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Dennis Anderson: 30 years later, Sigurd Olson's big thoughts still apply

By Dennis Anderson
Star Tribune

Olson_Wilderness coverBy the time I met Sigurd Olson, he was a man in full. Not so much in the sense of Tom Wolfe's novel of the same title, whose characters contort mightily over their self-images. Rather, by 1977, when I first visited Sig and his wife, Elizabeth, at their Ely home, he was in important ways well-settled, with many voyages behind him -- least profoundly, perhaps, those he took by canoe over more than a half-century in Quetico-Superior border country.

Instead, in Sig's wake, and happily so, were the high water marks of a career as a national conservation leader, including important turns as president of the National Parks Association and Wilderness Society.

Trailing him as well were the tormented decades during which he struggled to find his writer's voice, and audience, and the conflicts also that arose from his need to make a living while forever in the grip of a tempestuous muse he never could shake; not from his childhood days in Door County, Wis., to the afternoon he died while snowshoeing near his home.

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