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Boreal Community Media

Meet your Boreal Community Media Freelance Journalist: John Bragstad

Mar 18, 2023 07:06AM ● By Editor
Submitted photo

A Boreal Community Media Exclusive - March 18, 2023

How did you “land” in Cook County? Where are some of the places you have lived throughout your life?
My wife and I guided at Wilderness Canoe Base in ’71 - ’72, from seminary in St. Paul to northeast Saskatchewan and back to WCB for a winter up the trail. In 1979 we were off to Manitoba and then to the plains of Saskatchewan. We returned to Minnesota from high school counseling I’d been doing, got my Masters, and did marriage counseling in Stillwater for 15 years in private practice.

All that time, with canoeing in Kenora and along the Churchill River in Northern Saskatchewan, the dream never left us of getting back to the BWCAW. In 2016 I retired, and we came North to a place we had purchased here in 2009.

Would you share some of the highlights of your traveling adventures with us?
Canadian canoe trips always gave us some of our best memories. But, in ’83, we took up traveling in our 1980 Volkswagen chartreuse microbus. It landed us in some pretty incredible places - Banff, the Kananaskis, the Oregon coast, mainly the Yukon, and parts of Alaska.

It also gave us some memorable experiences; in parking lots, we’d “pop the top” to sleep (veterinarian parking lots and ski resorts - our favorites), unusual hand gestures from drivers going through Montreal we’d have to explain to our kids, and unexpected camping sites while getting “The Thing” fixed, two engines in three years (“Check the gas. And fill up with oil.”). 

But it also gave us Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Gaspe Peninsula, so no complaints here.

Where is your favorite spot in Cook County? 
Torn between here, I’m afraid. I look at Kerry Lane’s videos of Clearwater (basecampnorth) and gulp at how beautiful those Northern Lights are. But we are fortunate to live on Lake Superior, and the majesty of waves and change always greets us, making any time of the day “remarkable.”

When did you start writing, and what was your motivation for doing so?
I started writing on my first canoe trips, mostly about my outdoor experiences, and haven’t stopped writing since. The irony is that I have a poor memory, so I write to remember more and to look back to catch more details than I could ever recall. I also learn a lot my subjects teach me whenever I sit down to type.

Practicing self-care is so important for well-being. What is one way that you do this for yourself? 
Well, I have a sauna now. I go there to get warm (for sure) since I could complain much about the cold as I get older. But I also don’t take my phone with me. It is my “sanctuary,” in a way. Maybe I allow myself to drift to some Celtic music, but I mostly relax or meditate.

Best words of wisdom that were ever shared with you? 
This one I adopted just recently: CHOOSE TO HAVE A GREAT DAY.

John's submissions can be found below:

About John A. Bragstad

John A. Bragstad has hiked the Chilkoot Trail in the Yukon, watched polar bears from inside a cabin in the moonlight on the shores of Hudson Bay. He has canoed one of the last untamed river systems in North America and has watched puffins swim in the waters off of Newfoundland. He has been a therapist, working with couples and individuals, for 25 years. Nature has been one of his best teachers.

He has written three books and any number of blog essays, quick reads for adults to pick-up and put-down. He is self-published and is enjoying retirement. Lake Superior is just off his front porch. To the north of our home is the incomparable BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). Living close to wild places is its own elixir!