David Brower said, "Conservationists have to win again and again and again. The enemy only has to win once. The history of the Quetico-Superior region perfectly illustrates Brower's warning.
Ultimately, we get the amount of wilderness that we are willing to fight for. Quetico-Superior: A Short History and Other Stories tells the story of a century of vigilance to protect this lake land wilderness from commercial development. Other books have addressed aspects of this struggle. My book gives the reader a concise engagement with this story. And now, with the canoe country again facing a challenge to its pristine integrity, I encourage today's canoeists to consider their roles in Brower's ongoing fight.
The second part of the book is both memoir and yarn. A trip into this wilderness presents the traveler with a formidable barrier to entry: the portage. I take the reader across one of these portage trails, ascribing both meaning and humor to the experience. The remaining two essays describe the pleasure of traveling alone in this wilderness and the relief of surviving an encounter with a bear.
My book concludes with a story best told around a campfire. The story is set in the canoe country and existed in the oral tradition for nearly thirty years. The Strange Tale of John Decamp was committed to paper on a 22 hour flight home from South Africa. Many of the young canoeists who traveled with me in this wilderness were excited to be able to revisit this story, particularly those who were there for its initial telling.
I recently turned 75. Writing this book has allowed me to add my voice to the chorus of advocates who have championed this special place.
Although my days of traveling the canoe country have passed, my memories of moments in this wilderness are vivid and deeply satisfying. As a good friend wrote to me upon reviewing my manuscript: "Remembering the haunting call of the loon and the stealthy glide of the canoe made me realize that my greatest regret about growing old is that I may not be able to experience another canoe trip where the hand of man has never set foot."