and a sign that says "Welcome to the Land of Waterfalls." They're not kidding either. Dupont is a gem for day hikers and mountain bikers, offering much reward for little effort.

From Asheville, NC, Dupont is about a 40 minute drive. Once you get there, park at the Hooker Falls parking lot - from here you can access 3 iconic waterfalls.

1. HOOKER FALLS. A short hike from the car but the best place to swim. Go early in the day because this area gets crowded because of its accessibility.  

2. TRIPLE FALLS. You'll gain some elevation getting to Triple Falls, but the destination is well worth it! The falls has three magnificent tiers and some of the best photo opportunities in the park. When the water is low enough, you can explore the rocks above and below the waterfalls. Fun fact: this is a filming location for the first Hunger Games film.

3. HIGH FALLS. Continue up the Triple Falls trail until you see high falls. This trail offers a distant view of the falls, but it is magnificent. For a closer look, a side trail leads to the base of the falls where you can explore the pools and rocks.  

Mountain bikers will prefer to start their adventure at the Lake Imaging parking area. Use this Dupont Trail map to choose a loop connecting to the famous Ridgeline Trail, then enjoy the beautifully carved single track that takes you back to the parking lot. If the Ridgeline trail isn't enough of a rush, try the Reasonover Creek Trail or Cornmill Shoals. Both have adventurous creek crossings and white-knuckle single track.

There are few food options near Dupont, but right outside the park is a local watering hole called Cedar Mountain Canteen - perfect for a refreshing pint after a day on the trails. If you have the time, Sierra Nevada recently opened a 110 million dollar brewery in Mills River (about 30 minutes away). You can hop on a free tour or enjoy the local eats in their attached Restaurant.

After visiting Dupont, you'll see why we were compelled to make our Dupont State Forest tee shirt with an illustration of Triple Falls.  

Triple Falls, Dupont State Forest, NC

Triple Falls, Dupont State Forest, NC

Contributed by @thelandmarkproject

Elephant Rocks State Park, Missouri

Elephant Rocks is one of the best kept climbing secrets of the midwest. My old college climbing club would host weekend road trips here in the fall and winter. I didn't discover it as much as I was "let in on the secret."

By far the best memory I have from here is sending my first outdoor V2. At the beginning of anyone's climbing career in the midwest, most climbs are done indoors. On my first trip to Elephant Rocks I conquered some of the sharpest, unfriendliest rock I have still had the pleasure to climb on. Standing on top of the massive granite boulder, hands bleeding, looking down at my friends who had cheered me on all the way to the top - that's what E-Rocks has to offer.

To start, walk the main trail which is called the Braille trail. Make sure to check out the Engine House Ruins trail and see the actual engine house ruins. Have lunch at the abandoned quarry out behind the park but accessible from the engine house trail. Most importantly though, leave the trail (which is encouraged by the park) and climb to the top to see sweeping views of Missouri's rolling hills and to see the rock carvings set upon massive boulders sitting on top of even more massive boulders.

These elephant sized Boulders in the park were deposited a long time ago by glaciers moving through the midwest. Run, jump, and climb across these monsters or bring a picnic and observe the rock carvings left by granite miners of the 19th century. Bring your crash pad and try some of the most unique (and possibly only) bouldering in Missouri.

Afterwards, cool off by swimming the rocky river bank of Johnson Shut Ins State Park and grab some authentic Missouri barbecue in the little town of Belleview.

Contributed by Andrew Gernigin @theroadanddrew




Trapper Peak, Washington

Trapper Peak, Washington.

Trapper Peak, Washington.

I will never forget coming over the ridge just below the summit of Trapper Peak and seeing the jagged Pickets for the first time. It's a remote mountain range and few places offer such glimpses. So I was mesmerized. I literally dropped my pack and sat staring in awe for nearly an hour. We scrambled to the summit just in time for sunset and watched the sky change behind towering Mount Triumph before setting up our tent. It was a frigid night but we bundled up to take night shots and tried to count the billions of stars overhead. We snuck in less than four hours of sleep before we braved the cold again to watch the sunrise over Newhalem, a tiny town below. It's become one of my favorite winter camping spots and my go-to for introducing friends to the North Cascades.

If you have the energy in the morning, keep going to Thornton Peak, X Mountain or even glacier-covered Mount Triumph.

Trapper Peak can be a day hike in the summer, a winter backpacking trip or a peakbagging weekend when combined with nearby summits. Something for everybody and a new experience every time!

When you're off the mountain, stop by Birdsview Brewery in Concrete, WA for tasty burgers and beer. 

Visit the Wilderness Information Center for a permit, map or to ask questions about trail conditions.

Drive 16 miles past the trailhead to a viewpoint and gaze at the famous blue waters of Diablo Lake and Diablo Dam, which at 389 feet was once the tallest dam in the world. 

Trapper Peak, Washington.

Trapper Peak, Washington.

Contributed by Stacia Glenn @staciangeliques

Boundary Waters Canoe Area & Smoked Fish

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I consider myself a backpacker and climber. Not a paddler. But for years the BWCA in Superior National Forest has been high on my list as a way to try something new. I have no regrets.

If you live near or plan to visit Minneapolis, I highly encourage a visit the BWCA for a few days. It provides an incredible opportunity for wildlife viewing (moose, bear, wolf) and some world class fishing and paddling. Plan for a 4.5 hour drive from the city to get you to the edge of the Boundary Waters (almost to the border of Canada).  Split the drive up with a stop in Duluth for some smoked fish from the Northern Waters Smokehouse, and definitely stop by the notable Duluth Pack store for a last minute gear stop

There are several places to enter the wilderness area, but we chose Sawbill Lake in Tofte because there is a campground and outfitter located there.  Renting a canoe from the Sawbill Outfitters was fast and easy. They also helped us with permits and booked our campsite. Be ready to experience the friendliness of Northern Minnesotans.  

Portaging was a new experience for our entire group, but we became experts quickly.  Here's a few things we learned:

1. Keep a sharp eye for the trailheads. They aren't officially marked, and its easy to paddle past them, especially in the wind. Keep your map handy.

2. Bring a big pack.  You don't want to make trips back and forth to carry your gear.

3. Research your portages ahead of time. Know the distance and the conditions that you'll be traveling.

4. Invest in a good pair of polarized sunglasses.  That much time on the water and you'll be fighting reflections and wind.  Stay comfortable, and keep your retinas happy.

I believe the best time of year to experience the Boundary Waters is in early October.  It may be cold, but I'm particular to off season travel. You'll avoid the mosquitoes and the crowds of people, and be present for the fall colors and lingering wildlife. 

When you get back to Minneapolis, reward yourself with a stop by Sociable Cider Werks, a small local taproom that makes their own hard cider. Just around the corner from there is Sightglass Coffee, a good place to settle in and pick which photos of your trip you want to post to instagram.

Contributed by @thelandmarkproject