Will Steger first appeared in City Pages in this 1985 cover story
City Pages cover by Emily Utne
Legendary explorer Will Steger is on the cover of the most recent City Pages, framed by blue skies and arcing beams of the atrium in a building we call the castle: the six-story, $5 million-plus structure Steger has been building on his Homestead near Ely for 25 years.
Steger's no stranger to covers. He's served as the cover model of National Geographic more than once, and been the subject of long features in national publications like the New York Times Magazine and Outside. But his first-ever cover -- the first major press he got at all -- was closer to home, here in City Pages.
It was December 11, 1985, right before the trip that would make Steger famous: The March 1986 expedition to the North Pole. The story is a time portal back those 30 years, to when Steger's Homestead was a bustling training ground and base camp, when its primary background noise was the yelps of 65 sled dogs, and when the Homestead's nearest running water was a half-mile away.
The Dec. 11 1985 cover. Click to enlarge.
"Deep in the woods of northern Minnesota, just outside the stalwart little town of Ely, the Steger International Polar Expedition prepares to make history," the story begins.
Steger and his team did, of course, make history. Today, no sled dogs roam around the Homestead, and water feeds a kitchen sink from a well. But some things don't change. The Lodge pictured in the story is still a base camp of sorts, with its overflowing bookshelves, old photos tacked to rough-hewn beams, and 12-person wood table. Above the table, a globe is still suspended on a string: The better, Steger explained recently, to turn it during planning sessions and eye whichever pole he was aiming for.
In the 1985 piece, writer Joel Schurke mostly focuses on those planning sessions, and the extreme preparations that the expedition was making in order to handle the even more extreme conditions ahead. Over the story's three pages, Schurke details the grueling conditions the team expected to face.
"Steger is undaunted by the propsect," Schurke wrote. "He seems to believe that a combination of high tech and true grit will allow him to realize his dream."
Another thing that doesn't change: thirty years later, Steger is dreaming, and realizing his dreams, just as doggedly.
To check out the full story from the archives, click these scans of the pages to enlarge:
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