Meet the team!

Dave Freeman


Amy Freeman

Amy is the Wilderness Classroom’s sponsorship coordinator and PR person. Her previous Wilderness Classroom online adventures include the Superior Waters Project, the Trans-Amazon Expedition, and Project Polar Bear.

Amy received her BA in Art and Psychology from Macalester College and MA in Art Therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When Amy is not out paddling or adventuring in the woods, you can find her in the ceramics studio at the Grand Marais Art Colony. She has also been a sea kayak and dogsled guide in northern Minnesota for the past six years.


Dave FreemanDave Freeman

The Wilderness Classroom was born in the winter of 2001 during Dave’s Border Country Adventure—a
6-week, 240 mile, solo toboggan trek along the Minnesota/Ontario border. Using a laptop computer and Globalstar Satellite phone, Dave posted journals, photos, and other educational resources, connecting with classrooms across the country. During the last seven years he has played a vital role in the development and implementation of 10 online expeditions with the Wilderness Classroom.

Dave does it all, from planning and executing expeditions to maintaining our website. Each year Dave conducts many school assemblies, introducing students to our online expeditions and familiarizing them with the wilderness locations we explore. He graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with BA in Biology and Anthropology. Dave is also a Web master, programmer, and wilderness guide. He has worked as a dogsledding, sea kayaking, and canoeing instructor for 15 years, introducing hundreds of people to wilderness travel.

Stage 4: Fort Resolution, NWT to Grand Portage, MN

Bark. Bark. Hello. You may remember me from last winter (Stage 3). I was one of the lead dogs, pulling Dave and Amy’s sled. I’m the one with the floppy ears. Well, Dave and Amy decided to take me canoeing with them because they like me so much. I have been writing my thoughts and observations every week in a new section of the website called Fennel’s Field Notes.  I have been on many winter adventures with Dave over the years.  He keeps me happy by supplying me with plenty of fish to eat during the adventure.

Stage 3: Norman Wells, NWT to Fort Resolution, NWT

Van Conrad and Ellen Root will join Amy, Dave, and a bunch of hardy, enthusiastic sled dogs for 3 months of dogsledding through Northern Canada.

Van Conrad

Originally from Duluth, MN, Van learned to dogsled when he took a job as an Outward Bound instructor leading winter camping and dogsledding courses in the lake country wilderness of Northern Minnesota. Although he is new to Wilderness Classroom, Van has worked as a carpenter building dogsleds and providing general expedition support for renowned polar explorer Will Steger.

Van studied horticulture at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. He loves plants, good jokes, and his guitar and banjo. Currently a resident of Ely, MN, Van enjoys seeking adventure, in all seasons, both near to and far from home.

Along with his sense of humor Van has a wealth of experience and knowledge of winter camping and travel. He will use his formidable woodworking skills to help the team build and maintain their own dogsled.

Ellen Root

Even at a young age, Ellen exhibited a curiosity for nearly all things. Over the course of her years she has honed her senses and oriented them especially toward skiing, dogsledding, photography and geology.

Ellen lives near Ely, MN where she works as a dogsledding guide and outdoor educator. In her free moments she is often found in the garden, behind her upright bass, on an adventure, or at the local custard shop preparing for winter.

An avid geologist, Ellen studied at Carleton College and has done field work in southern Minnesota, Spain, Italy, and on the northern shores of Lake Superior. Ellen joined Amy and Dave for Project Polar Bear in 2009, and she is eager to travel in the Northwest Territories where she hopes to hear and share many amazing stories.

Stage 1: Bellingham, Washington to Skagway, Alaska

John Amren and Clayton White kayaked with Amy and Dave for 1,400 miles along the Pacific coast.

claytonClayton White
Clayton grew up in Grand Marais, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and then worked for many years in west central Minnesota in Manufacturing Management – and moved back to Grand Marais in 2005 after retiring. Clayton has been kayaking since 1990.
He has kayaked extensively on Lake Superior, including a 29 day circumnavigation of Lake Superior without resupply in 2005. He particularly enjoys winter kayaking on Lake Superior “as long as the water is in liquid form, chances are I’ll be out there”
Other coastal kayak trips include the California Baja and Alaska’s Prince William Sound and Kenia Fjords. He thoroughly enjoys being outdoors, especially when water is involved. You could say that he favors an active, low-impact life style. Clayton has two daughters and two granddaughters. “I sincerely hope that my granddaughters and other youngsters are motivated to enjoy and protect our wild places.”
johnamrenJohn Amren

John’s experience with kayaking began with white-water paddling over 32 years ago. He moved to the Grand Marais, Minnesota areain 1980 with initial dreams of becoming an artist and photographer, but ended up working as a carpenter and block layer. John has paddled a lot of white-water and was on many of the early descents of the local North Shore rivers in the late 70’s. In addition to the many Lake Superior watershed rivers, John has run rivers in California, Colorado, West Virginia, various southeast states, as well as Yucatan Mexico and Guatemala. John has also paddled the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon twice.


John made the transition to coastal kayak touring through the years… starting and operating a kayak touring business based in Grand Marais from 1992 through 2009. He sold the building that housed his business just in time to join the team for the first stage of the North American Odyssey. When he was in junior high, John was intrigued with Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch). For a while he actually wanted to move to British Columbia to seek them out!


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