Resupply of Optimism


I’m fortunate to know some people coming up from behind who wear their hearts on their sleeves. There’s the team at Ely Outfitting Company where I drive shuttles in summer. My job is to transport paddlers and their outdoor gear to and from wilderness entry points in the Boundary Waters. The work also doubles as a great way to collect ideas for stories. But with these co-workers, their energy and optimism are the story.

They don’t wait around to be asked. If they’re not active doing something productive in the shop yard, gear barn or front office, they sniff out what needs doing next. When I return with a load of travelers and a trailer stacked with canoes, they swarm the shuttle like a pit crew at Daytona. If they weren’t so morally upstanding, they’d make first-rate pickpockets and thieves. One time I caught them vacuuming the van seats and cleaning the windshield. I joked with them to check the tire pressure, but they already had. Wouldn’t surprise me if they changed the oil as well.

They’re all over the place in other ways, too. I sense they feel an obligation to not just to experience the outdoors, but to help others appreciate it. They seem to have a natural aptitude for customer service in explaining, attention to detail and patience. Some are fishing guides, another is certified as a Wilderness First Responder. One teenager won the Junior John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon and placed as an all-state Nordic skier last winter. In summer, he cleans dirty dishes that come in from the trail. Another high school student is exercising his skills in political activism at a national level. He organized Kids for the Boundary Waters and recently returned from a rally in Washington, D.C.

They offer a steady stream of hope and resupply for decency and quality of life. And that’s just one microcosm on the edge of the wilderness. Others like them are stepping up all over the world. During times when I get down-hearted about world affairs, I’m glad to be among them.


Beachy in Florida

This piece makes me want to come up North and experience that kind of hospitality. What an amazing place to live. Thank you for continuing to show us the wonderful great north woods in your terrific stories. You make the beautiful town of Ely come alive for us readers, while it's probably close to 100 degrees in my neck of the beach today.

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