“Birch Bark Man” Erik Simula and “Dog” Kitigan featured on cover of Canoeroots Magazine, early summer 2010 issue.
Photography by Layne Kennedy
OFF-GRID WITH ERIK SIMULA
By Conor Mihell – Canoeroots Magazine contributing writer
Erik Simula’s 1,600-kilometre expedition last summer in Minnesota was really just an extension of his lifestyle. Simula, 45, lives in a small cabin in northeastern Minnesota, without electricity or running water. He makes a living as a dogsled guide, birchbark canoe builder and park ranger; he hunts and gathers natural foods-fish, wild game, wild rice and berries.
With his daughter Anna set to graduate from high school last spring in Grand Rapids, Minnesota-a town on the Mississippi River-it seemed only natural that Simula would journey by canoe to get there.
In April, he and his dog launched his 14-foot birchbark canoe on Lake Superior, followed the coastline south to Duluth, and connected to the Mississippi River, reaching Grand Rapids for Anna’s graduation. Then Simula traced ancient water routes linking Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park, returning in August. “This voyage was a celebration of my love of this glorious region,” he says.
Although Simula’s current project is building a new log cabin, don’t expect it to come with many amenities. “This lifestyle fulfills my dream of sustainable, traditional, cultural living,” says Simula, “and it keeps me happy and healthy, and nourishes my soul.”