Dave and Amy Freeman will spend a year in the Boundary Waters

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How cute's that snowy beard selfie with 80 pounds of gear on your back?

Dave and Amy Freeman have a long year ahead of them. In September, the wilderness junkies are casting off on a yearlong voyage in the Boundary Waters. Their mission, besides not getting attacked by bears, is to promote preserving the area from the effects of sulfide-ore copper mining.

“For both of us, we came up to the Boundary Waters as kids and fell in love with the place,” Amy says.

Over the course of the year, the Ely couple will travel 3,000 miles, largely by canoe and dogsled, taking water samples, blogging (thanks to solar panels and a satellite terminal), and taking pics for their educational nonprofit Wilderness Classroom Organization.

For city kids who Instagram brunches, battling extreme northern Minnesota winters and portaging loads of gear for 12 months might sound harrowing. But the Freemans are a well-oiled, outdoorsy machine. The canoe and dogsled guides regularly embark on lengthy trips-of-the-wild. In 2013, they completed the continent-crossing North American Odyssey and paddled from the Boundary Waters to Washington D.C. the following year after being named being named National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year.

“After about three weeks we hit a rhythm,” Dave says, making the rest of us feel fat and lazy. “Our bodies are really used to being out there, so those aches and pains of traveling go away because we’re used to it.”

While their North American trek was spread out over three years, this will be their longest continuous run. Still, they’re packing “light” — only 150 or so pounds of gear plus a canoe. Every two weeks a team will run out another round of food and supplies to them, and if they’re lucky something new to eat besides oatmeal, rice and beans — although the limited menu makes meal planning easy.

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For the Freemans, the constant excursions are a lifestyle move, enabled by their seasonal guide gigs. The couple enjoys the simplicity of trail life and the sense of accomplishment the end of the journeys bring. Except for when it’s kinda underwhelming.

“One thing we noticed when we finished the North American Odyssey, we got to Key West and we pulled up onto a beach,” Amy recalls. “It felt sort of weird and anti-climactic in a way. It took a while for the realization to set in that this wasn’t just a normal lunch stop.”

Regardless, the mettle-testing expeditions leave ‘em feeling good.

“The thing I’ve learned the most from these wilderness journeys, our boundaries are mostly in our minds,” Dave says. “When you’re out in the wilderness, you’re constantly testing yourself and pushing yourself in many ways. Those small challenges help you understand that we can do a lot more than we sometimes let ourselves believe we can. … I think that’s really a powerful thing.”

Send news tips to Michael Rietmulder.


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