Wolf Ridge

Fab Fall Text holder

Geology of the North Shore

Fire and Water

details coming


Instructor Margie Menzies




$325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)




Superior Hiking Trail

Ask Judy

Segment hikes led by judy. day trips on a carpet of color. Details coming



Instructor Judy Gibbs

Details coming



$325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)



Ojibwe Culture and Skills

Details to come

details to come


Instructor Dawn Simula

Details coming



$325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)



From 2018

    September 28 – 30, 2018

    Spend a glorious fall weekend in the company of fellow nature geeks! Expect a weekend of laughter, learning, and beauty with one of our hand-chosen instructors. Each has a passion for their topic, and loves to share what they know with like-minded, curious folks.  Wolf Ridge is spectacular in the fall, and the company will be fantastic.

    The weekend begins with Friday night’s dinner, featuring chef-made, locally sourced food from our organic farm, and ends after Sunday’s lunch. The days and evenings are chock full of hands on learning and exploration. Browse below to see activities and specifics of each workshop, then sign up for your favorite. Give your inner nerd a little love!


    Already know which session you want?

    Agate Hunting & Finishing

    The Lake Superior Agate–Beautiful, Elusive, Enigmatic

    Back by popular demand! Hands-on, activity-oriented introduction to Lake Superior regional geology with focus on volcanism and prominent agate formation theories, Lake Superior Agate hunting, and lapidary tools & processes. Workshop participants will receive fundamental & focused instruction on how to find Lake Superior Agates in various hunting locales, and then participate in guided hunting activities in one or more of these locales. Agates found by the participants and/or provided by instructor will then be used to perform various lapidary operations (cut, shape, polish, set to jewelry), after again receiving fundamental & focused instruction on use of machines & relevant lapidary processes.

    Low to medium physical exertion. Ability to hike over a 1 mile trail, along with moving on slanted gravel piles.

    Instructor Jim Magnuson

    Rock-hounding is more than a hobby for author Jim Magnuson—it’s a serious and rewarding avocation that helps him connect with nature. He has been an avid hunter and student of various gems, minerals and fossils since his childhood, when he first began to hunt for stones in his native state of Illinois. In addition, Jim enjoys sharing his passion not only through showing and gifting some of his finds, but also through writing, another lifelong interest. Throughout Jim’s career as an Information Technology professional, he has developed his technical writing skills while creating new processes that reduce complexity and improve efficiency. These same skills proved to be invaluable when he wrote a guidebook for beginning agate hunters, a project that gave him the confidence to develop a guide to lapidary processes that can be readily used by beginner-to-intermediate hobbyists. Jim is also a member of the Minnesota Mineral Club, and enjoys attending other rock and mineral clubs as a way to further his learning and branch out into other types of agates, gemstones and geology.

    To date Jim has authored the following publications: The Storied Agate, The Fairburn Agate of the Black Hills, Agate Hunting Made Easy, Lake Superior Agates – Identify Agates & Imposters (Laminated Field Guide), Emma’s First Agate, Gemstone Tumbling, Cutting, Drilling, & Cabochon Making.



    $375 (Includes meals, lodging, instruction and supplies.)

    All About Raptors

    Experience the migration and raptors up close

    Fall is prime time on the shores of Lake Superior for seeing birds of prey soaring high above on their way south for the winter. We have a unique combination of Lake Superior and ridgelines that provide the perfect venue to witness this amazing migration. We will be hiking to beautiful overlooks of the Lake Superior shoreline, which this time of year will have breathtaking views of the fall color. We will spend time learning about what makes these birds unique, why this is a prime viewing location and how to identify them in flight. We will also be talking about using raptors in education while getting up close interaction with Wolf Ridge’s program raptors, and what you can do to help if you find raptors that are injured. This will be a flexible weekend depending on the conditions for migration and the interests of those attending. But it will be all about the incredible bird of prey!

    Hiking is moderately difficult with distances up to 3 miles and steep terrain.


    Instructors Gail Buhl and Brad Johnson

    Gail Buhl is the Animal Welfare in Wildlife Rehabilitation Coordinator at The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. Her career in wildlife rehabilitation and training birds for environmental education spans three decades. Birds, especially raptors, have been her passion for all of those decades. Gail has worked for Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center, The Minnesota Zoo World of Bird’s Show, and Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. She has done bird surveys for sandhill cranes, northern goshawks, ringed-necked pheasants and the Christmas Bird Count throughout Minnesota. She has been a hack-site attendant for burrowing owls and peregrine falcons, has assisted in banding peregrine falcons in Minnesota and studied migratory movements of osprey in Costa Rica and bald eagles in Minnesota. She believes fervently in this quote by Baba Dioum: “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.”

    Brad Johnson is a retired Minnesota Conservation Officer. One of the highlights was working on the Waterfowl Taskforce. He taught waterfowl identification to hunters and other officers. He has a lifelong interest in the outdoors and especially birds. He started birding by sight and by ear at the age of 5 with his father. By the age of 10 he had spear-headed saving a small wetland near his home for the birds living there. He has surveyed for pheasant counts, sand hill crane counts, and northern goshawk counts. Brad volunteers for the Christmas bird count every year. Currently, he volunteers for Audubon Minnesota to assist in leading trips for beginners and advanced birders.



    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)

    Discover the Superior Hiking Trail

    “The trail is the thing…” – Louis L’Amour

    Louis L’Amour’s statement is so true – “The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all that you are traveling for.” Discover the plants, animals, geology and cultural history of a trail that links people with nature on the Superior Hiking Trail along Lake Superior’s North Shore. Guided hikes will include several shorter hikes, one full day hike (with bag lunch) and an optional Sunday afternoon hike. Learn the trail’s history, from its humble beginnings as an idea, to completion and recognition as one of the premier trails in the nation. Judy is the perfect guide to the SHT, with plenty of stories to share.

    Hiking is moderately difficult with distances up to 6 miles and steep terrain.


    Instructor Judy Gibbs

    Co-author of two “Walking Guides to the Superior Hiking Trail” and illustrator of “The Backyard Almanac,” Judy Gibbs has vast knowledge of the SHT. Along with 750 volunteers, she built the SHT from Jay Cooke State Park through the city of Duluth, MN. For many years, Judy led interpretive hikes for the Superior Hiking Trail Association. A former WRELC employee, she left her position there to become Program Director at Duluth’s Hartley Nature Center. Judy recently retired from the city of Duluth as the Trails Coordinator. A portion of the SHT is a block from her house and she uses it often!



    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)

    Fall Aquatics

    Exploring Wet Places

    Explore the aquatic world through the animals that live underwater. Spend a weekend hunting for some of the fish, insects, and other invertebrates that depend on the high water quality of the North Woods. We’ll use a variety of methods like dip-netting, traps, and even fishing poles to discover who is living where. Which are longtime residents and which critters are exotic? If we trap enough crayfish, we will have a crayfish boil. You just never know what you’ll turn up!

    Medium demand on physical exertion. Ability to hike over a mile on irregular terrain. Some canoeing. Minnesota Fishing License required.


    Instructor Kurt Mead

    Kurt Mead is the head naturalist at Tettegouche State Park on Minnesota’s north shore. He has also worked in a pea canning factory, as a garbage man, an animal control officer, an urban wildlife trapper, an aquaculturalist, a security guard, an acid rain monitor, a waiter, a delivery driver, an elected township supervisor, DNR Fisheries creel surveyor, a log home builder and carpenter in Sweden, and the founder and coordinator for the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project. He has a B.S. in biology and a BFA in art, both from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Kurt regularly gives talks and workshops on dragonfly identification and ecology.



    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)

    Farmer & Chef: Cooking the Fall Harvest

    Storing and Cooking the Fall Harvest

    Hands-on, activity-oriented workshop exploring the farm and the kitchen with two experts in the field. Along with learning about the social justice and scientific approaches to growing food, you will have the opportunity to learn from an experienced farm/garden-to-table chef. Along with games, activities and cooking instructions, participants will learn about harvesting and processing vegetables, make a gourmet pizza, prepare various vegetable based dishes and quick breads and understand a little bit more about food safety. Come laugh, play and share with others in this Farm, Feast and Fire weekend. Your classroom is the beautiful Wolf Ridge Organic Farm.

    Lower physical exertion. Standing and kneeling required.

    Instructors Christopher O’Brien & David Abazs

    Christopher O’Brien has been the food service director at Wolf Ridge since the winter of 2017. For Chris, cooking is about quality. It’s about passion. It’s about good food done well. He offers a unique perspective and approach to food and the culture of Wolf Ridge’s dining services. To him, eating is an agricultural act. He has re-focused menus in the dining hall on from-scratch, nutritious, and healthy cooking while working towards exclusively sourcing regional and organic foods. We are what we eat after all. Christopher’s culinary experience is well rounded and grounded in working at numerous resorts throughout the United States — from back-country to fine dining and everything in between. When not in the kitchen of Wolf Ridge Christopher is a husband, father, organic urban gardener, aspiring perma-culturalist and social/environmental justice activist.

    David Abazs‘ Round River Farm is a neighbor to Wolf Ridge and has grown from it’s inception in 1988 to a CSA providing shares to North Shore families plus the local weekly farmers market in Finland. With the help of countless folks, David led the design process and now manages the new Wolf Ridge Organic Farm. The farm is designed and under development to provide all of the vegetables for the over 140,000 meals served at the cafeteria each year. In David’s spare time, he engages in local food system research, helped create regional farming curriculum, and builds other aquaponic and farming operations in our region. Curling, hiking, township supervising, singing, canoeing and eating ice cream fill the cracks of his life.



    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, instruction and supplies.)

    Ferns and Lichens of the North Woods

    Amazing Survival Stories

    Join us to discover and enjoy the magic of Ferns and Lichens of the North Woods. We’ll practice using resources that will transform you from a nerdy novice to a nerdy naturalist. Friends and family will soon believe that you see and know about everything in the forest. A walk in the park will never be the same again!

    Lower medium demand on physical exertion. Ability to hike over a 1 mile on trail, along with standing and sitting required.


    Instructors Joe Walewski

    Joe is the Director of Naturalist Training at Wolf Ridge. He earned a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University and a M.Ed. in Environmental Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is the author of Lichens of the North Woods and Ferns and Allies of the North Woods.



    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)

    North Shore Coastal Kayaking

    Developing Big Water Kayak Skills and Explore the North Shore Waters

    Expand your sea kayaking skills, explore beautiful places, and spend time with fellow paddlers! This workshop is designed primarily for new, beginning, to advanced beginning sea kayakers who are looking to learn and/or practice essential skills for coastal sea kayaking, gain confidence with paddling on larger bodies of water, and explore the beautiful and diverse landscape of the North Shore. The first sessions of the workshop will focus on equipment and skill development, including an American Canoe Association (ACA) accredited course on stroke development and basic rescues. The second day of the workshop features an all-day paddling excursion either along the shoreline of Lake Superior (weather permitting), or on inland waters in the Finland State Forest or Superior National Forest area (foul weather option).

    High demand on physical exertion. Over 2 to 3 hrs at a time sitting in a kayak required. No prior experience required. Wet suits and life jackets worn at all times when on water.


    Instructor David Butcher

    David Butcher is the Adventure Programs Coordinator at Wolf Ridge and has been working as a naturalist and wilderness guide for over 10 years. He is an ACA certified Coastal Kayaking Instructor and his teaching experiences include working in parts of Minnesota and upstate New York, as well as guiding wilderness trips in the Boundary Waters, Quetico, Isle Royale, and the Apostle Islands. When he’s not working you might find him sea kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, cycling, or home-brewing beer.



    $390 (Includes meals, lodging, instruction, and kayaking equipment.)

    $40 discount if you bring your own kayak! If you bring your own, it must meet the following criteria:

    “touring” style kayak
    16 foot length minimum
    separate, water-tight bulkheads

    North Shore Geology Exploration

    The Rock Lovers Guide to the North Shore

    Do you look for interesting rocks on every beach or gravel road and want to discover their story? Are you an agate or Thomsonite seeker? Do you wonder about all those rock faces you see as you drive heading north on Highway 61? If you answered yes to any of those questions, this adventure is just for you!

    Explore the North Shore of Lake Superior’s fascinating geologic history, by picking rocks, sorting and figuring out who’s who in the rock world. Investigate key geologic features, figure out which way is up in ancient lava flows, and find out how geology connects to other natural features and events. We will learn the basics of recognizing the different rock types of the North Shore, decipher lava flows and all their layers, and visit a number of unique geologic sites. We will both hike and carpool to locations on Wolf Ridge’s main and Lake Superior campuses and to select locations along the North Shore. Rocks don’t mind being wet, so we will brave whatever Mother Nature dishes out for weather! There’s lots to see and explore on this geologic adventure.By the time you leave you will have a much better idea of how Lake Superior came to be, and you will be able to recognize all sorts of features along Highway 61. A trip up the North Shore will never be the same again, and you will know some of the stories in the stones.

    Participants should be prepared to make a few hikes on uneven trail surfaces, and rocky beaches up to a mile one way with moderate exertion.


    Instructor Margie Menzies

    Margie is a lifelong naturalist, educator and lover of rocks and all things of the natural world. She spent years in the formal classroom as a science teacher, but has abandoned the indoors for the great outdoor classroom. Margie is the naturalist at Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center on the North Shore in Schroeder, she is the Hawk Ridge Program Director, at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, and sometimes finds time to supervise student teachers or teach a course as adjunct faculty for the UMD Education Department. She teaches Master Naturalist Courses for Minnesota Extension at Sugarloaf and North House Folk School, in Grand Marais. A long time ago, she used to think Geology was boring- but has long since been snared by the lure of the stories in stone and these days teaching about the Geology of the North Shore is one of her favorite pastimes. She loves learning and sharing the natural world with people of all ages.


    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)

    Saw-whet Owl Banding

    The Unseen Migration

    Hands-on,  activity-oriented introduction to fall raptor banding focusing on owls migrating down the Lake Superior corridor. The emphasis will be on Northern Saw-whet owls, however, we will spend time talking about other species (i.e. Long-eared, Boreal and Great Grey owls) that use this flyway. Workshop participants will receive fundamental and focused instruction on how to capture, handle, age, and process owls. Time will also be spent talking about other owl monitoring techniques used in the Minnesota.

    Lower physical exertion. Standing and kneeling and sitting required.

    ** NOTE this workshop lasts one day longer than the others, Starting Friday evening and ending Monday after lunch.**

    Instructors Dave Grosshuesch and Peter Harris

    Dave Grosshuesch’s enthusiasm and knowledge of birds has few equals. He has worked as a passerine and raptor bander and raptor counter for Hawk Ridge Observatory in Duluth Minnesota. He currently works for the United States Forest Service as a wildlife biologist. Dave holds a master bird-banding license and currently runs a MAPS station in the summer months and a owl banding station in the fall. Not only does Dave participate in the collection of bird-banding data, but he also analyses the data and employs it in his job with the Superior National Forest in Tofte, MN.

    Peter Harris coordinates research and science projects Wolf Ridge. He supervises the Center’s bird banding programs, and has been banding and providing education around the science of bird banding for over 30 years. Over his career, countless students have been able to get up close and personal with songbirds and raptors. Pete is a graduate of the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.



    $355 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction. Note this is a 3 night stay – program ends Monday, October 1 after lunch.)

    Trees and Shrubs of the North Woods

    Fascinating Stories of Adaptation & Beauty

    Hike in the Laurentian Highlands forests of Lake Superior. Explore the science behind this incredible natural resource as brilliant greens dissolve into a spectacular array of yellow, orange and red. How does this miraculous change take place and why do the trees do it in the first place? Learn about the composition and interrelationships that create these remarkable forests, and learn about the chemistry that results in a sea of reds, golds, and yellows.

    Medium demand on physical exertion. Ability to hike over a mile on irregular terrain, along with canoeing required.


    Instructor John Latimer

    John is a retired rural mail carrier who has hosted the Phenology Show on Northern Community Radio for the past 33 years. Using his 100-mile daily route as a base to record the changes of hundreds of plants and animals he has amassed a database of nearly 50,000 individual notes. He has worked with the University of Minnesota and Harvard University to establish phenology protocols and share data. He is one of the founding members of the Minnesota Phenology Network.



    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)

    Photographing Wildlife

    An Alternate Perspective on Nature Photography

    This will be a intermediate workshop emphasizing wildlife photography and covering general nature photography, including camera traps, landscapes and macro. Field time will revolve around sunrise and sunset, and class time will be reserved for midday when the light is harsh. If participants would rather spend more time in the field, that can be made possible. Your canvas is the beautiful North Shore of Lake Superior.

    Medium physical exertion. Ability to hike over a mile on irregular terrain, canoe (instruction provided).

    Instructors Ben Olson & Ryan Pennesi

    An award-winning, full-time photographer, Ben Olson originally began pursuing the art of photography to capture his experiences in the natural world. As an artist, he uses photography as a means to express passion for wilderness and to convey its importance in our lives.  As a photographer, he spends countless hours in the field chasing elusive wildlife, temperamental weather, and fleeting light. “Immersing myself in nature has become a way of life. The ability to capture these rare moments and to share them with the world fills me with enthusiasm for life and the motivation needed to use my work towards conservation and environmental awareness efforts.” Ben has a B.A. in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology, Ethology and Evolution and a A.A.S. in Digital Imaging Technology. His long term goals are to “incorporate education and photography to promote awareness of the perils the natural world faces today while working towards conservation and environmental restoration.” See Ben’s work here.

    Ryan Pennesi is a nature photographer interested in conservation and adaptive natural resource management. His childhood was spent roaming the white pine forests of central Massachusetts and searching endlessly for amphibians. Adventures, investigation and discovery in the outdoors led to a pursuit for a career closely tied to the natural world. He has worked as a professional naturalist, animal handler at an exotic zoo, wildlife technician, and trail crew leader. Working closely with wildlife in informed ways is paramount to his disciplines. Says Ryan, “As I have developed my skills as a photographer and teacher, sharing the experience with others has been increasingly rewarding. I am fascinated by the role of images in storytelling and environmental education. I am always looking for new ways to study and learn from nature.” See Ryan’s work here.



    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)

    Wildlife Tracking

    A glimpse into the secret lives of mammals

    Wildlife tracking may be the most ancient of all sciences. Tracking is the study and interpretation of the footprints and other signs left behind by animals as they go about their lives. Tracking begins with identifying the animal that left the tracks and signs behind for us to see. Over time, it grows into an intimate understanding of the lives of those animals. All our distant ancestors knew how to read the tracks and sign of passing animals. For them, it was a matter of survival. For us, tracking is a way to learn about our local ecology and to connect more deeply with the natural world around us.

    This class will introduce you to the fundamentals of this ancient art, and give you a foundation for continuing your own exploration of animal tracks. Over the course of the weekend, you will learn the fundamentals of identifying clear prints and trail patterns; work in small groups to build a collective understanding of the natural world; and begin to build a connection to the northern landscape by literally waking in the footsteps of other animals.

    Medium physical exertion. Walking off-trail, standing and kneeling and sitting required.



    Jonathan Poppele is an independent naturalist and award-winning nature guidebook author. He has studied wildlife tracking for over 20 years and is the author of a national series of guidebooks to Animal Tracks. Jonathan earned a master’s degree in conservation biology studying tracking as a tool for citizen science and has taught biology, ecology, and writing at the University of Minnesota. He is founder and director of the Minnesota Wildlife Tracking Project and is certified in Track and Sign identification by CyberTracker Conservation. Jon also teaches meditation, mindfulness, and the peaceful martial art of Ki-Aikido as Head Instructor of the Minnesota Ki Society.



    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)

    Wild Rice

    Cultural History, Preparation, Harvesting, and Traditional Processing

    This hands-on intensive will provide knowledge and skills for harvesting and processing of wild rice. Topics include ecology, equipment, ethics, regulations, and techniques. See traditional birch bark canoes, cedar flails, forked push-poles, cast-iron parching kettles, and birch bark winnowing trays. Carve your own cedar wild rice knockers and practice wood-fired parching, threshing, and winnowing wild rice. Participants should bring leather gloves, be prepared for indoor and outdoor experiences, may practice techniques in canoes on a nearby lake, and will bring home a sample of finished wild rice. All equipment and materials are provided.

    Medium demand on physical exertion.

    Instructor Erik Simula

    Erik is an avid canoeist, birch bark canoe builder, and wild ricer. He is an instructor at North House Folk School, Ely Folk School, and the director of the Minnesota Canoe Museum. Erik lives in Finland, Minnesota.


    $345 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)

    Wolf Ridge Sampler

    Wolf Ridge Highlights

    Experience the excitement of traveling back to the time of the Voyageur and paddle a Montreal canoe. Climb a rock wall. Hike to an overlook on the Superior Hiking Trail. View the beautiful fall colors. Seek out north woods wildlife and plant communities. Enthusiastic Wolf Ridge naturalists will guide your adventures as you experience for yourself why Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center is so memorable to the adults and children who attend with their school or through one of our summer camps.

    Medium demand on physical exertion. Ability to hike over a mile on irregular terrain, along with canoeing required.



    $325 (Includes meals, lodging, and instruction.)


    Meals: Fuel for your imagination.

    We take great pride in our daily meals.  Whether families are coming in from a day spent outside, or getting ready for the day, everyone will find choices to satisfy their appetites in the Lake Superior Dining Room.

    Chris O’Brien, our food service director, believes “we should all be fed well, every meal, every day.” From-scratch vegan, vegetarian and meat dishes are available at each and every meal. Vegan dishes are inherently free of any animal product, including dairy, and are most often gluten free as well. All dietary requests are addressed and often the menu is adjusted to reflect the needs and wants of our clients. Those with common food allergy and sensitivities, including to dairy or peanuts, will find good, healthy food that addresses their needs. Fresh fruit, veggies, and homemade breads are available all day, in addition to coffee and tea.

    Chris and his staff go above and beyond to meet our guests needs and work hard to produce a choice driven, healthy, hearty meal while creating a sense of community here at Wolf Ridge. Most of our produce is from the Wolf Ridge Organic Farm and our meats and other products are sourced as locally as possible. It’s about quality. It’s about passion. It’s about good food done well.

    Learn more about our dining hall and see sample menus.


    Lodging: A place to kick back and relax.

    Participants will be housed in the new Margaret A. Cargill Lodge. Two people will share 4-bed sleeping area. A bathroom and shower is shared by 2 sleeping areas.


    Sign up!

    Once you have decided on a session, sign up via our online registration site. If you have questions or prefer to sign up by phone, call 218-353-7414, Monday – Friday 8-4:30.