Greg Lais, Tom Nelson, and Greg Dehn pass the paddle of leadership at WI
Megan O'Hara, Tom Nelson, and Julie Storck in WI Board Room. Tom has always been popular with WI staff.
Tom in the Wabikimi Wilderness
December 17, 2013
On December 11th, Tom Nelson passed the paddle of board chair to Greg Dehn, ending his second, 3-year term on Wilderness Inquiry’s Board of Directors. Tom has been a tireless booster for WI’s mission and staff. We are so fortunate to have had his leadership during a critically important time. Tom’s firm but gentle hand helped shape WI in many ways, including:
• Purchase and development of our beautiful Apostles Islands Basecamp at Little Sand Bay
• Establishment of the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures program
• Recruitment of new board members and the establishment of our board governance committee
• Promotion of the Great River Race
An avid outdoorsperson, Tom took many WI trips with his daughters, including Yellowstone, the 10,000 Islands of the Everglades, and the Wabikimi Wilderness. All the WI trail guides who had Tom on their trips want him back, as he is a joy to be with. “On our Wabikimi trip, Tom and I carried canoes over what was probably the most difficult portage I have ever done, the Kopka Falls portage. I was running low on gas and Tom pulled out his last Cliff bar and gave it to me. That’s the kind of guy he is” said WI Executive Director Greg Lais.
Nelson is succeeded as board chair by Greg Dehn, who joined the board 3 years ago. Greg is the CEO of Scholarship America, one of the largest scholarship management programs in the United States. Scholarship America's mission is to mobilize America, through scholarships and educational support, to make postsecondary success possible for all students. We are thrilled to have Greg as our board chair moving forward.
Mayor Coleman leads the St. Paul team in the 2013 Great River Race on the Mississippi River.
Mayor Coleman with St. Paul student Andy Vang and Tara Reddinger-Adams, District Liason for St. Paul Public Schools AVID Program.
St. Paul AVID students in Glacier National Park, August, 2013. Thank you Mayor Coleman!
A Natural Leader
November 24, 2013
St. Paul Mayor and WI Board Member, Chris Coleman, was recently elected President of the National League of Cities. In this role, he will help shape NLC’s priorities, sharing his vast experience leading St. Paul with mayors nationwide. One of his roles in his new position will be to shape the NLC’s priorities and direct its advocacy, education and research activities.
In St. Paul, one of Mayor Coleman’s key priorities is addressing the student achievement gap. To this end, he initiated the “Glacier Project” that provides funds to bring St. Paul students to Glacier National Park each year. After working with Wilderness Inquiry for several years, he decided to join our Board of Directors.
Coleman comes by this naturally, as the outdoors has always been one of his passions. His early years were shaped by experiences in Glacier National Park, the Boundary Waters, and other great places. Coleman's enthusiasm for the Glacier Project, the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures program and all efforts to connect this generation of young people to the outdoors is deeply appreciated and highly effective. Mayor Coleman has hosted fundraising events with his friend Garrison Keillor, General Mills CEO Ken Powell, and others to raise thousands of dollars to support this work.
But his commitment goes far beyond fundraising. When St. Paul kids come to WI to pack out for Glacier, Coleman comes to personally see them off. Last summer Coleman went to Glacier and met up with the kids on the trail. When President Obama came to town, Mayor Coleman pulled out photos of kids in Glacier and talked about this initiative. Wilderness Inquiry is fortunate to have this dedicated and visionary leader on our Board. We may also get him to lead some trips, as he is a Boundary Waters guide as well.
Congratulations Mayor Coleman! No doubt the next generation of National League of Cities Presidents will be thanking you as we are!
The Legislative Citizen’s Commission on Minnesota Resources voted to recommend funding UWCA for a statewide initiative
November 20, 2013
The Legislative Citizen’s Commission on Minnesota Resources voted to recommend funding Wilderness Inquiry’s Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) $1.1 million for a statewide initiative to bring place-based education to Minneapolis, St. Paul and public school districts throughout Minnesota beginning in 2015. This recognizes the UWCA’s success providing Minnesota students, living in poverty, with quality outdoor learning activities. This past year, the UWCA served over 14,000 students in the Metro Twin Cities area. Delivered at this scale, the program is having real impact addressing the “achievement gap.” Plans are to create an innovative rural-urban exchange, help establish outdoor clubs to continue student engagement year-round, and deliver the program to all students statewide.
WI program with Project Search in Ohio featured in the Piqua Daily Call.
WI program with Project Search featured in the Piqua Daily Call
November 9, 2013
This is a great story about our work with Project Search, helping young adults with developmental disabilities transition into the work place. We are doing this program in Ohio, Minneapolis, and Washington DC. Check it out!
This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Wilderness Inquiry from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust,” Ken Berger, Charity Navigator President and CEO
Receiving the Charity Navigator 4 Star Rating four years in a row is testament to Wilderness Inquiry’s mission driven business savvy. The award underscores WI’s fiscal responsibility, sound governance, efficiency and transparency. WI is among the elite 6% of American non-profits ranked by this premier evaluator. According to Ken Berger, the goal of Charity Navigator’s work is, “to provide donors with the essential information needed to give them greater confidence in the charitable choices they make."
Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst, Tom Milligan and Carol Milligan prepare for the launch of the “Patrick Milligan” canoe by the Canoe Mobile-Project Search program Thursday. The canoe was dedicated in Carol’s husband and Tom’s father’s memory. SDN Photo Mike Seffrin
The Patrick Milligan Sails in Sidney, Ohio
October 10, 2013
In July we dedicated a Voyageur canoe in honor of Patrick Milligan, the father of long-time WI Associate Director Sarah Milligan-Toffler (see posts below). Today the Patrick Milligan went home to Sidney and took Patrick's wife, Carol, on a paddle. It was the first time Carol had ever been in a canoe! See article from the Sidney Daily News below:
Canoemobile-Project Search events serve physically and developmentally challenged people
A unique canoeing and outdoor awareness project called Canoe Mobile is coming to the area and will be connecting with Project Search, a project of Upper Valley Career Center that serves the physically and developmentally challenged people in the area.
Patti Moore, of Sidney, is coordinator of Project Search. Her role is to work with a client group of physically and developmentally challenged people served by Upper Valley Career Center, helping to mainstream them into the workforce and into society.
People served by the Project Search program will be canoeing in Miami County on the Great Miami River today, and on Saturday at Lake Loramie.
Canoe Mobile is organized and run by Wilderness Inquiry based in Minneapolis, Minn. Wilderness Inquiry is a nonprofit organization that provides access to the outdoors for people from all walks of life. The organization has become known particularly for linking developmentally and physically challenged people to the outdoors. Often these experiences involve both able-bodied and handicapped people together, in part, to promote sensitivity toward the challenges of disability and to bring visibility to the fact that despite certain limitations, the disabled possess abilities that many do not know they possess.
A special connection to Wilderness Inquiry is that Sarah Milligan-Toffler, who grew up in Sidney, daughter of Patrick and Carol Milligan, was the longtime associate director of the organization until early this year, when she amicably left to pursue a new opportunity. As a gift to Sarah at her departure, Wilderness Inquiry dedicated a Canoe Mobile canoe in her father's memory, the "Patrick Milligan." Patrick passed away in January. Patrick and Carol, through their fund at the Shelby County Community Foundation, have been longtime supporters of Wilderness Inquiry.
North High students getting ready to fish.
He caught the big one! Wilderness Inquiry programs are accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
North High Students Outdoors at Ft. Snelling State Park
September 29, 2013
The 10th Grade class at Minneapolis North High School connected with nature at Ft. Snelling State Park on Friday. Students learned to fish, paddle a Voyageur Canoe and geo-cache at multiple stations around Snelling Lake. For most, it was their first time ever in a State Park, and broad smiles were seen on many faces.
This is part of a pilot program we are doing with Minneapolis Public Schools to bring place-based learning and new opportunities to metro-area students. We are also working with Edison High School, and plan to roll this program out to all high schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Click here to see a short video clip about this day from WCCO news.
Special thanks to the teachers and faculty of North High, and our great partners with the Minnesota DNR and the National Park Service.
Michigan City News Dispatch
Heading out of the harbor to Lake Michigan
Canoemobile Making Waves
September 26, 2013
The Canoemobile is on the road and making waves in cities across America. It is so cool to see the reception Canoemobile is receiving in Chicago, Milwaukee, Lousiville, and in Michigan City in NE Indiana. Thousands of urban youth are learning about their local waterways--waters that few have the opportunity to access. Stay tuned as Canoemobile rolls it's way into NYC, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.
As stated by Canoemobile staffer Ali Lanz, "We had a great group of 8th graders today who were VERY enthusiastic about the paddle. It's been very interesting taking these kids out on the water. For many of the students, and even some of the adults, it's their first time on Lake Michigan, a body of water that they live only miles from.
The Canoemobile is brought to you by Wilderness Inquiry in partnership with Nature Valley and many federal, state, and local organizations. Check it out!
Racers get ready to launch at Hidden Falls Regional Park.
The Travelers team shows their true colors!
Ideapark team crosses the finish line.
Best Great River Race Yet!
September 16, 2013
The third annual race was held September 14, 2013. An unprecedented 27 teams raced 8 miles from Hidden Falls Park in St. Paul to Harriet Island in St. Paul. It was a beautiful day and more than 350 people came out to enjoy the river in a friendly competition. We raised $75,000 to benefit the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) program, a creative outdoor education initiative that works to reduce the achievement gap in partnership with public schools and youth-serving organizations by providing enriching nature-based learning to more than 13,000 students each year. Click here to look at all race results and photos. Get ready for the race in 2014!
Team Captain – Kevin Dalager
Boat Captain – Abby Olson
Race Time – 55:38 | Photos
Team Captain – Charlene McEvoy
Boat Captain – Peter Summers
Race Time – 56:36 | Photos
Camping and Education Foundation
Team Captain – Suzi Jolly
Boat Captain – Steve Heinle
Race Time – 58:16 | Photos
Of course, the biggest winners are the many students who will explore and learn about the Mississippi River thanks to the support of our many sponsors.
Bob Gregory and WI staff Ron Griswald at the Great Unconformity at Deer Creek in the Grand Canyon.
Bob Gregory does the Grand for his 60th Birthday
September 12, 2013
A very special trip took place during the last two weeks of August--our semi annual 15-day Grand Canyon Raft Expedition. This adventure is always a big hit, truly a journey through time and space in one of the natural wonders of the world.
This year we took advantage of a special opportunity to send long-time WI participant Bob Gregory down the Grand Canyon for his 60th birthday. Bob, who uses a wheelchair and a talk box due to complications from cerebral palsy, started going on WI trips in 1979. He has been on more than 50 since then, but never to the Grand Canyon--his dream trip. This year it happened!
Where the House of Hanson once stood--Dinkytown is rapidly changing.
Big Changes in Dinkytown
September 5, 2013
As many of you know, WI has maintained our headquarters in the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis since 1985, first in the old Marshall University building known as UTEC, then moving to our current locale in 2000. We love being centrally located in the city, near the University of Minnesota campus, and only 8 minutes away from the Mississippi River.
In the last year or so a huge building boom has been going on in Dinkytown, and today they are tearing down a landmark store that has been here longer than we have--the House of Hanson. The UTEC site was demolished last spring and a huge apartment and shopping complex is growing there now. This is all happening a few blocks away from us, but it's kind of hard to see. For Dinkytown, where Bob Dylan first performed in public and once lived, "the times, they are a changing."
The Okee Dokee Brothers are always a family favorite!
A Great Day on the River with the Okee Dokee Brothers
August 30, 2013
Wilderness Inquiry's passion for getting kids outdoors fueled the Grammy Award Winning Okee Dokee Brother's adventure down the Mississippi.
Check out this great article from the Star Tribune! Okee Dokee Brothers: Instruments of Outdoor Adventure www.startribune.com/sports/outdoors/221641691.html
Nature Valley Canoemobile
Side view of Canoemobile
Nature Valley Sponsors Canoemobile
August 18, 2013
We’re thrilled to announce that Nature Valley, a Brand of General Mills, is sponsoring the 2013 Canoemobile tour in Minneapolis, New York, and Washington DC. This is a partnership that was meant to be, as General Mills has supported Wilderness Inquiry for 30 years. In many wonderful twists of that relationship, WI started serving Nature Valley granola bars as a regular staple on all of our trips many years ago—it’s the perfect trail snack! More recently, we partnered with Nature Valley on some Mississippi River restoration events, and got to talking. Turns out the Nature Valley people are our people—friends, sisters, and brothers of our trail staff and closest allies.
Among other things, Nature Valley will help announce the news that the canoe mobile is coming to town! For example, check out the van wrap designed to capture attention and conversation. The van wrap was designed by Riley-Hayes, our wonderful marketing partner. And guess what, the owner of Riley Hayes and our principle contact at Nature Valley have known each other since they were teenagers. It’s a small and wonderful world.
Look for the Canoemobile on the road in a couple of weeks. Tweet and Twitter and pump your fists because the Canoemobile is coming to town and introducing thousands of kids and families to the outdoors, right in their own backyards.
North High faculty get familiar with the Mississippi River in a Voyageur canoe.
North High School faculty paddle the Mississippi
August 16, 2013
This fall WI is working closely with the faculty and students at two Mineapolis Public Schools to enhance learning opportunities for students through place-based education and engagement in the outdoors. As a kick-off, the faculty of North High all came out on friday to paddle the Mississippi with WI and NPS staff. A great time was had by all, the weather could not have been better! Next week we are meeting with the faculty at Edison High School to get them fired up. This is an extension of the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures program, and also a pilot for working more closely with 20 High schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Our goal is to bring equitable access to natural resources and learning opportunities that are in such abundance here in Minnesota. For more information about this really cool initiative contact Nancy Warner, our Director of Education.
St. Paul students with Mayor Chris Coleman getting ready for a trip to Glacier National Park.
Getting their gear in the WI warehouse
St. Paul AVID Kids pack for Glacier National Park
August 13, 2013
Excitement ran wild as 12 students from St. Paul Public Schools AVID program prepared for the trip of a lifetime to Glacier National Park at WI headquarters in Dinkytown. This adventure is part of the Glacier Project, started by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in an effort to equitable access to our great National Parks for kids who don't typically have that opportunity. Parents, teachers, students and staff from AVID, WI, and the City of St. Paul ate pizza, went over packing lists, and got ready!
The Glacier Project is part of the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures "Pyramid of Engagement" where youth are first introduced to the outdoors on day trips, then immersed in an overnight experience, and then engaged on multi-day outdoor trips like this one to Glacier. In the process they learn about education and career opportunities in the outdoors--we want these students to prepare for and seek those jobs!
Chad smiles during the 2012 Canoemobile
Chad Dayton - UWCA and Canoemobile Program Director
July 10, 2013
Director of the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) and the Canoemobile, Chad Dayton is a seasoned wilderness guide and instructor. This former college English professor traded his pen for a paddle in 2009. Since then, he’s guided Wilderness Inquiry adventures to Costa Rica, led UWCA trips on the Mississippi River, and served as an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School and the Wilderness Medicine Institute. In addition, Chad serves on the Boards of Dodge Nature Center, the Minnesota Zoo Foundation and the Mississippi River Challenge for Friends of the Mississippi.
In his new role, Chad will expand the Canoemobile program, getting more students out onto our nation’s great rivers to bring outdoor literacy to urban youth.
WI staff prepare to unveil the Patrick Milligan
Jacob Toffler, Sarah's son, christens the Partick Milligan with a special elixer that Patrick so loved.
Jeff Toffler, Sarah Milligan-Toffler, and son Jacob share a special moment with the Patrick Milligan
Sarah Milligan-Toffler to lead Children and Nature Network
July 7, 2013
July 3rd was Sarah Milligan-Toffler’s last day as the Associate Director of Wilderness Inquiry. After 23 years of terrific service and outstanding dedication to WI’s mission, Sarah has joined the Children and Nature Network as its Executive Director. We will miss Sarah very much, but we are also proud of her as she steps into a leadership role for the organization that is leading the Children and Nature movement.
We had a great send-off party for Sarah in the Red Room at the Loring Pasta bar in Dinkytown. Many of her friends and admirers came to pay their respects. At the party, Sarah was presented with photographs, poems, toasts and also a special treat. Greg Lais, WI’s Executive Director who hired Sarah 23 years ago, unveiled the latest addition to WI’s growing fleet of Voyageur Canoes—the Patrick Milligan.
Patrick Milligan, Sarah’s father, was a great supporter of Wilderness Inquiry who cared deeply for his community. In Sarah’s case, the apple did not fall far from the tree. Patrick passed away in January. Wilderness Inquiry is deeply honored to have this beautiful hand made canoe named after him, a canoe that will introduce tens of thousands of urban youth to nature in cities across America. Thank you Sarah, for everything you have done and everything you are going to do!
A brief listing of Sarah’s tenure at WI includes:
• Hired: September 15, 1990
• First event: St. Croix River 9/21/90 with Mark Shaltz
• Last event: 6/18/2013, Raised $102,000 for UWCA and Glacier Project
• Events Sarah participated in or organized: 196
• Total raised: $21,000,000
• Hours worked: 65,780
• Board meetings attended: 138
• Total value of 23 years helping to grow WI into what it is today: Priceless
Keep sharing the outdoors with everyone so that we may all learn to live, work and play together cooperatively! We will always be with you Sarah!
WI Communications Director Beth Dooley, Okee Dokee Brother Joe Mailander, and Canoemobile Director Chad Dayton in the Wilderness Inquiry warehouse in Dinkytown. Joe was returning gear from their Applachian Trail adventure--can't wait to hear their new songs.
Okee Dokee Brother sighted in WI Warehouse
June 13, 2013
This spring WI provided the Okee Dokee Brothers with tents and backpacks for a trip they did on the Appalachian Trail. Doing trips like this is one way they get inspiration for their music, such as their Grammy winning "Can You Canoe" CD featuring great songs about the Mississippi River. Join the Okee Dokee Brothers on a Mississippi River day trip with Wilderness Inquiry in July!
Minneapolis Public School teachers receive professional development training for the UWCA at Wilderness Inquiry
Professional Development for Minneapolis Teachers
June 12, 2013
In partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools and the National Park Service, Wilderness Inquiry hosted a professional development workshop for 31 MPS teachers today. These professionals learned about the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures program and how to engage their students in it. Thanks to Sil Pembleton and the Jeffers Foundation for help with this training.
Mike Hahm, Greg Lais, Mary Frey, Jim Frey, Mayor Coleman, and Joe Cavanaugh celebrate the election of Mayor Coleman to WI's board. Bravo!
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman joins our board
June 10, 2013
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman joins Wilderness Inquiry’s Board of Directors, furthering his life-long commitment to connecting kids to nature. Coleman first became involved with WI through the “Glacier Project,” a program he founded to bring St. Paul students to Glacier National Park. This project fits perfectly into the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA), started five years ago by WI and the National Park Service that in its short five years had introduced tens of thousands of Twin Cities youth to the National Parks around the US, beginning with the Mississippi National Park, flowing through St. Paul.
“Mayor Coleman’s passion to provide opportunities for outdoor adventure and leadership is truly inspiring,” said WI’s Executive Director, Greg Lais. “The Mayor cares deeply about every kid who goes. He comes to their meetings and like most kids, they don’t even know he’s the Mayor.” Since 2010, Coleman has provided opportunities for more than 50 students in St. Paul Public Schools AVID program to experience Glacier National Park.
Mayor Coleman’s connection to Glacier National Park is both historic and deeply personal. It was St. Paul railroad tycoon James J Hill’s Great Northern Railway that made that made the Park accessible and affordable to city residents in the 1900’s. Mayor Coleman credits his early experiences camping and then working in the Park for his commitment to place based learning. “My time in Glacier was transformative. It informed who I would become as a person, a citizen and as a civic leader,” Mayor Coleman says.
“The UWCA is unique among outdoor education programs. It taps into the surprisingly beautiful wild places in our urban environment before it expands outwards to the Apostle Islands, Voyageurs, and Glacier. It provides integrated academic and real, direct experiences. Most importantly, the UWCA is built to scale, serving thousands of students in progression, year after year,” the Mayor adds.
“This program is closing the achievement gap. It addresses the real needs of urban youth, no matter where they live or go to school and it is presenting new career opportunities to students they may not be aware of,” adds Lais. “One in 20 jobs are in the outdoor /recreation industry and Minnesota is an outdoor state. Some of our best staff members began their careers on trips like the UWCA.”
“The UWCA is helping cultivate students who care about each other, this community, and our natural world,” Mayor Coleman says.
Beth's cheery personality and hard work have been known around WI for some time - along with her cooking!
Beth Dooley - Communications Director
June 10, 2013
Beth brings her passion for food and travel writing to her role as WI's Communication's Director. Author of nine cookbooks, Beth has contributed to countless travel and food local publications, and appeared on radio and TV. She's worked as a PR account executive and co-owned a PR firm. In her new role, Beth will be engaged in marketing, media, website development, telling the many inspiring stories that define WI.
In addition, Beth will continue to expand our innovative and successful local food adventures, planning and hosting two Taste of the Apostles trips and adding our new adventure --Taste of the Big Island. Here, her commitment to delicious, local sustainable food shines as she connects travelers to the bounty of the new places they'll explore.
Chad Dayton discusses paddling on the historic Minnesota River with an eager group.
Summer season is in full swing at WI - a "paddling theater" on the Minnesota River!
May 20, 2013
If you are wondering if summer has arrived - it is here! Things are kicking into full swing in our Dinkytown headquarters and beyond. This past weekend we worked with our good friends and partners at the Minnesota DNR to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Minnesota's Water Trails Program by leading a large group down the Minnesota River, from Granite Falls to Yellow Medicine River. At an event hosted by Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) and Placebase Productions, Wilderness Inquiry brought a big crew, and three big rigs. In three separate "pods" WI took a total of 162 participants on a 13 mile paddle - through a "paddling theater." Narratives and stories of old were conveyed through several stops along shore, from which paddlers were able to view up to the scenes. There were even some on-water scenes with actors in canoes. A fantastic time was had by all.
Chad Dayton smiles with a participant from the Canoemobile New York City, 2012. Everyone loves paddling with Chad!
Chad Dayton takes the helm as Canoemobile Program Director!
May 7, 2013
Chad Dayton wears many hats at Wilderness Inquiry, and we wouldn’t have it any other way! WI is proud to welcome Chad into a new role – that of Canoemobile Program Director. In addition to taking the helm as the Canoemobile Program Director, Chad leads many trips as a WI Trail Staff, and is an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School and the Wilderness Medicine Institute. Chad also serves on the board of directors for the Dodge Nature Center, Friends of the Mississippi River, and the Minnesota Zoo.
The Canoemobile, you may recall, is our roving six-stack of Voyageur canoes that sets out around the country each year, providing thousands of people with introductory canoe experiences on their local urban waterways. Building on past years’ success, Chad looks to take this program forward. The Canoemobile forges on as we work with past partners and develop new partnerships and sponsorships as well.
In the fall of 2012, Michigan City, Louisville, Cincinnati and New York City were all new areas for the Canoemobile. As Chad helps to progress our efforts we look to expand into many more areas, including spreading the program up the Mississippi River corridor in northern Minnesota.
Chad has been involved with the Canoemobile and UWCA for a couple of years now, and he describes the 2012 Canoemobile as his highlight of last year.
Both Wilderness Inquiry and Chad are very excited to take this project to the next level and beyond!
New device lifts trailer racks.
Innovation never stops at WI!
April 2, 2013
One of the more difficult parts of the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure program is lifting the Voyageur canoes and putting them on a trailer, especially the trailers that have six canoes stacked on top of each other. We decided to install actuator jacks, allowing us to raise the racks after placing two canoes on them. The first modified trailer was delivered yesterday so we gave it a test --it passed with flying colors!
WI Tanzania Managing Director Donatus Gadiye came to Minneapolis this week, presenting various options and stories of Tanzania Safaris
Donatus Gadiye visits WI Headquarters, presents with Andy Walz on Tanzania Travel Opportunities
March 28, 2013
New and old friends gathered at WI yesterday for a festive evening of Tanzania trip exploration and celebration with Donatus Gadiye, WI Tanzania's Managing Director, and Andy Walz, who started and developed WI's East Africa travel program. Donatus and Andy shared photos and tales from past safari and mountain trekking trips, and introduced upcoming opportunities for adventurous travel.
A diverse group from the WI community were in attendance, including past and future trip participants. The group included students and professors from the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College, who will soon be heading out for study abroad experiences in Tanzania. It was a fun and informative evening for all!
WI Intern Ron Griswell has fun striking a pose on a recent Boundary Waters winter trip
Intern Spotlight on Ron Griswell
February 28, 2013
Ron Griswell is one hard working intern, and we are proud to have him on the team! The internship experience at WI combines many elements of our organization and operations. We asked him a few questions to highlight what his experience has been like here at WI.
WI: What first attracted you to Wilderness Inquiry?
RG: I was first interested in the outdoors as a young boy growing up in the country. I had no choice but to fall in love with nature. Rounding out my senior year of college I wanted to get back to what I enjoyed the most, the wilderness. That's when I stumbled across WI. Simply, my love for the outdoors attracted me to the organization.
WI: An internship with WI involves so many different and new experiences. What have you found to be the most challenging and the most rewarding?
RG: The most challenging and the most rewarding for me are one in the same. I am from North Carolina, so Minnesota’s weather is drastically different. WI sent me to the Boundary Waters (BWCA) to help with a winter trip. I have never had such a blast in negative-degree weather. Although physically and mentally challenging, the trip opened my mind to new possibilities. I also had the chance to see WI’s mission at work as the group came together through the adventure. I will never forget the trials and triumphs of that trip.
WI: Did that trip to the BWCA seem to impact anyone in a lasting way?
RG: There was one moment that had a big impact on myself and others. That moment was when a group member with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) showshoed from the shore to Mouse Island. That was a huge accomplishment for him, considering the day before he didn't feel comfortable putting the snowshoes on at all. He was filled with joy when he conquered the lake and reached his goal. That moment filled me with joy as well.
WI: If you could give one piece of advice to people considering an internship with Wilderness Inquiry, what would it be?
RG: I would tell them to open their minds to all the possibilities they can take advantage of in this organization. The staff, volunteers, and participants you interact with everyday all have a story. Listen to their expertise and learn from their mistakes. Take heed to their advice, because they have been in your shoes before.
Ron, thanks for sharing the adventure!
Martha Beery Milbery and John Scanlan holding their paddles, in recognition for their years of hard work on the Board of Directors.
Thanks to outgoing Board Members Martha Beery Milbery and John Scanlan
February 14, 2013
Wilderness Inquiry's Board of Directors is a wonderful group of smart, passionate and engaged people who work hard to fulfill our mission. Today we recognized two individuals whose board terms have come to an end. Collectively Martha Beery Milbery and John Scanlan have raised more than $150,000 to support our programs, held benefit concerts, gone on more than a dozen trips, and spread the word about WI's mission to countless people. Our hats are off to you Martha and John. Thanks for all you have done for WI over the years. And don't think that just because you're going off the board that you're off the hook--WI still needs you!
Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander accept Grammy for "Can You Canoe."
Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing.
On a sand bar on the Mississippi River.
Okee Dokee Brothers Win Grammy for "Can You Canoe!"
February 12, 2013
Our good friends the Okee Dokee Brothers won a Grammy for best Children's Album for "Can You Canoe," their collection of songs about the Mississippi River. Everyone at Wilderness Inquiry is so excited to see this recognition for Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander--two great guys. Joe and Justin performed last summer on WI's "Songs of the River" Mississippi River day trip. Wilderness Inquiry helped them prepare for their Mississippi River trip that served as the inspiration for "Can You Canoe."
"We don’t need no outlets, we don’t need no wires. Primetime entertainment will be lightnin’ bugs and fires. Lets just keep it simple, unplugged and outside. Sound waves on the water don’t need to be amplified."
We've been very busy the last few weeks updating and upgrading our website. We've added all sorts of new ways to sort and look for trips. We're especially excited about the trips by "region" and trips by "activities" pages. There are many other updates as well. Let us know what you think!
Happy New Year!
December 28, 2012
For a review of 2012 see Greg's Journal. It was a great year! Happy New Year to all!
Presenting WI's Newest Boat Captain...
December 17, 2012
WI's newest Boat Captain, Cohen Richard Dahl, was born on December 17th, 2012 at 1 am; a healthy and happy 7.5 lbs, 21 in. Congratulations to Cory Dahl and Emily Johnson Dahl!
For those of you who do not know, Cory is a Program Manager at WI. He does many great things at WI, among them planning out our Canoemobile program helping youth in cities across the country. Thanks Cory for all of your work, and hats off to Cohen, the new Boat Captain!
Thank you volunteers and champions, you have made a big difference!
Thank you Champions!
December 7, 2012
We cannot begin to express our heartfelt appreciation to the 73 people who dedicated their time to connect with our supporters. Together, we discovered the pen can be mightier than the keyboard, and that everyone deserves the opportunity for adventure. You have made a difference and we thank you very much for your passion for the WI mission.
If you have not yet seen them, check out some fun photos from recent events!
Gabe Keller started doing WI trips with his mother when he was 7 years old. Now working as an architect in Minneapolis, he volunteers his time and gives back to WI.
Opportunity Fund in Full Swing
November 23, 2012
Great things are happening with our efforts to raise money for scholarships. By supporting the opportunity fund, you make a difference so that anyone can participate, regardless of financial need. You may have received a handwritten note from one of our 73 wonderful volunteer champions. This effort would not be possible without their help. Our goal this year is to raise $395,000 for the opportunity fund.
Voyageur canoes on the Ohio River in Cincinnati. Thanks to the Camping and Education Foundation for being such great partners.
Getting ready to paddle the Harlem River in NYC.
Adam Hoffman paddling with a family on the Harlem River. Over 300 people loved getting out on the river that day!
Canoemobile wildly popular!
October 27, 2012
The Canoemobile, our efforts at getting thousands of urban youth connected to their local environments, has proven to be very successful at getting kids on urban waters and in helping to bring communities together to do so. We couldn’t be happier with how things have gone this month—minus a few van and trailer issues.
If you have not been following this phenomena via Facebook, we encourage you to do so by “friending” the Wilderness Inquiry Facebook page.. It’s easy, and posts are being made by our crew almost daily. Of course, the Canoemobile is simply our mobile version of the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure program. The same stellar crew of young leaders that took 11,000 people paddling the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities is taking 2,000 youth in:
New York City
We’ll give a full report on Canoemobile shortly, as today is officially the last day of the tour in Washington DC, where we’re taking veterans and their families paddling on the Anacostia River, just two miles from the White House (though you would never know it).
We could not have done this without the support of many, many partners and friends. We’ll provide a full list shortly, everyone one of these people and groups is fantastic and totally committed to getting urban youth connected with the natural world.
2012 Canoemobile team getting ready to leave for a month long tour. From left: Chad Dayton, Erica Gotcher, Nate Lien, Matt Heuer, Dillon McLeod, Liz Just, Adam Hoffman
Wilderness Canoemobile crew heads east!
September 28, 2012
The Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile is off and running! An crew of staff left early this morning to take thousands of kids paddling in cities across the U.S. Packing six, 24' Voyageur canoes on a dual axel trailer, this dynamic team will paddle in Chicago, Michigan City, Cincinnati, Louisville, New York City and Washington, DC. We are working with dozens of partners in each of these cities. Funding for this endeavor comes from several sources, including the National Park Service and our great friends at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.
Stay tuned as the dynamic duo of Liz Just and Erika Gotcher will be posting stories along the way. For more information on this cool program and to get involved go to Canoemobile.
2012 Great River Race Sponsored Canoes Paddle the Home Stretch
2012 Great River Race Results
September 20, 2012
The Great River Race benefits the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) program, a creative outdoor education initiative that works to reduce the achievement gap in partnership with public schools and youth serving organizations by providing enriching nature-based learning to more than 10,000 students each year. Each team races on behalf of a local school in an effort to win that school a $5,000 UWCA scholarship.
To get involved in the 2013 Great River Race for Student Success, please contact Dan at 612-676-9416 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the results for 2012:
1st Place (Boat 16) – HealthPartners (YumPower)
Boat Captain – Charlene McEvoy
Race Time – 55:22
Dr. Charlene McEvoy joins Wilderness Inquiry's board of directors.
Dr. Charlene McEvoy joins Wilderness Inquiry's Board of Directors
September 12, 2012
We're pleased to announce that Charlene McEvoy, MD, has joined the Wilderness Inquiry board. Dr. McEvoy is a pulmonary medicine physician and research investigator with Health Partners, where she specializes in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Dr. McEvoy is also a co-investigator in the National Institutes of Health sponsored COPD Clinical Research Network and COPD gene trials. In addition to her duties as a physician, Charlene is is a national champion rower and President of the Minnesota Boat Club on Raspberry Island in downtown St. Paul. In 2011 she lead the "Health Paddlers" canoe team to first place in the first annual Great River Race for Student Success. Charlene also serves as Vice President of the Saint Paul Conservatory of Music. She and her husband, Doug Olson, live in St. Paul.
Asian Carp threaten native species and outdoor enthusiast by quickly infiltrating and dominating waterways.
Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership Recognizes Wilderness Inquiry for its leadership in helping to reduce the spread of Asian Carp.
WI appreciates our partners and our participants' support in this important effort!
Pictured from left: Katie Nyberg, Mississippi River Fund; Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior; Josh Garubanda, Wilderness Inquiry; Mark Dayton, Governor of Minnesota; Paul Labovitz, National Park Service; Page Knudsen Cowles, Trust for Public Land
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar Recognizes UWCA as Nationally Significant Program
August 26, 2012
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Govenor Mark Dayton were hosted by the National Park Service, the Mississippi River Fund, and Wilderness Inquiry on a tour of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The Secretary and Governor learned about the advancement of invasive species such as Asian Carp, and environmental and economic issues related to the river.
They also witnessed students preparing to paddle the river with our Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) program. The Saint Paul Public Schools students, who were participating in beginning of school orientation with Project SUCCESS learned about natural and cultural history as they formed important bonds with teachers and fellow classmates. The UWCA, which is a featured initiative in President Obama and Secretary Salazar's America's Great Outdoors program, was recognized as a national leader in connecting urban audiences to the outdoors.
"People who want to take away the money from conservation frankly are missing the boat, they don't understand that conservation and economics and quality of life and job creation are the same thing," said Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. Read and watch more about Secretary Salazar's visit here.
Mom and dad hanging out with Clara
WI's IT Director welcomes a new baby to the family!
August 26, 2012
Congratulations to Andy & Dr. Heidi Walz on the birth of their first child, Clara Jo Walz! Clara was born Saturday, August 18th, weighs just over eight pounds, and is feeling great. From all of us at WI, welcome to world Clara!
While roasting marshmallows with fellow AVID students on a WI winter camping trip last February, Faith only ever dreamed of going to the Arctic.
Faith Amaro's Arctic adventure featured in local news
August 6, 2012
Recent Harding High grad and former AVID student, Faith Amaro, was selected for the opportunity of a lifetime: to experience the Arctic of Somerset Island. Her journey was featured in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, read the full article online!
Faith Amaro points to Arctic Watch, where she is spending a month helping with whale research.
Faith Amaro goes to Arctic Whale Watch
August 2, 2012
We are super excited to tell you that St. Paul Public School student and UWCA veteran Faith Amaro is up in the Arctic on the experience of a lifetime! A few months ago Richard Weber called Greg Lais and asked him to help find an eager and ready student to spend a month experiencing the arctic and helping with whale research. Our friends at St. Paul Public Schools contacted Faith, a senior at Harding High School, and now she is there! Faith started by canoeing the Mississippi River with Wilderness Inquiry through the UWCA, then went to our basecamp in the Apostle Islands, then out to Glacier National Park on a WI trip supported by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. This summer she did an internship with the National Park Service in St. Paul, and now this opportunity! In one of life's small coincidences, Greg Lais also graduated from Harding High School in 1974. After Faith gets back from her trip. she and Greg will give presentations to Harding students to get more fired up about getting outdoors.
Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) program featured in Mpls.St.Paul Magazine!
July 30, 2012
In only its fourth year, Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures has led day trips down the Mississippi River for more than 22,000 youths. Older students are offered longer excursions that include an overnight at Fort Snelling. Those who have completed both day and overnight trips have an opportunity to apply for a much grander trip to Glacier National Park. Read article here
National Park Teen Ambassadors
July 29, 2012
WI is excited to be a part of the National Park Teen Ambassadors program this summer! 18 students from a variety of Minnesota communities are participating in outdoor learning adventures from Voyageur National Park to the Mississippi River. Click here to learn more about this exciting program and to read about their first trip.
The new kitchenette at Little Sand Bay!
Jeff showcases the quality and durability of the tables he's built.
With Volunteer Help, WI Basecamp Comes Together
July 19, 2012
Longtime WI volunteer and St. Paul Public School Employee Jeff Lasar recently built six camp tables for our Apostle Islands basecamp. These tables were made specifically to function in the various campsites around the basecamp. Next time you're cooking a meal or cleaning up while using one of these tables, think of Jeff. Thanks Jeff! We appreciate your hard work!
WI Receives Charity Navigator 4-Star Rating!
July 6, 2012
Wilderness Inquiry has once again received a 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator. They help donors make intelligent giving decisions by providing objective ratings and analysis of the financial health and accountability and transparency of the country's largest charities. Charity Navigator awarded WI four out of a possible four stars, which indicates that WI adheres to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible manner.
STEP-UP Achieve Students Working Summer Jobs at WI
July 5, 2012
STEP-UP Achieve is a City of Minneapolis paid summer jobs program that connects businesses, nonprofits, and public agencies with the next generation of talented and diverse workers while providing critical hands-on job opportunities for young people. WI is thrilled to participate in the program and welcomes Raheem, Jenny, and Bee (pictured left to right) to the WI Team!
USA Today highlights WI Apostle Islands trips!
July 2, 2012
WI's Apostle Islands sea kayaking trips named a top ten outdoor adventure for families in USA Today!
Family kayaking trips for paddlers as young as age five lead to secret chambers, honeycombed cave passageways, and visible shipwrecks. On a four-day all-inclusive excursion, you venture out from base camp each day in three-seater kayaks, stopping at wide, sandy beaches and historical lighthouses. Guides also prepare each kid-friendly meal and set up your base-camp tent under towering hemlock trees. They keep kids entertained with splash wars and dares to leap into the chilly waters of Lake Superior. On land there are games and, after dinner, s'mores around the campfire. Read article here
The family that camps together...
June 25, 2012
Here's an excerpt from a great article in Sunday, June 24th's Star Tribune about the DNR's "I Can Camp!" program and WI:
Greg Lais, executive director of Wilderness Inquiry, which offers families a wide variety of outdoor programs, ranging from canoe trips through the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis to excursions to the Boundary Waters, said the advice he always gives to hesitant first-time campers is "grab your sunscreen and just do it." Read more
Next time you're enjoying WI's signature pesto pasta with fresh vegetables and garlic bread, raise your bowl to this guy!
Meet WI's Food Coordinator - Jon Houlihan
June 22, 2012
We all know that food can make or break a camping trip. Jon Houlihan is here to make sure the food is a highlight on all WI trips.
Jon was born and raised in New London, Wisconsin. He made his way to the Twin Cities to pursue a degree in Kinesiology, Exercise and Health Sciences from the University of Minnesota. Being the hospitable guy he is, and a true servant leader, Jon was actively involved with Orientation & First-Year Programs. His first glimpse of WI was on a Mississippi River day trip with a group of first-year students during a U of MN Welcome Week program.
Jon likes to read, take photos, pretend to be a singer-songwriter, kick around a soccer ball, and climb trees. While he likes to have fun, Jon takes his job of keeping our participants and staff nourished and happy on the trail seriously. Jon says, "I'm excited to be serving WI participants and want to make sure the food is great on every one of our trips!" We appreciate his can-do attitude and hard work!
Friends of Ngong Road Executive Director Paula Meyer, with Andy Walz and Greg Lais
Staff Development Fund Honors Andy Walz
June 21, 2012
If you have ever been on trail with Andy Walz, you know that he embodies the spirit of servant leadership. One example of this leadership is his work with the organization Friends of Ngong Road. Andy established a partnership with Friends of Ngong Road to add a service component to Wilderness Inquiry's Kenya adventures.
In recognition of his work, members of Friends of Ngong Road have helped to establish a scholarship fund in Andy's name that will provide opportunities for other Wilderness Inquiry staff who embody servant leadership, to travel to Kenya to participate in service projects and learn more about the work of relief organizations in Keyna.
Paula Meyer, Exectuive Director of Friends of Ngong Road, said, "We are so pleased to be able to honor Andy in this way. He has given so much, it's great to have the opportunity to repay him."
Marissa Hunnel paddles back from Sand Island. In addition to working at WI, Marissa is a Sergeant in the US Army, and has served one year in Iraq.
New WI trail staff wave hello from a campsite at Little Sand Bay.
Our staff are here to serve you! Kelly Zastrow and Suzanne Schefcik are true servant leaders.
Thanks for a great staff training!
June 10, 2012
Last night we concluded the official part of our 2012 staff training with a ceremony at Wilderness Inquiry where staff were "blessed" with cedar boughs in the traditional manner of the Voyageurs. It was an exciting, action packed week!
After two days in Minneapolis laying the "foundation," 35 new staff traveled to our Apostle Islands base at Little Sand Bay where we paddled and practiced and learned new skills. Among the highlights were:
1) Quotes from Paul Petzoldt, including: "Know what you know, know what you don't know" as well as the infamous "Rules are for Fools."
2) Our decision making mantra: Safety-Quality-Cost-effectiveness.
3) A stirring rendition of Steven Tyler's "Walk this Way" in regards to situational leadership.
We also practiced cooking skills and had our traditional cook-off. Everyone flipped out with the delicious deviled eggs, the bruchetta, and Nick's amazing apple crisp. Suffice it to say that we have a truly great group of new staff to join with our returning staff. It will be a great season!
Special thanks to volunteers Mark Smith, David Alleven, and Emily Seitz, and to all of the people who helped make this possible.
Youth can paddle the National Park right in their own backyard through the UWCA Program.
Justin and Joe of the Okee Dokee Brothers share their love of the Mississippi River through music.
Rediscovering the Mississippi
June 7, 2012
Our friends, former staff, and KFAI producers Peter Frey and Flor Trevino, produced a great audio documentary called "Rediscovering the Mississippi River." The piece, which aired on KFAI's features our partners from the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and The Mississippi River Fund, and highlights our joint Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) program.
The documentary soundtrack features great original music by our friends, the Okee Dokee Brothers! Have a listen!
Cory Dahl teaches his group how to pack out food for the trail.
Josh Garubanda trains people on replenishing first aid supplies
Matthew Ross teaches van safety
Staff Training Underway
June 3, 2012
Today was the first official day of staff training for 35 new staff and interns. It's a really great group of fun, smart, and hardworking people. We covered mission, servant leadership, and a number of other things, including pack-out for the Apostle Islands. It's really great to see the future of WI in these people. Our future is bright! This week many of our full-time staff are involved in the training, so the folks left in the office will be plenty busy answering calls and keeping things together. Thank you Sarah, Andy, Lee, Mollie, Karen, Megan, Erik, John and all the rest.
Mollie and Dan love the blooming roses! Dan Russell is WI's Development Director, and Mollie Thompson is our Development Associate.
Smell the Roses
June 1, 2012
The roses outside WI's headquarters are in full bloom on this magnificent first day of June! A number of years ago, we were having a problem with our building being tagged by graffiti artists. In came our wonderful friend and longtime trip participant, Barb Gasterland. Barb, who has a knack for gardening, helped us solve this problem by suggesting and donating these beautiful rose bushes. Not only do they beautify our landscape and provide food for the bees, but they also help us solve a little problem. Thanks for beautifying our world Barb!
Tom Landwher, Minnesota DNR Commissioner addresses UWCA Partner Paddle on Steamboat Landing at Ft. Snelling State Park.
4th Annual UWCA Partner Paddle and 2012 Summer of Paddling
May 23, 2012
WI, the National Park Service, and the Mississippi River Fund hosted the 4th Annual UWCA Partner Paddle today on the Mississippi. About 100 people from 36 different partner organizations got in the 24' Voyageur Canoes at Hidden Falls Regional Park and paddled down to Steamboat Landing at Ft. Snelling. It was an enjoyable paddle and a great celebration of the many partners involved in the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures program. Special thanks to Congresswoman Bette McCollum, MN 4th District, Will Shafroth, America's Great Outdoors, Tom Landwher, MN DNR, Tom Melious, Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Mary Barrie from Minneapolis Public Schools. At Steamboat Landing we were treated to a presentation from Kao Thao, Naturalist at Ft. Snelling State Park.
The McGoldrick Family: Mark, Mia,
and baby Augie.
Welcome to future WI trail staff August Patrick McGoldrick!
May 8, 2012
August Patrick McGoldrick was born to his parents Mark McGoldrick and Mia Feldbaum on Saturday, April 21, 2012. Mark and Mia met in 2001 on a WI trip on Alaska's Porcupine River. After the trip, a romance blossomed and the two were married in 2009.
Mark and Mia follow in a long tradition of WI mergers. Over the years, there have been more than 200 marriages and 100 babies born to couples who met through WI. We wish Mia and Mark all the best in this exciting new stage of their lives and look forward to having Augie join us on trail in a couple of years!
Ziggy (bottom center) pictured with other ALP participants on a trip to the Missouri River in Montana in 2010.
From Team ALP to Team USA: Ziggy Norberg
April 25, 2012
Ziggy Norberg, a former WI ALP participant, was selected as a member of the US National Paracanoe Team competing in the World Championships to be held in Poland this May! Ziggy, a student at Irondale High School, won the US Team Trials for Paracanoe Sprint Kayak held in Oklahoma City on April 20 & 21, beating all age groups for this honor.
From the official TEAM USA Canoe/Kayak press release:
"Three paracanoe athletes earned nomination to the 2012 U.S. Paracanoe World Championship Team on Friday. Kelly Allen, Ryan Padilla, and Danzig Norberg won their respective races and will get the chance to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Paracanoe World Championships in Poznan, Poland, May 16-17."
HealthPartners Doctors Charlene McEvoy & Charles Lais (pictured right & center) present scholarship to Central High School Vice Principal Dr. Valerie Littles-Butler (left).
HealthPartners Presents Great River Race Award to
Central High School
April 24, 2012
Dr. Charlene McEvoy, who led the HealthPartners team to a first place finish during the first annual Great River Race last September, joined colleague Dr. Charles Lais to present a UWCA scholarship to Central High School this morning.
The Great River Race is a canoe challenge designed to raise funds and awareness for the academic achievement gap in the Twin Cities. Proceeds from the race benefit Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA), a creative outdoor education initiative that works to reduce the achievement gap in public schools by providing enriching nature-based learning to more than 10,000 students each year. Local corporations, nonprofits and government organizations participated in the race, fielding twenty teams of ten paddlers each. Teams raced 24’ Voyageur Canoes on the Mississippi River, from East River Flats Park on the University of Minnesota Campus to Harriet Island in Saint Paul. Each team raced on behalf of a local school in an effort to win that school a $5,000 UWCA scholarship.
McEvoy and Lais appeared on the Central Morning News program to present the award. "This scholarship will allow 100 Central students to participate in an Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) trip on the Mississippi River with Wilderness Inquiry and the National Park Service," said McEvoy.
Mark your calendar for this year's Great River Race: Saturday, September 15, 2012!
Augsburg football team at Hidden Falls in St. Paul
Augsburg Football Team helps clean up River Access
April 21, 2012
The Augsburg Football team volunteered to clean up four access points for the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures program on the Mississippi River. Crews removed debris, trash and other obstructions. "Those guys worked really hard, great crew," said team leader Josh Garubanda. Later this summer the team will take a canoe trip with WI and the National Park Service.
Miles (third from left) with fellow WI ALPers.
Miles (third from left) and other youth ambassadors pictured with leaders from C&NN, The Nature Conservancy, Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots, Youth Service America and the National Wildlife Federation.
Miles Mazumdar to represent Children's Nature Network at Disney Kids & Nature Celebration
April 19, 2012
Miles Mazumdar,17, a participant in WI's Adventure Leadership Program (ALP), was selected as one of four awardees to represent the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) at the Disney Kids & Nature Celebration in April.
The three-day event held at Walt Disney World Resort was designed to inspire lifelong conservation leadership, and to recognize and reward over 100 kids and five organizations for their work to protect the planet and conserve nature, including Wilderness Inquiry.
“Participating in Wilderness Inquiry’s ALP Program has taught me how to be a leader,” said Miles. “I’ve grown to be more aware of nature and how ecosystems work. WI teaches kids of all abilities how to communicate and cooperate in groups. With WI, it doesn’t matter that I have a learning disability. I’ve become more outgoing as a result of the confidence I’ve gained.”
Miles attended the Disney Celebration with his father. "What inspired me most [about this experience] was meeting so many kids doing amazing projects in their communities like saving reservoirs, repairing habitats and removing invasive species," said Miles.
Say hello to some of our 2012 staff team!
New & Returning Staff Season Kick-Off Social
April 18, 2012
WI welcomed several new trail staff to our ranks with a social in our warehouse. Joined by many returning staff, we celebrated our growing community, enjoyed great food, and built momentum for another season!
WI has a green office.
Going Green -- We did it years ago with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
March 30, 2012
All of us at WI are committed to conserving natural resources and reducing our environmental impact. It's smart for our planet and economical for our business. Several years ago, an RFP from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) alerted us to an opportunity for small companies to figure out ways to reduce their paper consumption. WI was selected to participate in this effort through the MPCA 's Environmental Assistance grants program and it forever changed the way we do business. A recent how-to article about reducing office paper waste featured the success of WI's cool little project:
A "PAPER-LESS" SUCCESS STORY: WILDERNESS INQUIRY
As a small, nonprofit organization providing wilderness trips, Wilderness Inquiry (Minneapolis) wanted to reduce its paper use, which customers perceived as environmentally unfriendly, while increasing marketing effectiveness and keeping costs down.
Before this project, their whole system was paper-based—marketing, registration, and evaluation— and included all the related paper use costs of copying and postage. For each customer inquiry, staff mailed a catalog or photo-less fact sheet. Registration using paper forms meant return postage and a wait for the customer, and Wilderness Inquiry staff had to do data entry work.
WI staff reviewed strategies to create more efficient work processes, increase customer service, reduce paper use, and ultimately reduce paper and postage costs. They concluded that technology enhancements and website development could replace its paper and mail communications.
A state grant enabled the company to upgrade software, create a new, data-driven Web site, and focus on Internet communication with clients. Paper forms gave way to online versions, including registrations and forms like waivers. Fact sheets with color photographs are easily viewed and downloaded—a vast improvement over the old black and white sheets. A “mail to a friend” interface makes it easy for customers to send fact sheets to possible trip-mates. Wilderness Inquiry has seen a wide range of benefits for their operations and their customers.
Customers now get trip information in minutes rather than days and perceive operations as environmentally friendly and consistent with the mission.
The new process is more efficient, with much less staff time spent copying and mailing trip information and forms. Trip leaders can now complete all the post-trip forms from any Internet-connected computer. Fact sheets are higher quality and more timely. Postage costs decreased significantly.
Over two years, the staff documented a 30% reduction in use of black-and-white copiers. A reduction of 3800 sheets/month had these annual environmental benefits: 7 million BTUs of energy, 1 ton of wood, 1,062 lbs. of CO2, 3,526 gallons of water, and 420 lbs. of solid waste. (www.papercalculator.org) Based on the early successes, WI continued to move documents online: job applications, a donor page, trip logs, photos, and more.
This past January we were thrilled to have long-time supporter Francine Murphy join us on a trip to Kenya. Always a joy to be with, Francine inspired us all by summiting Mt. Kenya at 16,400 feet! Francine's husband, Mark Murphy, served on our board of directors for many years before he passed away in 2008. In the mid 90's Mark and Francine established the Andrew Murphy Fund at Wilderness Inquiry in honor of their son, Andrew, who participated on several canoe trips to Ontario. The Andrew Murphy fund provides scholarships for people with disabilities to participate in our programs. Congratulations to Francine on her accomplishment!
Josh Garubanda and Greg Lais with the 2012 Wilderness Education Association Paul K. Petzoldt Award in Estes Park, Colorado.
Greg Lais Recognized with the Wilderness Education Association Paul K. Petzoldt Award
February 16, 2012
Congratulations to our Executive Director Greg Lais, who is the recipient of the Wilderness Education Association’s 2012 Paul K. Petzoldt award for outstanding achievement in outdoor leadership. Lais will accept the award at the association’s annual conference on February 20 in Estes Park, CO.
“Greg’s vision of wilderness exploration as an inclusive human endeavor has enabled over a quarter of a million Wilderness Inquiry participants to develop appreciation and love, both for the wilderness and for their companions on the journey,” said WEA president Mike McGowan, who announced the award. “They are a testament to his vision of a world where exploring, cherishing and protecting wilderness are a human birthright for everyone.”
Paul K. Petzoldt, for whom the WEA award is named, was a legendary Wyoming mountaineer, guide and outdoor educator. He climbed the Grand Teton in 1924—wearing cowboy boots. He was a member of the first American expedition to scale K2 in the Himalayas in1938 and served in the U.S. Army’s famed 10th Mountain Division in World War II. He was the chief instructor of the first Outward Bound program in the U.S. and went on to found both the National Outdoor Leadership School and the Wilderness Education Association.
Lais joins an impressive list of past recipients of the WEA’s Petzoldt Award, including Yvon Chouinard, environmentalist and founder of the Patagonia Co.; Rich Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods"; David Brower, one of the 20th Century’s most influential environmentalists; and, Bill McKibben, author and environment activist.
Garrison Keillor calls his friend and former neighbor, Bill Simpson, a "poor man's John Muir."
Sharing the adventure is his life's work
February 13, 2012
The St. Croix Valley Press recently featured our own local wilderness leader and hero, Bill Simpson. Long before the advent of WI, Simpson devoted his life to helping every person, regardless of age or ability, experience the beauty and power of the natural world. So, if you've ever wondered what inspired WI co-founders Greg Lais and Paul Schurke to share the adventure, we've got two words for you: Bill. Simpson. Read the full article here!
Thank You Donors!
Thanks for Supporting WI in 2011!
January 24, 2012
On behalf of the entire Wilderness Inquiry staff, Board of Directors, and especially the youth and families that we serve, a special thanks to everyone that contributed to our 2011 New Donor Challenge and Annual Fund Campaign! By mid-December the momentum behind the New Donor Challenge was so powerful, we met the Frey Challenge and earned a $30,000 matching grant for acquiring 300 new donors. Then, Cerdian Corporation upped the ante, offering an all-or-nothing $10,000 matching grant for obtaining an additional 100 new donors. I’m happy to share that by December 31, your contributions not only helped us meet this goal but surge past it with gifts from over 400 new donors! In addition to expanding our community of support, we exceeded our 2011 annual fundraising goal! Your generosity has a tremendous impact on Wilderness Inquiry's ability to provide financial assistance and life-changing experiences to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities on inclusive, outdoor adventures all over the world.
Again, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Best wishes for a safe, happy and healthy 2012 -- See you on the trail!
WI group on Mt. Kenya on January 2, 2012
Greg Lais having fun with two young Maasai Warriors in Kenya.
2012 Trip Schedule
January 16, 2012
If you are on our mailing list you should have received a 2012 trip schedule by now. We have many great trips planned for this year. Two trips have already taken place, one to Kenya and one to Costa Rica. Both were great. Take a look through the website and find your trip today!
If you wish to be added to our mailing list and receive a free trip schedule, go to the “contact us” tab on our website and click on the “Join our mailing list” section. It’s easy, and no cost to you.
We are also happy to talk with you any time by phone if you have a question about a trip--just call us at 612-676-9400.
Hope to see you on the trail!
WI receives 4-star rating from Charity Navigator!
December 31, 2011
Charity Navigator, America's leading independent charity evaluator, works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by assessing and rating the "financial health and accountability and transparency of America's largest charities." By utilizing these ratings, donors can see how a charity compares on performance metrics with other charities throughout the country. Donors can be more confident that in supporting those charities rated highly by Charity Navigator, they will be supporting organizations that are financially healthy, accountable and transparent.
We are pleased to report that Wilderness Inquiry received the highest possible rating--four-stars. A four-star rating indicates that WI exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its cause.
"As the nonprofit sector continues to grow at an unprecedented pace, savvy donors are demanding more accountability, transparency and quantifiable results from the charities they choose to support with their hard-earned dollars," says Charity Navigator President and CEO, Ken Berger. "In this competitive marketplace, Charity Navigator, America’s premier charity evaluator, highlights the fine work of efficient, ethical and open charities. Our goal in all of this is to provide donors with essential information needed to give them greater confidence in the charitable choices they make."
Thank you for a wonderful year.
A Year to be Thankful For!
December 26, 2011
It’s hard to believe that 2011 is quickly coming to an end. It’s been a rewarding, fun and eventful year. A lot of things happened!
* Served more than 13,000 people on 290 events. These events ranged from expeditions in the Yukon Territory to day trips on the Mississippi River.
* Expanded Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) events, serving more than 10,000 people! We did this despite some unusual weather; including floods, storms, and record-breaking heat. The students loved it!
* Approved plans for Apostle Islands. We’re working on significant improvements to our wonderful base camp—you will love them.
* Garrison Keillor hosted a fundraising event at his home with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in support of getting St. Paul Public School students outdoors to places like Glacier National Park, the Apostle Islands and, of course, the Mississippi River.
* Inaugurated the Great River Race on September 17th. Twenty teams raced from East River Flats to Harriet Island in support of student academic achievement.
* Purchased safety pontoon for the UWCA, and named it in memory of Clifton Crase. We are thankful for a gift from the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Nancy and Veronica Crase.
* Added 5 Voyageur canoes to the fleet, including the Itasca. Our fleet is up to 23 now—seven more boats to go to get us up to 30.
* Provided year-end fundraising support from the Frey Foundation, Ceridian, and dozens of our individual champions, including campaign chair Greg Dehn. This support has been truly awesome—it enables us to do what we do.
We would be remiss in not mentioning our many partners who have done so much to help us meet our mission. A short list includes the National Park Service, the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Mississippi River Fund, St. Paul Parks and Recreation, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, the USDA Forest Service, Northland College, Kiboko Wilderness Adventures, the Minnesota DNR, Canyon Expeditions, the University of MN, Northwest Canoe Company, and many, many more who we will list in our annual report.
We’ve said many times that some of the best people in the world are involved with Wilderness Inquiry—people who care and share and make a difference. This year was no different. Our wonderful staff, board of directors, and volunteers made a HUGE difference in meeting our mission. They care deeply about what we do, and it shows.
Last but not least, we are thankful for you and your support in helping us meet our mission of including everyone in the benefits of full community integration through outdoor adventures. We love what we do, and we know we could not do it without your support.
Veterans will participate on training trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Everglades, and Yellowstone National Park.
A group of veterans and others with spinal cord injuries participated on a kayaking trip in the Apostles Islands last summer.
Sierra Club & WI Partner to Provide Outdoor Leadership Opportunities for Veterans
December 12, 2011
Wilderness Inquiry is thrilled to announce a partnership with the Sierra Club's Military Families Outdoors program to serve veterans on outdoor adventure training trips. These trips are designed to build on veterans’ leadership experience and promote lifelong outdoor recreation skills.
WI has a long history of serving veterans and their families. We serve about 800 veterans through our trips and programs every year. In the 1990s, WI led a major support program for the Agent Orange Class Assistance Program, which served Vietnam veterans with PTSD and other disabilities related to Agent Orange exposure. This past year WI partnered with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation and Craig Hospital to serve veterans and their families on a five-day kayaking adventure. WI also continues to provide outdoor experiences through sponsored veteran exchange trips.
These many years of serving our veterans have only proven and strengthened our mission to provide the kind of enjoyment, learning, and healing that shared outdoor adventure can provide. One veteran who completed an Everglades trip believes the outdoors not only builds healing, but also provides team-building and personal growth:
"Being a Vietnam veteran, I have always avoided prolonged exposure to rain and getting wet. Being with others of my same bent helped me overcome this issue. I was dry, snug, and comfortable despite the environment. Sometimes, only nature can provide the right challenges at the right time."
Through this partnership with the Sierra Club, WI will provide four training trips for 36 veterans. On these trips, they will spend 6-7 days alongside fellow veterans camping, paddling, hiking, and exploring the great outdoors with our experienced trail staff who will train them to lead their own adventure trips. At each location, veterans will receive canoe or kayak instruction and lessons in outdoor leadership, outdoor cooking and food preparation, camp selection and set-up, and use of adaptive equipment for people with disabilities. Veterans will also have the opportunity to connect with representatives from local chapters of the Sierra Club to learn about the area’s local preservation efforts. The training opportunities will be offered in the following locations, each a Sierra Club priority habitat:
Every day, Americans enjoy the freedom of exploring our shared outdoor heritage. This is our chance to say "thank you" by helping veterans gain the skills and know-how to enjoy the public lands that they have fought so hard to protect.
To read more about the Sierra Club Military Families Outdoors program, visit their blog by clicking here.
WI joins the Outdoor Alliance for Kids
November 22, 2011
The Outdoor Alliance for Kids (OAK) is a national strategic partnership of diverse organizations with a common interest in increasing access to outdoor activities for youth and families. Founded on the knowledge that our future on this planet depends on humans having a deep appreciation for and understanding of the natural world, OAK believes that every child should have the opportunity and encouragement to play outside, dig in the dirt, smell the fresh air, roll down a hill, paddle on a river, climb a tree, and take a hike.
OAK recognizes the role that not only families, but decision-makers have in ensuring that young people are provided with access and opportunities, enabled by skills, and empowered by encouragement to enjoy the great outdoors. Wilderness Inquiry looks forward to building these pathways with our new partners in OAK.
Volunteers personalize notes for WI's annual fund.
Erin writes notes to folks who went on trail with her this summer.
Annual Fund Volunteers Rock!
November 16, 2011
It's that time of year again! Fall colors are fading, and inside at Wi, the flurry and excitement of our annual fundraising campaign fills the air. With help from dozens of volunteers, we are writing personal notes to more than 5,000 people requesting support of WI’s scholarship fund.
Here’s how you can help:
> Help us find new donors! The Frey Foundation has challenged us to acquire 300 new donors in 2011. If we meet this goal, WI will receive a $30,000 grant from the Frey Foundation. Gifts of any size count.
> Create your own WI champion webpage (or ask us to create it for you)! Share your passion for WI with your family and friends through a personalized webpage. Click here for more info.
>Volunteer! Come on out for any of our annual fundraising events. We are writing and sending over 5,000 cards to donors asking them to support our scholarship fund. Volunteers can address envelopes (neat, legible handwriting a must!), assemble materials, and provide support to our fundraising champions. We will provide delicious food, great company and clear instruction!
> Donate! If you haven't yet made your own gift to support WI this year, we hope you will. Click here.
WI on the Road! CanoeMobile brings UWCA to Chicago & D.C.
October 31, 2011
A team of six WI staff piled into the "CanoeMobile" and chugged eastward to bring Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) to two major metropolitan areas.
Check it out! Washington Post photos by Linda Davidson click here.
First stop > Chicago!
Thanks to our friends at the John G. Shedd Aquarium, Cook County Forest Preserve, and the US Forest Service, we paddled and performed habitat rehabilitation at the scenic Skokie Lagoons Nature Preserve with 45 Chicago-area youth.
Next stop > Washington, D.C.!
With help from our partners at National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Forest Service, US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Washington Parks & People, National Park Trust, Anacostia Watershed Society, D.C. Department of Health, D.C. Public Schools, and D.C. Parks & Recreation, we introduced over 550 urban youth to the outdoors while paddling on the Anacostia River just a few miles from the White House.
Anne from St. Ignatius College Prep school attended the event with a group of her students and commented after the paddle, "I have NEVER, NEVER heard the guys (8th grade students) come back from something with the enthusiasm and joy that I heard this afternoon. The teachers who went were all smiles, too."
Our long-term goal is to take the CanoeMobile to cities across America to get urban youth outdoors and inspire community partnerships. During a reception with partners in Washington D.C. WI presented and celebrated our 2020 vision for the UWCA program. We look forward to achieving our goal of serving 200,000 youth in 20 cities by 2020, as well as the lasting impact the UWCA program will have on communities across the nation.
Step One at the WI station: Portage!
Step Two at the WI station: Wash PFDs
WI Hosts Station for Gopher Adventure Race
October 14, 2011
Two hundred U of M students participated in the Gopher Adventure Race on Friday, October 7, 2011. Teams of two raced through the city completing mental and physical challenges at different sites, discovering many of the gems of the city. For the Wilderness Inquiry station, participants portaged a canoe one third of a mile and washed five lifejackets. This was a great opportunity for participants to be introduced to Wilderness Inquiry and we look forward to continue their involvement, as a volunteers, interns, and participants!
Meet Our New Board Members--Lorna Gleason and Dan Ness
October 14, 2011
We are excited to welcome both Lorna Gleason and Dan Ness to our Board of Directors. Our Board is an involved and experienced group of volunteers who are dedicated to carrying out Wilderness Inquiry's mission. Dan and Lorna are no exception.
Lorna first learned about Wilderness Inquiry through her husband Tom, who sits on the board of the Friends of the Ngong Road, an organization WI partners with in Africa (read more here).
Lorna was attracted to serving on the Board for WI because of her passion for outdoor adventure and travel. Lorna comes to us with a wealth of experience in law, finance, and organizational leadership. Lorna was a partner at Dorsey and Whitney for nine years before she started working in the financial services industry as both general counsel and then in senior leadership roles at both GMAC-RCF and Wells Fargo.
Lorna is currently Founder and President of Financial Assets Advisors, L.L.C. where she advises investors in commercial loan assets. She also has an impressive vitae of nonprofit board experience, including serving as the Chair of the MN, ND and SD Chapter of The Nature Conservancy from 2009 to 2011 and chair of the Global Nature Conservancy Trustee Council. Lorna also served on the board of the Children's Cancer Research Fund. Lorna serves on the Finance Committee of the Board and looks forward to taking many WI trips in the coming years.
Dan is the Marketing Director with UCare, a partner and generous supporter of Wilderness Inquiry. Dan had been interested in and following Wilderness Inquiry from afar for many years, but his involvement began after visiting our office earlier this year with colleagues from UCare. "I just love WI's mission of making the outdoors accessible to everyone," says Dan. Dan is an experienced leader in marketing, public relations, and media relations. He has also served on the Board and as Board Chair for Genesis II for Families, on the Troop Committee for Boy Scout Troop 33, and President of the Council of MInisters for Edina Community Lutheran Church. Dan is helping to establish a Marketing and Communications Committee of the Board and is excited to help us spread the word about WI's mission to more people.
Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation Fund Trip for Veterans/People with Spinal Cord Injuries
October 4, 2011
In August we partnered with Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver, CO to provide a three-day kayaking adventure in the Apostle Islands for 14 individuals, including five individuals with spinal cord injuries and their family members. The trip provided a rare opportunity for these families to participate in a shared outdoor adventure that both pushed their limits and brought them closer together.
Dave, a veteran and former avid rugby player, found a new lease on life on this trip. "Before this trip, I never entertained the prospect of camping on my own," said Dave. After this trip, I have realized that I am very capable to do so." Dave has made the outdoors a reality in his daily life and has already ventured out on his own camping trip.
Carol, who works in rehabilitation at the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital, has worked with many of the trip participants and others with spinal cord injuries and is now able to see new possibilities for these individuals. "It was eye opening for me to see what folks were capable of. In the kayaks, disability was not visible nor a barrier. [This trip] gave new possibilities for independence in their lives."
Thank You to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation for providing funding for this trip.
Teams race in the 2011 Great River Race
HealthPartners' HealthPaddlers team wins the 2011 Great River Race.
First Annual Great River Race raises funds and awareness for student success
October 4, 2011
Two hundred paddlers took to the water on Saturday, September 17, 2011 for the first annual Great River Race – a canoe challenge designed to raise funds and awareness for the academic achievement gap in the Twin Cities. Proceeds from the race benefit Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA), a creative outdoor education initiative that works to reduce the achievement gap in public schools by providing enriching nature-based learning to more than 10,000 students each year. The UWCA is a joint initiative of Wilderness Inquiry, the National Park Service and the Mississippi River Fund, in partnership with Minneapolis and Saint Paul Public Schools.
Congratulations to our winning team: HealthPartners' HealthPaddlers. They crossed the finish line with a winning time of 78:08. The teams raced on and off the water, and The Pig's Eye Parrant Pirates from the City of St. Paul took the award for Most Team Spirit. “We are thrilled with the tremendous corporate and community support we received for the Great River Race in its first year,” said Greg Lais. A huge Thank You to our presenting sponsors Travelers and UCare.
Taste of the Apostle Islands featured by the Heavy Table
September 19, 2011
Emily Friedman shares her tales from the trail, and wonderful photos, from the inaugural Taste of the Apostle Islands trip in August 2011. It's sure to get your mouth watering and paddling itch itching for next year's Taste of the Apostles trip.
Coen Family getting ready to paddle the Mississippi River!
Family Fun on the Mississippi River
August 29, 2011
The Coen family recently joined us on a Mississippi River Gorge 1/2 Day Canoe paddle. It was a day of family fun with more than 10 families showing up to enjoy the river! These day trips are a great way to discover the hidden gem of the Twin Cities, the Mississippi River National Recreation Area. The Coen's had such a good time that they are now considering taking a canoe trip out West with Wilderness Inquiry next year!
We have a couple more trips coming up yet this fall. They are filling fast, so sign up now or you will miss the boat!
WI leaders Matt and Jen serve up pan fried fresh caught whitefish with all the fixings.
Fresh organic apricots, chevre cheese, and raspberries make a tasty and beautiful
Kayaking the sea caves was definitely on the menu, and one of the highlights of the trip!
Taste of the Apostle Islands
August 10, 2011
We just completed our inaugural “Taste of the Apostle Islands” trip. Combining the discovery of the Apostle Islands' natural beauty by sea kayak, with meals made from fresh local ingredients and conversations with local farmers, this trip promises to become a staple of our Apostle Islands trip offerings. Our basecamp at Little Sand Bay provides a wonderful setting for us to establish a variety of connections to the rich culture and history of the Bayfield area. What better way to do that than by sharing hearty and wholesome food after a day of kayaking the sea caves?
Local food writer Beth Dooley, who has a cabin on Madeline Island with her husband Kevin, introduced participants to the incredible bounty of Bayfield County. We enjoyed fresh goat cheeses from the Sassy Nanny, Manchego style sheep’s cheese from Lucky Ewe, just picked cherries, plump and bursting with flavor blueberries, raspberries, and apricots from Tom Glazen at North Winds Organic Farm, melt-in-your-mouth smoked fish from Bodins, just caught Lake Superior Whitefish from Apostle Islands Fisheries, and handcrafted breads from Cocos Bakery, just to name a few. We had the privilege of meeting many of the farmers who provided food for the trip and learning about some of their innovative farming methods. All are dedicated to high quality, sustainably produced food.
We all came away inspired to incorporate more local food into our daily lives and with a deeper respect for the wonderful people and history of the Bayfield area. We are already starting the planning for next year's trips. Watch for more details online and in the trip schedule. This a trip not to be missed!
Scenic Vista of the White Cliffs on Montana's Missouri River
Missouri River paddlers mug for a shot under Big Sky Country.
Montana's Missouri River Poem
July 23, 2011
Participant Jason Cudahy penned this poem after he was inspired by a great trip on Montana's Missouri River. Thanks for sharing this Jason!
The Missouri River
So majestic in its vastness and solitude
Strange sentinnel rock formations watch us
limestone ramparts of geological violence
Now quite like the endless sky and rolling hills to the big fat muddy river
flowing in grand solitude
Opening the west to rugged explorers
Ending an era for others
Bloody battles for land for the homesteader's toil
Nature slowly reclaims what is hers
Like the buzz of locust in the afternoon sun
to the gentle birdsong of the thrush and watchful eye of the eagle.
Out here time has no meaning like the heavy
worrisome days of the city
The river will silently carry us on and with each paddle stroke
We will settle in to the experience like the vastness and majesty
of the Upper Missouri River
The Clifford D. Crase at East River Flats on the Mississippi River
Nancy Crase and the Wilderness Inquiry crew at the launching of the Clifford D. Crase.
The Clifford D. Crase joins the Wilderness Inquiry fleet
July 10, 2011
We are delighted to announce the dedication of the "Clifford D. Crase," our new safety support pontoon for the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures on the Mighty Mississippi River. The Clifford D. Crase will provide an additional margin of safety on these river trips and also provide volunteers and supporters with a way to visit the river and experience the UWCA.
Funding for this boat was provided by the Crase Sports Fund of the Paralyzed Veterans of America in honor of Clifford Crase. Cliff and his wife Nancy discovered Wilderness Inquiry in the 1980's, and have become life-long friends and boosters.
Wheelchair sports and recreation were the life work of Cliff, starting as sports coordinator for the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and eventually as the editor of Sports ‘n Spokes, the international magazine for wheelchair sports and recreation co-launched by Cliff and Nancy Crase, and PVA’s in-house publication, PN-Paraplegia News.
Cliff was a star athlete before his auto accident ending in quadriplegia in 1959, and became an equally competitive wheelchair athlete at the University of Illinois. He was on executive boards (and Hall of Fame inductee) of both National Wheelchair Sports Association and the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, and helped guide wheelchair sports and subsequently recreation opportunities to develop and expand to what is available today for the disabled community.
Cliff died in 2007 and the Crase Sports Fund at PVA was established to honor his memory as well as provide a continuing contribution to wheelchair sports and recreation. The Wilderness Inquiry pontoon boat is the first grant from this Fund.
Nancy Crase is a professional photographer who participates on WI trips, including trips to Yellowstone National Park and the Upper Missouri River this year. You will see her excellent photography in WI publications, and on this website.
We are truly honored to have the Clifford D. Crase in our fleet and we thank Nancy and Victoria Crase and Paralyzed Veterans of America for helping to make this happen.
Additional information: Contact Nancy Crase at 602 558-1829 or email@example.com
Herb Johnson in 1964
Staff member Adam Hoffman paddles the Herbert C. Johnson through the St. Anthony Lock and Dam on the Mississippi River.
Herb Johnson, one of WI's first board members, passes away at age 89
July 6, 2011
Long time friend and supporter Herb Johnson passed away on June 25th. Herb first met Greg Lais in the mid-1970's during the legislative battle over motorized use in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Greg became Herb's "go-for" in arranging various events and functions, and Herb became Greg's mentor and life-long friend.
"Herb taught me many things, including that your word is your bond," says Greg. Herb served on the WI board of Directors from 1979 through 1988, providing council and helping to raise money for the then fledgling Wilderness Inquiry. An accomplished business man who started and ran several high technology companies, Herb saw the promise and potential of Wilderness Inquiry from the beginning. It was a way for him to help share his beloved BWCA with people who otherwise might never get the chance to go there.
In December of 2010 Wilderness Inquiry honored Herb by naming one of our 24' Voyageur canoes after him. Voyageur 1 is now called the Herbert C. Johnson. Herb was present at the ceremony, and thrilled to see it. The Herbert C. Johnson is in service on the Mississippi River, taking hundreds of school kids canoeing for the first time in the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures program.
For a more detailed obituary in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune paste the link below into your browser:
WI's operations were disrupted by the closure of Minnesota's State Parks in 2011, but we did manage to re-route all trips and we discovered new partners and access points as a result. Special thanks to St. Paul Park and Recreation and the Watergate Marina in St. Paul for their help with the Outdoor Nation event serving over 100 emerging outdoor leaders.
State of MN Shut Down
July 3, 2011
The State of Minnesota shut down on one of the most beautiful–and busy–weekends of the year. We're sorry to see this for many reasons, including the thousands of people and families who had to leave Minnesota State Parks due to the shut down. Wilderness Inquiry had several trips planned that used Minnesota State Parks, but fortunately we have been able to re-route them to other places, including our base camp up at Little Sand Bay adjacent to the Apostle Islands.
So, if you want to get outside during the shut down give us a call--we'll get you there!
Our deepest sympathies go out to all of the people most effected by the shut down, including people who are homeless, on medical assistance, and those who can least withstand the effects of the impasse in St. Paul. We are also concerned for our many friends who work for the State of Minnesota--many who have worked very hard to prepare for a summer of serving others outdoors.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that the shut down will be brief.
Garrison Keillor gathers the crowd.
Enjoying the view from Lake Woebegone. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area Superintendent Paul Labovitz, Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, WI Executive Director Greg Lais, Mary Barrie, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak
Garrison Keillor and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman host fundraiser for the UWCA
June 24, 2011
Friends and supporters of the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) program gathered on June 21 at the home of Garrison Keillor and Jenny Nilsson. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak both spoke about their passion for the program and the importance of getting kids outside--for their health and the health of our cities. Even Keillor, the self described "great indoorsman," spoke fondly of his trips to the Boundary Waters with his brother. Keillor recalled hearing great stories about the early days of Wilderness Inquiry from his friend and neighbor, WI trail staff Bill Simpson. Proceeds from this event will support our work with the St. Paul Public Schools AVID program. Many thanks to Garrison Keillor, Jenny Nilsson, and Mayor Coleman for a wonderful evening!
UWCA featured on Minnesota Bound
June 15, 2011
An Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure with Roseville Middle School students was recently featured on Ron Schara's Minnesota Bound. If you missed it on Kare11 last weekend you can check it on Wilderness Inquiry's YouTube channel. Nearly 400 Roseville students will be floating down the Mississippi River in the coming days!
2011 Trail Staff at training on Lake Nokomis
After staff are trained, they get assigned to trips and events. Megan and Rolf are at our schedule board assigning staff to trips. It's quite an undertaking, really a huge and intricate puzzle.
2011 Staff Training Underway
June 3, 2011
Staff training for 2011 is underway! More than 40 new staff are learning the ways of Wilderness Inquiry from our mission to how to cook great food outdoors. It's a pretty intense week for these people, requiring total focus. We all work pretty hard to master the skills and techniques required to lead great trips all over the world for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Many themes run through staff training, including hard skills, soft skills meta skills (like judgment and decision making) and the principles of servant leadership and inclusion. You'll see the results of this effort when you take a trip with these dedicated and highly skilled staff. They are passionate about sharing the outdoors with everyone!
Apostle Islands Superintendent Bob Krumenaker and WI Program Manager Cory Dahl with Buddy Bison at the APIS Heaquarters in Bayfield, Wisconsin.
Buddy Bison visits the Apostle Islands
May 28, 2011
While on a recent trip to the headquarters of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore we discovered our old friend Buddy Bison hanging out in the gift shop. Buddy is the mascot of the National Park Trust, our good friends who help to protect places and get people outside.
From Left: David Kingman, Jim Langdon, Craig Peterson, Michael Hoffman
Greg Lais thanks former board chair Craig Peterson for a job well done
WI Acknowledges Outgoing Board Members for Years of Outstanding Service
May 11, 2011
Wilderness Inquiry recognized board members David Kingman, Jim Langdon, Craig Peterson, and Michael Hoffman at the last board meeting of their terms this morning. We greatly appreciate the hundreds of volunteer hours these gentleman have given to WI over the last 6+ years.
WI presented each individual with a canoe paddle engraved with a message of thanks and recognition. In addition to their duties as board members, David Kingman, CEO of Kingman Building Company, has provided invaluable advice in developing WI's Little Sand Bay base camp in the Apostle Islands. Jim Langdon, an attorney with Dorsey & Whitney, has provided integral pro-bono legal counsel. Micahel Hoffman, Managing Director at Piper Jaffray, has provided unprecedented leadership as board chair and executive committee chair. Craig Peterson, District 4 Metropolitan Council Representative and Marathon Enterprise, Inc consultant, has been crucial to WI's development since he went on his trip in 1984. He will be deeply missed by all of us--but he is not off the hook yet!
David, Jim, Craig, & Michael–we will miss you on the board, your shoes will be difficult to fill. Thank you for everything.
The new cart shed at Little Sand Bay.
Little Sand Bay Work Crew gets base camp ready for 2011 season
May 11, 2011
An amazing work crew of Boy Scouts from Eagan, WI trail staff, and local chain saw talent performed a ton of work getting ready for the 2011 season. We were able to:
1) Build three tent platforms
2) Clear campsite 5 and install fire ring
3) Build a cart shed
4) Cut, split and stack about 20 cords of firewood.
5) Put in new gravel filled splash boxes at spigots
6) Clear TONS of brush and burn 3 huge piles
7) Tighten and spiff all carts
8) Organize shed and remove a ton of clutter
9) Inventory all gear
10) Inventory and stack a HUGE pile of excess lumber
11) Have fun with only a few minor scrapes and a bit of sunburn.
Thanks to all, especially Hilary, Chelsea, Maury, Erik, John, Riley, Shannon, Colton and the Scouts!!!!
Wilderness Access - Boundary Waters Canoe Area circa 1982
April 18, 2011
On our youtube channel this week we are featuring Wilderness Inquiry's first half hour video ever filmed. It was produced in 1982 by Octavio Molina, Ted Glass, and Ricky Liss. Music by Pole Cat John. This early trip captures the spirit of a WI trip to this day. You'll meet people of all backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities, and see how they come to together to enjoy the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The trip leaders are WI founders Greg Lais and Paul Schurke...when they still had hair! This video won many awards on public television. We hope you can check it out!
WI Welcomes New Interns:
Shannon, John, & Brandon
New Interns Join the Ranks
April 4, 2011
We're pleased to have three new spring interns join our ranks. Internships are an important part of our operations. Each year we have approximately 25-30 people serve as an intern. These folks learn valuable life and work lessons, and they contribute a great to deal to Wilderness Inquiry in terms of work, ideas, and a "can-do" attitude. Shannon Grady (Nashville, TN), John Chevalier (Apple Valley, MN), and Brandon Olson (Plymouth, MN) all started today. We look forward to working with them.
Anacostia River Canoeing Featured on Let's Move Blog
March 7, 2011
DC United Coach, Mike Lingenfelter, is committed to helping urban Washington, D.C., youth to get moving and adopt healthier lifestyles. Wilderness Inquiry provided a great opportunity for the D.C. United youth when WI brought its canoes out to D.C. for paddling on the Anacostia River.
President Obama on America's Great Outdoors Initiative
America's Great Outdoors - A Promise to Future Generations
March 2, 2011
President Obama released the America's Great Outdoors initiative last week. We applaud his commitment to getting more youth outdoors. The Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures program is featured on page 88.
Anthony Lamaar aka The Soundshaker performs with Mike Droho & the Compass Rose at Wilderness Inquiry's benefit concert.
Four Bands host Rock for a Reason to Benefit Wilderness Inquiry at Fine Line Music Cafe
February 18, 2011
Big thanks to the four great bands that played at the Fine Line last night. The New Distractions, Mike Droho & Compass Rose, South Farwell and Kazyak were all fantastic. Watch the short video clip of Anthony Lamaar aka The Soundshaker shot by Greg Lais with his iPhone.
All of these bands have connections to Wilderness Inquiry. Jeff Milligan-Toffler, fab guitarist for The New Distractions, is married to our Associate Executive Director, Sarah. Cory Dahl, drummer for South Farwell, is WI's Youth Program Director, Anthony Lamaar went to college with Josh Garabunda, and Kazyak guitarist Peter Frey is a trip leader and long time WI supporter (since birth, really). Thanks to all of the other band members--you ROCKED!
Stay tuned for more of these shows!
Mike Miller, President, Northland College, Hilary Bulger, Northland graduate and WI Trail Staff, and Greg Lais, Executive Director, Wilderness Inquiry celebrate our partnership agreement.
WI and Northland College Celebrate Partnership Agreement
February 4, 2011
On February 3, we celebrated our partnership with Northland College by signing a Memorandum of Understanding. This Memorandum formalizes a decades long partnership between Northland College and Wilderness Inquiry, and outlines how we will continue to work together to meet common goals, including:
• Wilderness Inquiry's basecamp at Little Sand Bay, near Bayfield, Wisconsin, will serve as a location for Northland students to conduct research and gain hands on experience in adaptive recreation.
• Northland College will continue to be a great source of student interns and trail guides for Wilderness Inquiry.
• Wilderness Inquiry will continue to support recruitment of potential Northland College students.
• Northland College and Wilderness Inquiry will partner to develop freshman orientation trips and academic travel programs.
WI Executive Director Greg Lais and Northland College President Mike Miller, signed the Memorandum, joined by members of the Northland faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees, and Wilderness Inquiry staff and Board of Directors.
A big thank you to all of the Wilderness Inquiry Champions! More than 66 volunteers from around the country "Championed" WI by writing personal notes to more than 5,000 WI supporters. This effort raised over $386,000 for WI's 2010 Annual Fund Campaign and will provide scholarships, support services for individuals with disabilities, and training for our fabulous trail guides! Last week we celebrated the efforts of our volunteer Champions at a luncheon at our offices in Dinkytown. Because of their efforts we met our fundraising goal and exceeded our goal of acquiring 300 new donors to meet the Frey Foundation challenge. Way to go!
Thank you to all the Champions!
Darren Acheson, Lindsey Albright, Ian Armitage, Ann Bancroft, Debbie Bancroft, Martha Beery Milbery, Pam Biladeau, Amy Buesker, Hilary Bulger, Jim Bultman, Morgan Burns, Dawn Cardelli, Reid Carron, Caroline Closmore, Ken Collier, Scott Crow, Cory Dahl, Greg Dehn, Bob Ditmore, Martha Erickson, Jennifer Fitz-Roy, Karen Flannery, Lee Friedman, Tom Goodwin, Hunt Greene, Kate Hartfiel, Annie Hickman, Michael Hoffman, Mark Holloway, Megan Ihlenfeld, Ardes Johnson, Madeleine Kerr, Dede King, Dave Kingman, Greg Lais, Jim Langdon, Amanda LaRiviere, Susan Lasoff, Deb Liang, Jim Lynch, Tina Makela, Jason Matz, Maureen Mayo, Michael Miller, Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Carol Mizuno, Tom Nelson, Susan O'Connor, Jenni O'Link, Dick Owen, Craig Peterson, Max Pittman, Nicole Probotanojo, Dean Sanberg, John Scanlan, Scott Schaefers, Ethan Schmidt, Paul Schurke, Tom Sexton, Kath Sharp, Audrey Sheffield, Bill Simpson, Kathryn Sinner, Dwight Steege, Julie Storck, Nancy Thomson, Tim Thorpe, John Tuttle, John Villa, Dag Von Ruden, Andy Walz, Eric Weber
Travel advisor extraordinaire, Arthur Frommer, highlights Wilderness Inquiry's inclusive trips -- for people of all abilities, including disabilities.