ThreeSixty young alumnae and current St. Thomas students Deborah Honore and Maya Shelton-Davies were guest journalists at the Steger Wilderness Center in Ely this summer. The inspirational three-day, two-night experience was a gift to ThreeSixty from arctic explorer Will Steger.
With tents, sleeping bags and bug spray – lots of bug spray – in tow, the two college students set out to learn the center’s mission and tell the stories of its summer residents. Ultimately, Shelton-Davies filed this story about the community of Steger Wilderness Center, and Honore created a video package highlighting the impact the center has had on some of its visitors.
It was an unforgettable experience for these two lucky Tommies. The one thing they would have changed about their journey? It would have been longer!
Here are their full reflections.
When I first heard about the Steger Wilderness Center I wasn’t sure what to expect. I learned about Will Steger’s adventures. Being that I am an environmentalist, and that I love adventure, I was excited to meet the legend himself.
My first interaction with Will fell short of what I expected a polar explorer/environmentalist to be. Will was quiet, humble, and friendly. He shook my hand and invited Maya and I into one of the cabins. The more I got to know Will, the more inspired I was by him. His vision of world peace and sustainability was enticing. To see how he manifests his vision through the Steger Wilderness Center was inspiring.
To add to that, I was awestruck by the scenic surroundings. It wasn’t hard to capture its beauty on camera. In the three days and two nights we were there, I felt at home. And by the time I left, I felt refreshed and whole. One of the Wilderness residents told me that more than 1 million volunteer hours had gone into the construction of the center. After spending time on the site, I see how that was possible.
Amid this summer I found calm and happiness in northern Ely, Minnesota. I came to the Steger Wilderness Center as a reporter, but I feel like I left as a healed patient. It’s tempting to leave everything behind and invest in Will’s vision. When you add the site’s community, and the beauty of the surrounding nature, you’ll never want to leave. I know I didn’t.
After spending three days at Will Steger’s Wilderness Center, I only wished I had been able to stay longer. I wanted to spend more time in the beautiful, unique wilderness there. I also wanted to spend more time getting to know all of the people living and working there for the duration of the summer.
The three days were a total whirlwind. As I was working on my story, interviewing people at the homestead and snapping pictures, I knew it was important to let myself enjoy the experience as well. Surrounded by the white pines, the beautiful lake scenery and the friendly community of people there, I felt at home. I wasn’t expecting to feel so at home in this place. I mean, everything about it was just incredible and I feel so lucky to have been able to have spent time there, even if just for a few days.
The community created at the homestead is truly amazing. Everyone there is so accepting, nonjudgmental and, most of all, passionate about the work they’re doing and Will’s vision. There’s a level of mutual respect and cooperation there that I don’t really see too often. I loved hearing everybody’s stories about the place, about Will and their own lives outside of the Wilderness Center.
One night that stood out was our last night on the homestead. We spent it down by the lake, eating salmon and steak (yes, salmon AND steak), talking with Will and people we had gotten to know while visiting. I’m also glad to say we were able to sneak in a swim before sunset.
I left the Wilderness Center knowing that what I’d remember most was the beauty of the wilderness and the treasure trove of people and personalities that can be found there. It was a whirlwind of an experience and I really did enjoy every bit of it. I have a feeling it won’t be my last time there.