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Boundary Waters Podcast
Brian Knutson

Boundary Waters Podcast

This podcast is all about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It is a place to hear stories from the people who visit this amazing outdoor playground. It is also a venue to learn more about the gear that helps adventuring in this unique setting be all the more enjoyable.

On this podcast, we invite you to join the adventures as well.

If you have a story you’d like to share on the Boundary Waters Podcast, contact us at [email protected]

WTIP’s Boundary Waters Podcast is supported in part by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund

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March 15, 2023
Episode 86 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Canoecopia 2023 took place in Madison, Wisc., from March 10-12.

The WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast team was back for this year’s paddling expo. In addition to posting up at their booth and talking with thousands of curious paddlers, hosts Joe Friedrichs and Matthew Baxley presented during Canoecopia this year. The podcast duo shared a presentation on how to document and share stories from a trip to the canoe-country wilderness.

It was a busy scene at Canoecopia this year. In this episode, you’ll hear from those who were involved and people who attended from all over the country.

March 1, 2023
Episode 85 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

For the first time in several years, there will be a park ranger at the Cache Bay Ranger Station in Quetico Provincial Park for the full season in 2023.

Due to the pandemic and additional restrictions regarding Remote Area Border Crossing Permits, there has not been a full-time ranger at the island in Cache Bay since 2019. There was a ranger there for part of the paddling season in 2022.

That means the last ranger to serve full-time at Cache Bay was Janice Matichuk, the longest serving ranger in the history of Quetico. Matichuk died from brain cancer in August 2020. Her voice has been featured many times on the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast. The story of her time in Quetico was shared by Boundary Waters Podcast host Joe Friedrichs in the book “Her Island.”

In this episode, the podcast team shares some of the ‘Lost Files of Matichuk.’ In the early stages of shaping “Her Island,” Friedrichs and Matichuk recorded some 14 hours of audio. The clips shared today are the first in what will be a series of stories Matichuk shared about her time in Quetico. Topics range from the ethics of fishing to stories of being charged by a moose.

Also featured in this episode is a preview to Canoecopia 2023! The world’s largest paddling expo is from March 10-12 in Madison, Wisc. The WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast team will be back in Madison for this year’s expo! Sharing information about the upcoming event is Chloe Machula, one of the event organizers for Canoecopia.

February 15, 2023
Episode 84 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Climate change isn’t something most BWCA enthusiasts think of in early January.

On the day permits for the upcoming paddling season go live – as they did Jan. 25 this year – the bulk of those people planning a canoe trip made their reservations for the upcoming season with winter still in full force. A warming planet seems an afterthought on such occasions.

In this episode of the podcast, hosts Joe Friedrichs and Matthew Baxley explore the notion of where climate change fits into the planning (if at all) and adventures of an average canoe trip to the Boundary Waters. To add context, they bring in two of Minnesota’s two top climate experts: Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist with the Minnesota State Climatology Office who works for the DNR; and Peter Reich, a renowned expert in forest ecology and a professor at both the University of Minnesota and University of Michigan, who has done extensive research on how climate change is and will impact the Boundary Waters.

This episode has nothing to do with proving or debunking climate change. This is about the intersection of canoe tripping in the Boundary Waters and the future of the wilderness.

February 1, 2023
Episode 83 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Sam Cook made a career writing about the woods and waters of northeastern Minnesota, including his many adventures to the Boundary Waters.

A longtime columnist for the Duluth News Tribune, Cook shares some of his adventures and reflects on his career as an outdoors writer in this installment of the Paddler Profile Series on the podcast.

January 25, 2023
Short Track: BWCA Permit Opener 2023

January 25 was the first day to secure a 2023 overnight paddle trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Permits went up for grabs at 9 a.m.

Podcast hosts Joe Friedrichs and Matthew Baxley met at WTIP headquarters in Grand Marais to book their permits for the 2023 paddling season, including their coveted fishing opener trip in May. The fishing opener in Minnesota this year is Saturday, May 13.

A bit of chaos ensued as the duo booked their permits. Find out where the podcast team is headed once the 2023 paddling season begins.

January 16, 2023
Episode 82 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Food tastes better during a trip to the Boundary Waters. It’s a common sentiment, one many visitors to the canoe-country wilderness can relate to.

During a recent winter trip to the BWCA, the podcast team explored the notion that food is about much more than fuel for the body. It’s about bringing people together. Superior National Forest Tribal Liaison Juan Martinez returns to the podcast in this episode, bringing a cooking “disco” to prepare burritos for a group of eight. In addition to Juan, the Great Josh Dix talks lake trout fishing at the start of the season, and Adam Mella from the Tumblehome podcast makes a cameo.

Also featured in the episode is discussion about the 2023 Gunflint Mail Run, which brought throngs of people to the edge of the BWCA this year.

January 1, 2023
Episode 81 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Welcome to Season Six of the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast!

To start the season, we get to travel once again with the father/daughter duo Scott and Emilie Burditt.

Scott and Emilie are Wisconsin residents who make an annual trip to Quetico Provincial Park. In 2022, they took their Canadian paddling adventures to new terrain and paddled Wabakimi Provincial Park.

Along the way, the share their stories about a love for the outdoors and paddling in canoe country, and how this bond keeps them connected throughout the year. They also talk about the realities of backcountry travel, including injury.

It’s the start of a new season on the podcast! It begins!

December 15, 2022
Episode 80 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

The trip started with 24 hours of cold rain and seemingly endless beaver dams overflowing from a rising creek. Dense fog masked the shoreline in the distance on the occasional lake that broke up the swirling creek. Despite the weather and being mostly strangers, every member of this tripping team was smiling and giddy.

Last September, a group of outdoorsy folks from across the country gathered in Ely, Minn., for a truly unique Boundary Waters trip. They all had two things in common. First, each person loved the outdoors. And second, each identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. One of these people was the podcast’s own Matthew Baxley.

The WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast marks the 80th episode by sharing a trip centered around belonging, acceptance, and adventure. Most of us know from personal experience how the Wilderness continues to offer life changing experiences. This episode documents the deeply personal way a trip can offer so much beauty in just four short days of paddling.

December 1, 2022
Episode 79 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Juan Martinez is the first tribal liaison for the U.S. Forest Service on Superior National Forest. He arrived to northeastern Minnesota in 2021.

In late November 2022, during the first week of good ice in and around the Boundary Waters, podcast hosts Joe Friedrichs and Matthew Baxley went ice fishing with Martinez near the Gunflint Trail. They talked with Juan while on the ice about his work as the tribal liaison on Superior National Forest.

Also joining the trio was Dean Paron, the Finland area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Paron introduced the group to spear fishing through the ice, adding another twist to the start of ice adventures as winter settles in across the Boundary Waters.

November 15, 2022
Episode 78 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Bear Paulsen has a style of canoe tripping named after him. Simply put, they’re called “Bear Trips.”

A Bear Trip means there will be weeks, possibly months, spent paddling on one specific trip.

Paulsen is the general manager of Northstar Canoes. He is also on the short list of the most experienced and well-respected paddlers in Minnesota and across the Boundary Waters region.

In this installment of the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast Paddler Profile series, we learn more about Bear Paulsen.

Photo of Bear Paulsen by Nate Ptacek.

November 1, 2022
Episode 77 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Dispersed camping on Superior National Forest is something the U.S. Forest Service has encouraged as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness continues to draw more people during the peak of summer. In this episode, podcast co-host Joe Friedrichs travels with The Great Josh Dix to a remote lake on the edge of the wilderness.

Pursuing brook trout in and around the wilderness formed a theme for October for Friedrichs and fellow co-host Matthew Baxley. The two of them worked together to find brookies, while Baxley also traveled with longtime Cook County resident Buck Benson to find fish and adventure near the BWCA.

October 15, 2022
Episode 76 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Bryan Hansel is an outdoor photographer and BWCA enthusiast who lives near Grand Marais. In May 2021, Hansel followed the route of American geologist Newton Horace Winchell and the work he did while surveying the land of Cook County in 1879.

Hansel spent nearly two weeks on the solo adventure that took him from Grand Marais to Lutsen via the Iron Trail to Trail Center, then the Border Route to the end of the Gunflint Trail, and from there to the Ojibwe canoe route to Lutsen on the Poplar River.

Along the way, Hansel traveled about 160 miles, including about 25 miles of portaging.

In this first installment of the podcast’s ‘Paddler Profile’ series, host Matthew Baxley talks with Hansel about his epic journey.

October 1, 2022
Episode 75 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

It’s episode 75 of the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast!

In this episode, we hear from a familiar voice on the podcast, BWCA enthusiast Erik “Omaha Erik” Dickes.

Erik goes on his first solo trip to the wilderness in this episode, with hosts Joe Friedrichs and Matthew Baxley joining him for some fall fishing during a memorable afternoon in the BWCA.

Thanks to everyone who helped the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast reach its 75th episode! What a journey! And in many ways, it feels like it is just getting started.

September 15, 2022
Episode 74 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

When we think of the Boundary Waters, solitude, quiet and getting away from the hustle of day-to-day life often jump to the forefront of the mind for many visitors to this canoe country wilderness.

A quiet retreat is indeed a common sentiment shared by the many thousands of people who visit the BWCA each year. And while solitude is sought, many of these same people travel through the canoe-country wilderness with familiar faces by their side. As we’ve learned while making this podcast, many enjoy sharing their adventures in the BWCA with their closest friends and family members.

Take, for example, a group of Minnesotans who traveled up the Gunflint Trail in August. Traveling under the name ‘the Bound Hounds,’ the curious paddlers have traveled to the BWCA every year for more than two decades. Sometimes there’s just a few from the group who make it, other times it’s eight or nine people.

Also featured in today’s episode is Kyle ‘Bill’ Busacker, a longtime Oregonian who recently moved to Massachusetts with his family, was one member of a recent canoe trip with podcast host Joe Friedrichs. The other companion on the September trip was Joe’s cousin, Jeff Frawley, known simply as Cousin Jeff. The three of them ventured to a secluded pocket of the wilderness in search of walleye, a prime campsite, the chance to see the Northern lights and to bushwack to what is essentially hidden lake. During the course of their trip, they found all of these things, though in reality what they, much like the Bound Hounds, came for was an opportunity to connect with other people.

September 1, 2022
Episode 73 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

The WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast team take to the road (and air) for this episode, traveling more than 1,000 miles south to the hills of Kentucky.

On the trail of Jordan Grider, a young man from New Mexico who died in the Boundary Waters in 2018, hosts Joe Friedrichs and Matthew Baxley travel throughout Appalachia on their journey to learn more about where Grider spent time camping and living near Daniel Boone National Forest. Along the way they meet Mennonites who let Grider camp on their land before he arrived to the BWCA, many of whom share stories about Grider and his time in Kentucky.

Grider gained national attention in 2018 when he was eaten by wolves near the Sioux Hustler Trail on the western side of the BWCA. Authorities believe Grider died first from an accidental injury and was later eaten by wolves.

August 15, 2022
Episode 72 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

The Barefoot Paddler abides.

Mark Zimmer, more commonly referred to as the ‘Barefoot Paddler,’ makes his return to the podcast in this episode. Mark is in the midst of his tenth season exploring the BWCA. Not your average paddler, Mark typically spends May through October in the Boundary Waters. He catches fish. He forages. He sleeps in a hammock. And he does it all barefoot.

The podcast team recently met up with the Barefoot Paddler on Brule Lake in the BWCA to learn about his 2022 season in the wilderness, which includes a bout with Lyme disease.

August 1, 2022
Episode 71 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Emily Haavik is a Twin Cities based journalist and musician who has a deep love for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Emily and her husband, Phil, chose the BWCA as the setting for their honeymoon in September 2020, for example. The couple also got engaged in the canoe-country wilderness in 2019 on Rose Lake.

Emily grew up in Duluth and has been coming to the Boundary Waters for most of her life. Phil grew up in Des Moines, making his first trip to the BWCA in 2001 with a group of scouts. Those early trips were the foundation for a spirited passion for wilderness for both Emily and Phil, particularly the portages, rivers, lakes and forest of the BWCA.

Emily and Phil share more on their story in this episode of the podcast. Also featured in this episode is a familiar voice on the podcast, Aubrey Helmuth-Miller. Aubrey and her family open the episode prior to their recent trip to the Gunflint Trail and the BWCA.

Music featured in this episode includes the song “Good Times” by Emily Haavik. Other music from the Blue Dot Sessions and Ian Tamblyn.

July 18, 2022
Episode 70 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

It’s the ‘all news episode’ of the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast!

There has been so much news in and around the Boundary Waters in recent weeks, hosts Joe Friedrichs and Matthew Baxley use storytelling and interviews to sum up some of the biggest topics coming from the BWCA and Quetico.

Among them are the return of Remote Area Border Crossing Permits, the completion of the Stairway Portage redesign and the retirement of the forest supervisor who oversees management of the BWCA.

The photo supporting this episode is of Connie Cummins, the forest supervisor for Superior National Forest. The massive Superior National Forest, headquartered in Duluth, covers nearly 4 million acres, about 1.9 million of which is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

After leading the expansive Superior National Forest for the U.S. Forest Service for the past six years, Cummins is set to retire at the end of the month. Her last day is July 30.

In this episode we hear from Cummins about her tenure on Superior National Forest. Also featured are Willie Bittner talking about the Stairway Portage redesign and Kevin ‘The K-man’ Kramer shares an update from the Cache Bay Ranger Station in Quetico Provincial Park.

July 4, 2022
Episode 69 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast




In the BWCA, the natural rhythms of wind and water churn through seasons without concern for human visitors. During the July 4 holiday weekend, five paddlers on a remote lake in the Boundary Waters found themselves sharing new experiences while reflecting on the past.

In today’s episode we hear from the poet, Emily Van Kley. Emily and her father, David Van Kley, have been traveling across the BWCA for many years. More recently, they introduced Emily’s partner, Allison Eby, to the wilderness.

Walleye were caught on this particular trip. Stories were shared. As the wind howled, the trees shared their poetry.

June 16, 2022
Episode 68 of the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Human remains were discovered near a makeshift campsite in April 2019 near the Sioux Hustler Trail that runs through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Law enforcement later identified the remains as those of 29-year-old Jordan Grider, a New Mexico resident who was attempting to spend an entire winter camping in the BWCA. Authorities believe he was eaten by wolves, likely after he died from an unknown injury.

In this episode of the podcast, host Joe Friedrichs and DNR Conservation Officer Sean Williams visit the site where Grider made his final camp.

Also in this episode, host Matthew Baxley shares an update on the rebuild of the iconic Stairway Portage between Duncan and Rose lakes in the BWCA. Trail builder Willie Bittner talks with Matthew for the update.

And with the warmer temperatures, Matthew and Joe also have an upbeat fishing report to share from the Boundary Waters.

June 3, 2022
Episode 67 of the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Cell phone use during a trip to the Boundary Waters.

To bring or not to bring? To use or not to use?

These are the questions some in the paddling community have struggled with for years, with age often being a factor in where one stands on the issue.

Many young paddlers, for example, are embracing elements of technology on their trips to the Boundary Waters. Modern cell phones take excellent photographs, allowing paddlers to leave behind dated and heavy camera equipment. A cell phone camera allows paddlers a chance to capture memories of their trips to the BWCA, the reasoning goes. There is also the safety aspect of having a cell phone while traveling through the wilderness, particularly as cell coverage becomes more widespread across the Boundary Waters region.

In this episode, we hear from Stu Osthoff, Emilie Burditt, Ben Strege, Will Doherty, Hazel Oberholtzer and Emily Elkins on this topic.

To hear the full interview with Burditt and Doherty, click here. 

For the interview with Elkins, click here.

For the full interview with Strege, click here. 

May 16, 2022
Episode 66 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

It went from fishing opener to lake opener as ice lingered on the east side of the Boundary Waters in the middle of May.

Many area lakes, from the end of the Arrowhead Trail to the Middle Gunflint Trail, still held their ice on the day before the 2022 fishing opener in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s fishing opener for walleye, bass, trout and pike was Saturday, May 14.

As the ice lingered, many groups canceled their Gunflint expeditions on this year’s fishing opener. The WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast did not.

This episode, featuring Matthew Baxley, Joe Friedrichs and Kevin ‘The K-man’ Kramer, tells the story of how it all went down.

May 1, 2022
Episode 65 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Lake Saganaga at the end of the Gunflint Trail is an easy place to get lost.

Sag, as the lake is often called, is both the deepest and largest lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It’s 280 ft. deep in certain pockets, and is spread across nearly 19,000 acres.

And while Sag might be challenging to navigate for even the most experienced paddlers, sometimes getting turned around can lead to magical experiences.

Nicole Erickson and Michael Kelly know all about this, as we learn in today’s episode.

Also in this episode, podcast hosts Joe Friedrichs and Matthew Baxley trek to the BWCA to drill a hole in the ice on the same weekend overnight travel permits are required to start the 2022 ‘paddling season.’

April 15, 2022
Episode 64 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Emily Ford is a Duluth resident who skied across the border lakes of the Boundary Waters during the memorably cold, snowy and windy winter of 2021-22.

Ford captured national attention when she skied across Wisconsin the previous winter.

What motivates someone to embark on solo expeditions during the winter?

Learn this and much more about Emily Ford in this episode of the podcast.

April 1, 2022
Episode 63 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

It’s the end of the ice fishing season for lake trout in the Boundary Waters.

The WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast team had a good year of ice fishing. In this episode, Gunflint Trail resident Mike Seim talks with Joe about a variety of topics related to lake trout in the BWCA.

Also of interest, a recent study out of the University of Manitoba in Canada shows some lake predators are changing their behavior due to climate change, which may have a wide-ranging effect on lake trout and the entire ecosystem of certain lakes in Ontario and northern Minnesota.

Matthew Guzzo is the lead author of the study. He shares some additional perspective on lake trout throughout the episode.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Werner Bahner-Würth.

March 17, 2022
Episode 62 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

Canoecopia, the world’s largest paddling expo, returned in 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Madison, Wisc., based event in 2020. It was a virtual gathering in 2021.

The WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast was back at Canoecopia this year. Old acquaintances surfaced from the crowd. New friends were made as well. It was a time of connection.

This episode was recorded in its entirety at Canoecopia 2022.

Special thanks to Aubrey from Redbudsuds, and Nashville musicians Caitlin Evanson and Jerry Vandiver, for sharing their music on this episode.

March 1, 2022
Episode 61 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast


It can be the downfall of any winter trip to the Boundary Waters. The WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast team, along with Erik Dickes and Josh Dix, found this out firsthand during a recent trip to the edge of the wilderness on snowmobile, and then on skis and snowshoes after crossing the wilderness line.

After encountering bad ice and slush, foul moods settled in on some members of the party, while others remained patient. Then the lake trout moved in. And things changed.

February 18, 2022
Episode 60 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

The quiet of winter remains across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as cold temperatures and significant snowfall blanket the region. By looking at the woods and frozen lakes such beauty can be appreciated simply and plainly, but it’s more challenging to know what is happening beneath the ice.

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist. She lives near the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior and keeps close tabs on daily changes happening with the local woods and waters. She spoke with podcast host Matthew Baxley about what’s happening under the icy surface of the lakes in the Boundary Waters.

February 2, 2022
Episode 59 WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast

With permits now available for the 2022 paddling season in the Boundary Waters, it’s time to start thinking about gear and trip planning. One place to do just that is Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin.

Darren Bush, owner of Rutabaga Paddlesports in Madison, and organizer of canoeing expo Canoecopia, joins the podcast in this episode to talk about the return of an in-person event for 2022.

The WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast attended the last in-person canoe expo in 2019. The pandemic has either shut down or let to virtual events the past two years. Learn about what to expect for Canoecopia 2022 in this episode of the podcast.

December 28, 2021
WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast Episode 55

The collection of outfitters who provide assorted gear, canoes and guidance for the many visitors to the Boundary Waters each paddling season is a world full of hard work, long hours and repetition. It’s also a world of connection. And many of those connections are made by those who work for the outfitters on the edge of the wilderness.

In the final episode for Season 4 of the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast, we hear from the summer staff at some of the outfitters along the Gunflint Trail. It’s the ‘Trail Kids’ episode of the podcast. And for hosts Matthew and Joe, it’s a time to reflect on their own experiences working on the Gunflint and how it brought them into a sense of connection with this place… The Boundary Waters.