Currents: Peta Barrett, North Woods Wilderness Guide

Peta Barrett, Women’s Wilderness Discovery

April 20, 2018 – 8:19 AM

Today: Peta Barrett owns and operates Women’s Wilderness Discovery in Ely, outfitting and guiding canoe and hiking adventures in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The trips are year-round.


I love to revisit the writings of Sigurd Olson, especially during the long winter months in northern Minnesota. “The Singing Wilderness,” his first book, is one of my favorites. It soothes my soul. “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, is an incredible book. She writes with such passion for the natural world and its significance to all living things on this Earth, from her perspective as a trained scientist, teacher and Native American. This book was a gift from a client I guided in the wilderness last spring. A delightful counter, to help ease the stress of contentious times in our country: “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.” Who doesn’t need to find a sense of comfort, togetherness and well-being? And I can’t do without my Minnesota Conservation Volunteer: Such an excellent magazine from the Department of Natural Resources, filled with incredible photography, articles, and information encouraging conservation.


I’m involved in the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining by foreign interests. Clean water is a valuable, precious commodity here and around the globe, and will become even more so. My home, business and livelihood depend on this irreplaceable 1.1 million acre gem. The very idea of jeopardizing this protected watershed by placing the most toxic industry on the planet near it is unconscionable. I’m also following Amy and Dave Freeman, who depart Ely on Friday on their 1,750-mile/nine-state Pedal to D.C., promoting their book, “A Year in the Wilderness,” in support of permanent protection of the BWCA. These two are tireless in their work to protect this quiet place.


GO, WILD! I’m a Minnesota hockey fan and follow the team every season. I’m intensely watching the first round of the playoffs vs. Winnipeg.


I’ve always enjoyed an eclectic mix of music, from classic rock, jazz and blues to ethnic and folk music. At home in Ely I listen to WELY, 1450-AM and Minnesota Public Radio. I’m enjoying Nashville singer/songwriter Jerry Vandiver’s latest CD “Paddle On.” It’s a collection inspired by the paddle culture, which Jerry knows well — canoeing, kayaking and enjoying wild places. It’s touching, playful and just plain fun. It inspires me to dream of open water, which may not reappear in northern Minnesota for a while yet.


I traveled to Vietnam a few months ago — a fascinating country and people and wonderful experience. In February, I was invited by Northstar Canoes to join an eight-day whitewater adventure, paddling the lower canyons of the Rio Grande in Texas, just east of Big Bend National Park. Our group was in awe of the majestic, ancient canyon walls and the spectacular whitewater. Now, I’m off guiding the last of my winter camping trips. STILL in mid-April, and prepping for a very busy summer canoe trip season in the BWCA. Life is good!