Seven vultures squawked from atop trees lining the shore. Their black bodies stood stark against the deep blue sky. As my guide, Ryan Fagan, and I paddled our canoe toward them, they loped from treetop to treetop, vying for the best seats, an avian version of musical chairs.

I dug my paddle into Boze Lake and pulled. The sheathed machete latched to my belt rustled against my hip. We were deep in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The slightest misstep — a flipped canoe, a twisted ankle, a kidney stone — would turn this exciting adventure into a dangerous disaster, a thought I couldn’t unthink beneath those vultures. Did the birds know something I didn’t?

For two days, Fagan and I had canoed and portaged toward the spot I was calling the Middle of Nowhere. Now we were within a mile of arriving at the center of a 90-square-mile section of the Boundary Waters that remains as untouched by development as nearly any piece of land on Earth.

I had spent weeks planning this trip, eager to exult as remoteness washed over me, and to shed the weight of too much connectivity, too much noise, too much coronavirus, too much everything.

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