The Boundary Waters


This month the Scouting for Adventure series took me back to the place where I portaged my first canoe, hoisted my first bear bag and saw my first moose. It’s Ely, Minn., and quite possibly, (and ironically,) the geographic center of the historic homeland of the Ojibwe or Chippewa Nation.

Why is this important? Besides the fact that I love field-testing Chippewa boots on all my adventures and that I just happened to be working 276 short miles from the town that started it all (Chippewa Falls, WI)?

Well, I would have to say my career in outdoor television production could literally be traced back to two influential adventures – backpacking the Chicago Basin in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest in the summer of ’83 and paddling the Boundary Waters in northeastern Minnesota two years later.

The summer of ‘85 I had just turned 14 and couldn’t wait for my first wilderness canoe trip with my dad, grandpa and friends from Tulsa’s Troop 81. It was everything a high adventure paddling trip should be, truly a trip of a lifetime highlighted by a long list of firsts.

Like the Chippewa and French voyageurs that followed, Northern Tier is crazy for canoeing. We were given the laborious task of documenting three members of Troop 44 from Mendon, MA, as they paddled, fished, portaged, camped, and generally soaked up the sun and fresh air on a dozen lakes. Rough but essential work!

Renowned for it’s remote, untouched beauty, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) has over 1,500 miles of paddle routes, nearly 2,200 designated backcountry campsites, and more than 1,000 lakes and streams. Translation – you’re going to get wet!

So, it goes without saying the 2010 trip was a welcomed return to Ely and the Boy Scouts of America’s oldest of three National High Adventure Bases – Northern Tier. This time around I was joined by fellow Eagle Scout and Outdoor Channel field producer Jared Gustafson and my good friend, editor and videographer Dustin Blanchet. (He’s also responsible for some of the great pictures).

But, thankfully when it came to footwear, I didn’t have to sacrifice great ankle support for the convenience of a “water shoe.” Wet or dry my Chippewa Light Hikers maintained their breathability. And, they gave me the traction I needed in the canoe, at the waters edge, and on the portage trail. Coupled with the fact that I utilized a camp shoe off the water it’s not surprising they dried relatively quickly overnight. It was the perfect boot for the trip.

Interesting historical side note - the Ojibwe or Chippewa are one of the largest groups of Native Americans north of Mexico and the third largest in the United States behind the Cherokee and Navajo. Comprised of 125 bands equally distributed between the United States and Canada their traditional home range stretched from the shores of Lake Huron and Superior extending across Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

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Mike Garner Outdoors
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Chippewa has teamed up with Mike Garner, a lifelong sportsman and television personality with a love for everything outdoors, to bring you Mike's journey across the United States in his Chippewa boots.

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