Some of Our Favorite Pictures

Amy and I left the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Friday after 365 days.  There is so much we want to share with you about what we learned and how we feel about accomplishing something so important to us.

Right now we are getting caught up on some really important things, so we thought we would take this chance to share some of our favorite pictures from the year and give you the chance to write about them.

We will be telling you more about the end of our expedition in the next couple of weeks, but we want you to know right now how much we have appreciated the opportunity to share our adventure with you.

How would you describe this picture to someone who couldn’t see it? 

Share your answer!



If you could be in this picture right now, would you want to be?  Why or why not? 

Share your answer!



Tank was our companion for over half of our trip. He was valuable to our success as well as being a great companion.  Tell us about an animal that has been important in your life. 

Share your answer!



We were fortunate enough to see a bunch of wildlife.  In your opinion, what was the coolest animal we saw, and why? 

Share your answer!


Student Response Worksheets



Day 363: Reflection Lake

We visited our 500th body of water on the 363rd day of our Year in the Wilderness. Crashing through wet branches and soggy moss, over rotting white pine trunks and through balsam thickets, we slowly bushwhacked towards Reflection Lake. The final 100 yards was a soupy, boot-sucking bog. Before we paddled into the Wilderness nearly a year ago we set a goal of visiting 500 lakes, rivers, and streams. At times it seemed like that would be an easy task, only to seem out of reach a day or two later. It seems fitting that our 500th water source was difficult to reach and thus rarely visited. Daily Data:

Days in the Wilderness: 363
Miles traveled: 9
Bodies of water visited: 6

Animals seen:

2 Canada geese
4 mergansers
6 ring-billed gulls
2 red squirrels
4 black-capped chickadees
1 white-throated sparrow
2 bald eagles
1 beaver

Seasonal Changes and the Fall Equinox

Dave and I are almost done with our journey. After spending an entire year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, we plan to exit on Friday! Did you know that we began our year on a special day last year? It was the Fall Equinox. An equinox is one of two days each year when the length of day and night are the same. This year’s Fall Equinox is about to happen, on September 22 to be exact. In this Notes from the Trail we’ll learn about equinoxes and why the seasons change.

What is an equinox?

An equinox happens twice a year. Another name for the Fall Equinox is the Autumnal Equinox. It is the first day of fall. The length of the day and night are the same on this day, because the sun is shining directly on the Equator. The Spring Equinox happens in March. It is called the Vernal Equinox. These two pictures help to understand how this happens.


During an equinox, the Earth’s North and South poles are not facing toward or away from the Sun and the length of the day is the same at all points on Earth’s surface. Image by Przemyslaw Idzkiewicz.

During an equinox, the Earth’s North and South poles are not facing toward or away from the Sun and the length of the day is the same at all points on Earth’s surface. Image by Przemyslaw Idzkiewicz.

Here you can see how the sunlight hits the Earth at different points in its orbit around the Sun. Image by Colivine.,_Equinox_%26_Intervening_Seasons.svg

Here you can see how the sunlight hits the Earth at different points in its orbit around the Sun. Image by Colivine.,_Equinox_%26_Intervening_Seasons.svg


Right now in the Northern Hemisphere the length of daylight is decreasing every day. What time does the sun rise where you are? When does it set? 

Share your answer!

The Earth orbits the Sun
Imagine the Earth orbiting (or spinning around) the Sun. It takes one year for the Earth to make a full circle around the Sun. The North Pole is the top of the Earth and the South Pole is the bottom of the Earth. Imagine a straight line running through the Earth from the North Pole to the South Pole. This is called the Earth’s axis. The Earth rotates on its axis.
This is what causes night and day. When it is nighttime where you are, you are on the side of the Earth facing away from the sun and it is dark outside. The Earth keeps spinning, eventually the Sun rises and it is daytime.
What causes the seasons?
Now that we can imagine the Earth rotating on its axis and orbiting the sun, tilt the axis a bit. The Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees. The Earth never stands upright, it always leans to the side.
It is this tilt that causes seasonal changes. As the Earth orbits the Sun the northern half (or Northern Hemisphere) receives more sunlight for half of the year. This when it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
Which Hemisphere do you live in? 

Share your answer!

Eventually the Earth reaches a point in its orbit where the top and bottom receive equal sunlight– the equinox! This would be the Fall Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. On the same day, the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox happens in the Southern Hemisphere.
What is summer like where you live? What is winter like? 

Share your answer!

Then the Earth continues its orbit and the Southern Hemisphere gets more sunlight than the Northern Hemisphere. In other words, summer happens in the Southern Hemisphere and winter happens in the Northern Hemisphere.
I can tell that fall is coming to Minnesota and the Boundary Waters. Loons’ feathers are changing and they are getting ready to migrate. Large flocks of Canada geese are already flying in V formation, heading south. Leaves on maple trees, birch trees and aspen trees are starting to change color. Squirrels are busy caching food for the winter.
What changes are taking place around you as fall happens in the Northern Hemisphere and spring happens in the Southern Hemisphere? 

Share your answer!

Further Exploration:

The Reason for the Seasons Lesson Plans:

Sun and Earth Lesson Plans:

How Equinox’s Work: Video

Student Response Worksheets




Chilly Morning on the Basswod River

For the first time in many months I felt the urge to burrow my head into my sleeping bag to warm the tip of my cold nose. More and more flecks of color appear in the forest each day. It is clear that fall will win its timeless battle with summer once again. A blanket of fog covered the Basswood River as I went about my morning. I gathered water, boiled water and started breakfast while Amy packed up our sleeping bags and sleeping pads. At one point I peeked in and she was busy rolling my sleeping pad with her legs and torso still ensconced in the warmth of her sleeping bag. Clever.

Now the sun’s warmth is drying the last droplets of dew from the tall grasses along the water’s edge as we prepare to load the canoe and head up the Basswood River.

Daily Data:

Days in the Wilderness: 358
Miles traveled: 14
Bodies of water visited: 2

Animals seen:

12 Canada geese
2 mergansers
4 red squirrels
6 black-capped chickadees
2 bald eagles
1 osprey
1 river otter
2 frogs
2 trumpeter swans

Tanks Thoughts: Summer is Coming to an End

Hello everybody. I’m Tank. Remember me? I am the sled dog who has turned into a canoe dog. I have been traveling with Dave and Amy since January 2, 2016. My mom, Acorn, and sister, Tina, spent the winter with us. Then they left when the lakes started to turn from ice to water. At first I wondered why Dave and Amy didn’t keep all of us when it was time to paddle the canoe. Then I saw the canoe loaded with food, gear and people. There was just a little bit of space left for me! In this Notes from the Trail I will tell you about life from the canoe dog’s perspective.


The weather was warm this summer– really warm. I have a fur coat. Even though I shed my winter coat I was hot. We still traveled around. I rode in the canoe. I panted to stay cool. Did you know that panting is how a dog cools down instead of sweating like people? We would walk on the portage trails and I would carry my red pack. Whenever Amy and Dave picked a campsite I would get really excited and run around. After a couple minutes of running and smelling things I would find a spot in the shade. I spent a lot of time napping in the shade.

People have asked if I like to swim. I DO NOT like to swim! I will wade in the water if I absolutely have to, like when it is time to get into the canoe. One time I jumped in the canoe before anyone else was ready. The canoe tipped over and I fell in the water! The water was over my head so I had to swim. I frantically swam to shore and then scrambled out onto a rock. I shook myself to dry off. Amy and Dave complained that I got them wet from my shaking.

Do you like to swim? Why or why not?

Share your answer!

I can tell that fall is coming. Can you? I have a list of things that I have noticed. People talk about the leaves changing color. I am colorblind because I am a dog. So I can’t really tell when the leaves change color. There are plenty of other things that I notice.

1. The days are getting shorter.

I pay close attention to the daylight. When it is dark I go to sleep. When it is light out I wake up and run around. In the summer I would get up and run around a couple of hours before Dave and Amy got out of the tent. Now they get up just a little bit after my morning run.

2. The weather is getting cooler.

I am panting a lot less than I did this summer. Sometimes the air temperature is cool enough that I decide to nap in the sun instead of the shade. I might even curl up into a ball to sleep. That helps me trap more heat and keep my belly warm.

What is the weather like where you live right now?

Share your answer!

3. Some animals are getting ready for winter.

I have paid close attention to two kinds of small mammals out here: red squirrels and chipmunks. I have noticed that they are very busy lately. They run around the forest gathering seeds and stashing them. Amy told me they do this so that they can come back later to their stashes and eat the food during the winter.

Are any animals preparing for winter in your neighborhood?

Share your answer!

4. There are fewer people in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

I like people. People smile when they see me and they pet me. I saw lots of people this summer. We saw them in canoes and on portage trails. If we paddled past in canoes they would say, “What a nice dog!” If we saw people on the portage trails they would ask to pet me. I asked Dave why there are fewer people here now. He said that the busiest months in the BWCAW are July and August. I guess that many people plan vacations in the summer. That is when many kids are out of school. Come to think of it, we did see many families and camp groups full of kids this summer. Now when we do see people, they are mostly adults.


I like fall, because I know that winter comes after fall. There is snow in the winter and I can pull a dogsled. That is my favorite thing to do. I guess we still have a few months until I get to be a sled dog. In the meantime I’ll work on growing my winter coat so I can stay warm. I’ll keep running around so I can stay fit too.

Student Response Worksheets

Day 355: Tank is a Portaging Pro

Tank was all business on the portage between Rush Lake and Dark Lake. It’s not surprising because he seems to enjoy portaging far more than canoeing. It is probably due to all the smells along the portage trail and trees to mark. Dark Lake was the 497th body of water that we have visited during A Year in the Wilderness. When we paddled into the Wilderness nearly a year ago we set a goal of visiting more than 500 lakes, rivers and streams. Our route from here to the South Kawishiwi River, where we will exit the Boundary Waters, passes through several dozen lakes that we have already visited. Luckily, there are still a few hidden gems that we hope to visit, which will help us reach our goal.

Today we got lucky because beavers created a new pond by flooding a large marsh between Stuart Lake and Fox Lake so we were able to visit an unnamed pond that we had no idea existed.

Day 354: Pine Marten

As we made breakfast Amy noticed this pine marten peering down at us from the crotch of a small cedar tree 8 feet above our heads. Soon Tank noticed it and was whining and pacing below. The marten seemed pretty agitated at first, but after a few minutes we tied Tank up a healthy distance away, went about making breakfast and the marten settled down. Even as we packed up camp the pine marten stayed up in the tree watching us. An hour later we loaded the canoe and paddled away wondering if the marten would change trees after we left.