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Time to Go Up North

Updated: Jan 2

After half a lifetime of dreaming, years of planning and many months of on-the-ground searching, we are now the grateful owners of 10 beautiful acres of forest right outside of the BWCA in Northern Minnesota. This is a short story about what this means for our family and how we got here.

It's a four hour drive on a good day, and most of it sucks to be completely honest with you. We fight traffic to get out of the Twin Cities going North no matter what the day, then drive a few hours over straight, flat freeway without that much interesting scenery. The kids are usually a little wired and cranky because they know the drive is long and there's nothing they can do about it. Most of the first two thirds of the drive I spend twisted like a corkscrew holding the hand of our two year old who doesn't love the carseat. Our six year old asks us how much longer approximately every 15 minutes from the time he buckles his seatbelt.

But then, somewhere around mile "I have to poop" and "Brother spilled his milk all over!", a change occurs. You can feel the shift from restlessness and annoyance to happiness and ease.

It happens right about where flat ground dissolves into truck-sized boulders and granite quarries. When billboards for McDonald's are replaced by hand painted signs for firewood and tomatoes and sweet corn and handmade quilts.

The kids get silent and stop whining. Then they get excited. That same six year old stops complaining about the drive and starts talking about the first thing he's going to do when we get up North. The hand-holding two year old starts counting big trees and joining his brother in giddiness.

Ely, MN - Home Away from Home

Situated less than 20 miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies, Ely is a bustling small town with a history rooted in blueberries, minings, and a ubiquitous love for the wilderness.

Burntside Lake, c. early 1900s

Why did we choose Ely? There are many reasons. I spent a ton of time camping here as a kid, and we've spent many nights as a family doing the same. It's small and friendly. It was in our micro-budget to purchase here. It's far enough North away from major cities to hopefully stay small and friendly.

But the biggest reason - by far - is that Ely is an entry point town to one of the last great wildlands: the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The BWCAW is made up of over 1,000,000 acres of untouched wilderness: pristine glacial lakes and rivers, towering red and white pine forests, and some of the oldest exposed rock formations in the world. And it's our new backyard.

The Big Why

Our modern lives are as complex and plugged-in as ever. Stressors are plentiful and the disconnect from how we're wired to live and how we do is bigger than ever. I don't need to go into the statistics on screen time or the benefits of spending time in nature, if you guys are here you probably know all of that.

We're doing this because as a family we want to live more simply and closer to the earth.

Our goals are pretty simple: we want to walk on dirt more often than concrete, stare at stars more often than screens, and collect more memories than things. We know we're the happiest and closest as a family when we do these things, so here we are.

Another reason why we took the plunge into land ownership is because we want to create a gathering space where people can learn, teach and spend time in nature with their families too. We're not sure exactly what that will look like yet on a practical level, but we're dreaming big and taking it one small, sustainable step at a time.

Our Greatest Adventure Yet

This is the most exciting thing that any of us have been a part of. It's our biggest and most daunting adventure to date, yet also the one that feels the most "right". Shortly after it became official, we sat down and made a list of promises to keep in mind on this journey.


  • Listen carefully.

  • Learn eagerly.

  • Think critically.

  • Tread lightly.

  • Act deliberately.

  • Practice self reliance.

  • Proceed with patience.

  • Keep an open mind.

  • Take only what is needed and give far more back.

  • Play and find joy.

  • Document and share as much as possible.

First family photo on our land!

“Joys come from simple and natural things; mist over meadows, sunlight on leaves, the path of the moon over water. Even rain and wind and stormy clouds bring joy.” - Sigurd F. Olson


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