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Boreal Community Media

Breaking Camp: An essay by local author John Bragstad

Jul 24, 2023 09:15AM ● By Content Editor
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By local author and writer John Bragstad for Boreal Community Media - July 24, 2023

Life is a whole series of breaking camps. Here, in the Canoe Country,
it is not uncommon to arrive at a site where the ledge rock is perfect
for long afternoons of sunning or drying wet gear. There is enough
firewood, and the breezes take one’s gaze far down the lake.

It is an ideal campsite. But then, one day, we leave, pack our tents
and belongings, and hit the trail. We may have a destination in mind,
but the exact campsite we will end up at is uncertain. There may be
loons calling in the bay as at our last, but no one knows for sure.

We often do this, moving from one place to another without knowing
the outcome. Children leaving home, a retirement looming,
belongings we are left with in a hospital room after a dear loved one’s
passing reminds us breaking camp is not unfamiliar.

Sometimes we feel a restlessness that provokes us to step away from
what is comfortable to venture out. Sometimes we are not quite sure
what to do. The moment is awkward, we don’t want to go, but we
know we must soon move on.

Canoeists realize with any decision to stay or to go, there are certain
perimeters we must consider. Is there a risk in leaving now with
thunder rolling in the distance? Can we assume the next campsite
might not be every bit as good as the last - with its own charm and
unique flavor? Have we overextended our resources? No one should
go on a 40-day trip with 30 days of provisions.

And, most importantly, is such a move essential to the journey?

Sometimes there is no good reason other than to be on the move.
Robert Service, poet to the Yukon, was right: “The wild is calling,
calling, calling, and I must go.” There is an inner impulse. We can’t
somehow ignore it. And it won’t let us go.

And yet, there is a charm to places that feel like home. These are the
familiar campsites, the tried-and-true. Here is the luxury of comfort
and so many needs that are enjoyed.

It is always a judgment call as we sit and contemplate from a rocky
perch, weighing our choices as the indolent sun settles in the west.

About the author

John A. Bragstad has been a therapist, working with couples and individuals, for 25 years. He is self-published and is enjoying retirement. Lake Superior is just off his front porch.

He has written three books: Compass Season, Loon Laughter at Midnight, and Who's Watching Whoo? They are available in Grand Marais at Drury Lane and Lake Superior Trading Post, or at

Related: Meet your Boreal Community Media Freelance Journalist: John Bragstad
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here