Saturday, December 29, 2012

BWJ Article - Softcore Winter Camping by Jim Voytilla

Every three months I look forward to receiving my copy of the Boundary Waters Journal in the mail. It arrived a couple of days ago, and that night I skimmed through the entire magazine. Three articles caught my immediate interest: Softcore Winter Camping, Water, Water Everywhere-But Where Am I to Go?, and The Vermilion River Route.

I just finished reading Softcore Winter Camping. As a Boy Scout growing up, we did quite a bit of winter camping. I am a scoutmaster now, and have done some "controlled" winter camping with the troop. If I am well-prepared, winter camping can be quite enjoyable. (The only problem I have is my hands and feet become cold very easily.) I have never gone winter camping in the Boundary Waters, though, so I was interested reading this article.

Jim is 63 years old and goes solo winter camping. That is impressive. The two things that have stopped me from going camping are getting too cold (and not being able to get warm again) and safety. Jim addresses both issues in the article. He brings a wall tent with a wood stove and doesn't get out of his sleeping bag until the tent is warm. As for safety, when he is solo, he doesn't camp very far from his vehicle. He also doesn't cross ice very often. If he does, he follows established trails and carries ice picks, fire starters, and dry clothes in water-tight containers.

After reading the article, I am convinced that not only could I go winter camping in the BWCA, but I could enjoy it as well. I will have to look at getting the equipment now...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New MN Blog!

I decided to start a blog for MN Why? Several reasons, I guess. First, I want the website to get some more exposure and traffic. I am hoping this helps. Secondly, I didn't have any place on the website to announce website plans and changes, talk about BWCA news, and write down my random canoeing thoughts. Finally, I have a passion for canoeing and the Boundary Waters, and a blog (in addition to the website) would help me be able to share that passion with others.

What is MN
MN is a not-for-profit website that I started in April 2011. The purpose of the website is to serve as a guide and resource for planning Boundary Waters and Quetico canoeing, camping, and hiking trips. It is also a place to share experiences through trip reports, photos, and campsite reviews. (A message board/forum may come in the future.)

Is it really not-for-profit?
Despite the ads that appear on the site, MN is not-for-profit. The advertisements serve two purposes. First, since the ads are hidden for signed-in users, they are there to encourage people to register (which is free) and share with others. Second, I hope to be able to recover at least some of the cost of running the website. Since some of the data, such as the Quetico campsite and portage data from Quetico PCD, was given to me contingent on being not-for-profit, if I recover the cost of running the website, I will take the advertisements completely off the website. I don't anticipate ever being able to do that, though.

What makes MN unique?
The most unique portion of the website is the RouteFinder on the map. I had always wanted to find a website that had something like "Google directions" for the Boundary Waters. I finally realized that there weren't any, and if I wanted one, I would have to make it myself. Many, many hours of research and labor went into the project over the span of a couple of months. I was able to create a service that would be able to tell you approximately how long it would take to get from any campsite, portage, or entry point in the Boundary Waters to any other. At the moment, this is only available for the Boundary Waters. I have the Quetico about 25% done and will release it when I finish it. 

What will be in this blog?
This blog will probably evolve over time, but my initial plans are to talk about:
  • Plans for updating MN
  • Recent events and news relating to canoe country
  • Gear (I don't have any sponsors, so this will be as unbiased as I can make it)
  • Lakes, fishing, campsites, etc.
  • Personal canoeing experiences
  • Other random thoughts related to the Boundary Waters/Quetico 

How can I help? 
There are several ways that you can help me in making MN better. The most obvious way is to donate to help me offset the cost of running the website. However, donating is not the only, or even the most helpful, way. My purpose in running the website is to share the passion that I have and to provide useful information and tools for others. I would like to see many people using the tools that I have spent countless hours making. Share the website with others. Tell others about it. Place a link to MN on your own blog or website. Write trip reports, rate campsites, and upload photos. Tell me what you would like to see on the website. These are all valuable ways you can help me make MN better.