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A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd F. Olson
by David Backes

Sigurd F. Olson

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Reflections from the North Country (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage Book Series)
coverThe Singing Wilderness (The Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage Book Series) by Sigurd F. Olson, Francis Lee Jaques (Illustrator)

This book has to do with the calling of loons, with northern lights, and the great silences of land lying northwest of Lake Superior. It is concerned with the simple joys, the timelessness and perspective found in a way of life which is close to the past. I have heard the singing in many places, but I seem to hear it best in the wilderness lake country of the Quetico-Superior, where travel is still by pack and canoe over the ancient trails of the Indians and voyageurs." Thus the author sets the theme and tone of this enthralling book of discovery about one of the few great primitive areas in our country which have withstood the pressures of civilization.

Acute natural perceptivity and a profound knowledge of the relationships to be found in nature combine here in vivid evocations of the sights, the sounds, the vast stillnesses, and the events of the wilderness as the seasons succeed each other. But Mr. Olson is not content merely to "describe; he probes for meanings that will lead the reader to a different and more revealing way of looking at the out-of-doors and to a deeper sense of its eternal values. In each of the thirty-four chapters of The Singing Wilderness he has sought to capture an essential quality of our magnificent lake and forest heritage. He shows us what can be read from the rocks of the great Canadian Shield; he offers a delightful essay on the virtues of pine knots as fuel; he writes of the ways of a canoe, of flashing trout in the pools of the Isabella, of tamarack bogs, caribou moss, the flight of wild geese, timber wolves, and the birds of the ski trails. And much more, with something to satisfy every taste for wilderness experience.

Superbly illustrated with 38 black-and-white drawings by Francis Lee Jaques, The Singing Wilderness is a book that no lover of nature will want to be without. To anyone who contemplates a vacation in the lake country of northern Minnesota and adjoining Canada, it is the perfect vade mecum.

About The Author
Sigurd F. Olson was for more than thirty years a wilderness guide in the Quetico-Superior country, and no one knew with the same intimacy the mysteries of the lakes and forests of that magnificent primitive area. To the many out-of-doorsmen who canoed and portaged with him through this wilderness, he was known honorifically as the Bourgeois -- as the voyageurs of old called their trusted leaders through this same region.

Mr. Olson was born in Chicago in 1899, and educated at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Illinois. For several years he taught biology at Ely Junior College and later served as Dean. He was President of the National Parks Association, a member of its Board of Trustees, and was for years active in organizations devoted to conservation problems.

Mr. Olson was a frequent contributor to magazines concerned with the outdoors, and is the author of several books including Listening Point, The Lonely Land, Runes of the North, Reflection from the North Country, and Of Time and Place, and more. Until his death in 1982, he made his home with his wife, Elizabeth, in Ely, Minnesota, gateway to his beloved Quetico-Superior country.

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Sigurd F. Olson
Website dedicated to Sigurd Olson by David Backes:

As Sigurd Olson's biographer, I gathered a lot of information and photos that could not be used in the book I wrote about his life, A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd F. Olson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997). I thought that the World Wide Web would be an ideal way to use some of this material, and that led to the creation of this site in May 1997. Some of the topics covered on this site will interest primarily Olson fans, but I also hope this site will help anyone who wants to learn more about him, including those who are looking for a good bibliography so they can do some original research on their own. 

Site Includes:

bulletThe Monthly Special
bulletNews and Site History
bulletBiographical Profile of Sigurd Olson
bulletA Timeline of Olson's Life
bulletThe Land Beyond the Rim- Sigurd Olson's Wilderness Theology
bulletThe Library
bulletThe Voyageurs
bulletPhoto Essays
bulletPeople Important to Olson
bulletPlaces Important to Olson
bulletGroups Important to Olson
bulletTopics Important to Olson

 

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