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Ashley Bredemus - Life at the End of the Gunflint Trail

I am sure you have heard it before -- some of the toughest people come from northern Minnesota. You kind of have to be, in order to stay sane during the incredibly harsh winters that start as early as October and can last as late as May! But not only are the people here hardy and resilient, they’re also just plain nice! In fact, Big 7 Media recently ranked Minnesota #1 as the friendliest state in America! We can’t disagree.

Yet, of all the amiable and rugged Minnesotans we know, Ashley Bredemus is definitely in our top 5. Native Minnesotan, creator of “An Outdoor Experience,” owner of Birchwood Wilderness Camp, and dog mom to the cutest Shiloh Shepherd (Arlo), this young woman lives an amazing life in the deep wilderness of the Northwoods-- one without running water, cell reception, or indoor plumbing.

Bredemus left her Midwest roots after college to work as a mechanical engineer in Alabama and Florida but it didn't take long for the north to call her back. Leaving her urban lifestyle for a remote one at the end of the Historic Gunflint Trail, she quickly traded her city apartment for a rugged cabin where she now resides. Bordering the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness, her cottage is affectionately known as the Pepper Shack. It is not accessible by car (this is where a boat, snowmobile, or some snowshoes come in handy), and is directly across the river from at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. Remember when we wrote a blog about them? Well it turns out, they are great friends too! This is where the cliche “small world” comes into play.

Bredemus’s life at the end of the Gunflint Trail is, as she says, “a little modern-day meets 1800s.” For example, she has wifi in the cabin, which means she can keep a gorgeous and fascinating blog,  but no indoor plumbing-- she has an outhouse in back. She states that when she moved to her primitive cabin in the woods “nothing was easier, but nothing was harder. It was just different.” For a lot of people, the solitude of the remote North would be most difficult, but Bredemus doesn’t mind it. She relishes in a slower pace of life, which she says makes her moments more meaningful, with her father and beloved pup, Arlo. She does admit that winters can be difficult though. The closest town to her is Grand Marais, which is an hour and a half away, and with temperatures dropping as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit it can be dangerous to go outside. With wood stoves as the primary source of heating, keeping things from freezing becomes an all day job!

 Why would anyone want to live this way? For Bredemus, the rewards are plentiful. The beautiful connection she has to the natural world around her means she gets to experience all sorts of wildlife and untouched natural beauty. Her lifestyle encourages her to live in the present. She’s very grateful for the family connections and opportunities that led her to where she is, living on what can seem like the edge of the world, in one of America’s most stunning wilderness places. Moving to the Gunflint has taught her that you really don’t need all that much to live a rich life! When you take away the daily distractions of today's society, you truly get to live in alignment with who you are. Sounding more appealing? Yeah, we thought so.

Bredemus never thought she would be the proud owner of a wilderness camp. (Her grandparents originally opened up their sister camp, Camp Birchwood for Girls, in 1958 before opening up the boy’s camp on the Seagull River in 1968.) She never imagined going winter camping, having her own personal ice rink right outside her door, or having a backyard fit for climbing, canoeing, swimming, fishing and more. But she wouldn’t have it any other way!

Though she can go without running water and cell reception, she says that things would be more difficult if it weren’t for her father, boyfriend and adorable dog who keep her feet on the ground. (Not to mention the physical objects that she can’t be without like her camera, Carhartt bibs and canoe.) So if remote living is something you are hoping to move towards, Bredemus suggests a couple of things.

1.) Do it with someone! In exchange for Bredemus’s home-cooking, her father is the “maintenance man” who fixes what needs to be fixed and patches what needs to be patched. Sounds like a good deal to us!

2.) Don’t have too many expectations. Inevitably in life, things go wrong! If something breaks or doesn’t go the way you planned, it’s okay. Having a good attitude will help you learn and adapt more quickly.

3.) Document it. As time passes, you will be glad that you captured photographs, wrote in your journal, and took the time to actively engage in your thoughts. 

As Bredemus lives her life at the end of the Gunflint, much of her story is woven with the heritage and history of her grandparent’s dreams. By continuing their vision for a wilderness camp, and even living in the cabin her parents built, family values mean everything. Just like this, Duluth Pack is also proud to carry on the legacy of our founder and continue to bring quality goods to those that seek it. Handcrafted to last generations, Duluth Pack goods have character in every stitch that can withstand hardy winters up the Gunflint or summers of canoe travel and recreation. 


We, at Duluth Pack, have the utmost faith in Bredemus’s ownership of Birchwood Wilderness Camp and are excited to see her successes as she brings outdoor experiences to youth in the north. But she won’t stop there! She has big plans like bringing yoga retreats, women's leadership trips, corporate retreats, and more to her little slice of heaven. So as she tacks on new programs, continues her blogging endeavours and perfects the ways of “slow living,” no one is more suitable for bringing adventure into the lives of hundreds who seek the peace that is found in the remoteness of northern Minnesota. 

So if you haven't already, we suggest you follow this incredible young woman on her journey. We guarantee you will learn something fascinating from this kind, wise, and wild Minnesotan. And maybe, we’ll run into you at her first yoga retreat!

December 10, 2019 by Duluth Pack