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Along the Edge of Wilderness

September is a time to travel in search of a last shimmer of summer. Color illuminates the landscape as leaves let go of chlorophyll greens, reveal golden carotenoids, and pump up reds and purples powered by sunlight and sugar. In this issue, "Cruising Fall Colors on Highway 38" features photos of crayon-colored forests along a historic route. "Going on a Moose Safari" follows a backcountry road to find megafauna.

Any getaway trip to the northland will cross paths with natural and cultural history. This past summer my husband and I joined our friends Sandy and Marley for a few days at their family's lake cabin near the Canadian border. One day we boated to Crane Lake for lunch at Nelson's Resort, built in 1931 and impeccably preserved by the Nelson family. Another day we took a boat tour of several border lakes, in search of pictographs painted on granite cliffs by early Indians.

Between Loon Lake and Lac La Croix, we pulled up to a mechanical portage made from logging railroad tracks. The portage was named for Leslie R. Beatty, who became a Minnesota forest ranger in 1911. Beatty wrote a 60,000-word manuscript published in Conservation Volunteer as a series called "A Forest Ranger's Diary." In the November–December 1969 issue, Julius F. Wolff Jr. offered this tribute: "Possessing deep feeling for the esthetic appeal of a primitive pine forest, area supervisor Beatty was responsible for state purchase of numerous scenic shorelines in the Crane Lake–Kabetogama country, back at a time when state money for preservation of timbered scenery was virtually unheard of. The present beauties of this section of magnificent recreation country are a testament to his vision."

During our stay at the lake, we watched sunsets from Gilman's Point. Now a historic site, the rocky peninsula has a plaque in remembrance of conservationist Charles L. Gilman.

We also went next door to see the Gilman family cabins—three of them built by Sandy's parents, George and Pat Staehle. Each day we took time to peruse albums with photos of both families dating back to the 1930s. And we read a typewritten, spiral-bound book called Remembrances by Wilma Anderson Gilman. Wilma and her husband, Charles, made lake country their second home in 1912. In the summer of 1921, they and their two children camped on Mukooda Lake in what is now Voyageurs National Park. Two timber cruisers set up camp nearby. According to Wilma's account, Charles learned the men were working for Backus Lumber Co. and planning to build dams along the boundary waters.

"From that time until 1930, when he died, Charles devoted most of his time to saving this area," she said. "He wrote hundreds of letters to various people; he talked about it in his weekly newspaper column and helped build the public sentiment that would block the Backus plan."

Following a series of public hearings, the U.S. Congress passed the Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act in 1930. This law prohibited dams and prevented logging within 400 feet of waterways in Superior National Forest. Thus the region's lakeshores gained protection from fluctuating water levels and erosion.

When witnessing the beauty of this wilderness landscape, travelers are also witnessing the work of conservationists. Some of these visionaries have no written history. Some, like Beatty, have appeared in print, including the pages of this 70-year-old magazine.

Now Beatty's story and many more are accessible through a new MCV online index. Users can find and download any issue or article ever published since this magazine began in October 1940. This archive is made possible by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, with an Arts and Cultural Heritage grant administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Like a road map, the MCV archive can help the user see the past routes traveled and appreciate how they led to the present point in time.

Kathleen Weflen, editor

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