Veteran Polar Explorer Trekking and Paddling the Boundary Waters


Veteran polar explorer Will Steger has set out on a new adventure this week. The 70-year old who has visited the North and South Pole, traversed northern Greenland, and traveled from Russia to Ellesmere Island in Canada, all by dogsled. But this time out, he’s making solo journey along the Boundary Waters between the U.S. and Canada, trekking and paddling the remote region of Minnesota’s northern border as he goes.

Steger launched his latest expedition yesterday. He’ll begin by pulling a canoe behind him as he skis through the northern wilderness. That canoe will serve much the same way a polar explorer’s sled would in both the Arctic or Antarctic, carrying his supplies and equipment across the snow. As he travels, he’ll reach sections of the Boundary Waters that have thawed for the spring, and he’ll transition to using the canoe in the more traditional way, but in the early days of the trip he’ll be pulling it behind him as he goes.

The 200-mile journey started on Lake Saganaga at the end of the Gunflint Trail. Steger moved into the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario and continued out onto the border lakes of the Boundary Waters. Over the course of the next few weeks, he’ll be traveling through a remote and rugged wilderness that sees few visitors at any time of the year, but will be especially empty so early in the spring. Along the way he’ll find frozen waters just beginning to thaw with the arrival of warmer season ahead. As he makes his way further along the route, Steger will be forced to navigate through rising rapids, steep narrows, and a chain of interconnected rivers and lakes. He has brought enough fuel and supplies to last about four weeks, although rationing could stretch that time a bit further.

Due to an unprecedented spring thaw, Steger was forced to start his expedition a week earlier than he had anticipated. The rivers and lakes are already starting to swell with rising water, and it now appears that he could do more paddling than trekking along the way. But in the early stages of the trip he’ll still be hauling the canoe-sled as he makes his way along the chosen route.

You can follow Will’s progress on his official website. He is releasing daily audio dispatches from his expedition that will share the journey with listeners in a very personal way. Steger promises to give us insights into what crosses through his mind as travels, which considering his 50 years of exploration experience should prove very interesting. It should be fascinating to hear about the challenges of the journey from a man who has spent more time in remote, and very cold places, than just about anyone else on Earth.

Kraig Becker