Life Lessons (Re)Learned in the Boundary Waters

By: Danielle Yaste

People often ask me what my favorite project has been or if I honestly enjoy everything that I do for work.  The honest answer is that, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed most of what we have done during the last six months, but I wouldn’t voluntarily do every single project over again.  And then came the boundary waters.  For most of my crew, the last month in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area has become the highlight project of the year.  Our crew spent nine days in the boundary waters, five days out, and then nine days back in.  We were exhausted.  We built board walks, stone walks, and causeways.  But, perhaps, my absolute favorite project of the year was reopening the campsites on South Lake.  This year has been a hard year for the boundary waters in terms of weather.  There have been three major storms that have affected the eastern portion of the boundary waters, leaving large sections of blow down.  South Lake, a deep, beautiful lake, on the Canadian border, was one of the locations that was hit hard by straight line winds this June.  Our crew spent five days on South Lake.  We dug out campsites several trees deep.  We went from having little more than training with a crosscut, to seeing it as a strong asset we all are refining.  

Not only did the boundary waters allow for growth technically, but it also allowed for personal and team growth.  We spent hours at night talking, reading, and just being outside.  We spent hours by ourselves and hours (upon hours) together.  Not just us, but we were privileged enough to spend time with the skilled and passionate wilderness rangers and their faithful volunteers.  Those conversations after a long work day are some of my most treasured moments of my time with the Corps.  There was time to process life, the year, and opportunity to talk about the future.  There was also amazing adventures with my bold and daring crew mates.  It became clear to me while in the boundary waters that I would not be able to adequately describe our time there, so in order to try and summarize our adventure, here is a list of life lessons that I learned in the boundary waters, or in some cases, relearned in the boundary waters.

  1. Crosscuts may be slower, but they refine sawyers and create teamwork.
  2. Eat the food.
  3. You never know what’s beneath the surface; be that of the water, the clouds in the sky, or the person on the tent pad next to you.
  4. You can choose your attitude.
  5. You don’t need your cell phone. (Seriously you don’t.)
  6. Authentically passionate people have contagious attitudes and a wealth of wisdom. (“Thank You!!!” to the Forest Service Wilderness Rangers)
  7. Sometimes when you’re exhausted, irritated, and tired, you think you have something that needs to be said—that’s when you usually don’t.
  8. You always have something to give.  
  9. The harder you work, the easier to sleep.
  10. No matter your size.  No matter your weaknesses. You really can portage that canoe.