221 days in wilderness marks 10-year brain aneurism anniversary

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Minnesota-based photographer Gary Fiedler recently emerged from the woods after 221 days on a solo canoe journey in Quetico Provincial Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Carrying up to 400 pounds of gear across 90 portages between the lakes, Fiedler endured record cold snaps and snow, high water levels, and far too many blackflies and mosquitoes.

During seven months alone in the wilderness, Fiedler paddled 811 miles on 83 lakes and rivers, hiked 178 miles on portages, and recorded 78 days without seeing another person. Every six to eight weeks, Fiedler’s wife, photographer Dawn LaPointe, resupplied him with 140 pounds of food, and exchanged seasonal and worn gear.

Why did Fiedler take on the multi-month adventure? To witness changing seasons, bird migrations, explore nature writing, create photos and videos of the wilderness experience, and live a healthy outdoor lifestyle while immersed in the rhythms of nature, he says. “This was not a trip of conquest, but rather a trip to experience the wilderness in all of its moods, challenges, beauty, simplicity, and peacefulness.”

But there was something more: The trip marked the 10th anniversary of Fiedler’s brain aneurism, which severely impacted his vision, balance, and fine motor skills. The solo trek solidified the powerful role wilderness has played in his life. “Wilderness provides space to be free to wander, to see things no one has ever seen, to dream and be inspired. I share these beliefs with writers, poets, painters, philosophers, and photographers who are inspired by wild places,” Fiedler says. “Wilderness areas are critical to the health of the Earth’s ecosystem and to the well-being of humankind. These areas help us recharge our spirits and escape the burdens of schedules and modern-day society.”

Fiedler returned to Duluth with 40,000 photographs. Here are 15 from what will become an exhibit called “Inspired by Wilderness: A Four Season Solo Canoe Journey.”

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