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Way of the Wilderness Staff

Way of the Wilderness is owned and operated by Bud and Mark Darling.  Bud has over 40 years of experience planning and leading canoe trips.  He's in his fourth decade owning Way of the Wilderness after thirteen years as an administrator of YMCA camps including a canoe base in the BWCAW.  Mark was raised and has lived all year on the Gunflint.  Bud and Mark have backgrounds in service to people and in canoeing that few can equal.  You will find them to be friendly, dedicated to the preservation of the wilderness area, and helpful in making your canoe trip a rewarding and memorable experience.

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Bud Darling



Way of the Wilderness is located at the very end of the Gunflint Trail, adjacent to the USFS Trails End Campground, on Seagull and Saganga Lakes.

 The business was started by Rolf and Gail Skrien in the late 1950s.  It is named after a book titled “Way of the Wilderness” by Calvin Rutstrum.

 Bud Darling, a Chicagoan with extensive experience as an administrator of YMCA Camps, purchased Way of the Wilderness from the Skriens in April of 1976.  The North Country Trading Post, an adjacent business, was purchased from Cliff and Hilda Waters in 1980, and added to the operation.

 Bud and his sons, Scot and Mark, operated the business through the 1970s and 80s.  Bud’s wife Ruth, who was a Surgical Head Nurse at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, commuted for long weekends and vacation time.  Bud and Mark manage the business to this day.

 The business has been forced to adapt and change over the years.  The 1976 Roy Lake Fire consumed over 3,400 acres and burned within several hundred yards of Way of the Wilderness.  This was Bud’s first year in business and he says “You could have bought the place for about 50 cents during that fire.”  In 1978 Congress enacted the BWCA Wilderness Act which limited any future growth in use of the area.  The 1993 Superior National Forest Management Plan cut the then current usage by over 30%.  The Sag Corridor Fire in 1995 burned over 12,000 acres just to the north of Way of the Wilderness, and in 1999 a July 4th wind storm left the operation with no electric power for two weeks.  The 2007 Ham Lake Fire burned right up to us, but our sprinkler system stopped it.

 In the late 70s Bud completed a Masters Degree in Business Administration and obtained a CPA Certificate.  Throughout the 1980s he practiced accounting in the Chicago area during the off season.

 In 1990 Bud and Ruth moved to Duluth, bought and restored a historic building downtown, and currently live there in the winter months. 

 Mark opened the Trails End Café in 1998 and serves what some people say  “The best burgers in Minnesota,” and fresh made pizza. In the same year Mark also released "Sunset" a CD of original piano solos.

 Way of the Wilderness is a full service outfitter offering over 80 canoes for rent, Saganaga Lake tow service, 6 bunk house units, hot showers, shuttle service to all Gunflint Trail Entry points, a trading post, and Mark’s Trails End Café.

 The Darlings have a unique lifestyle.  They blended professional careers in accounting and nursing, with the opportunity to live and work in the “greatest place on earth” for over half of each year.

Summer Employment:

Job duties include all aspects resort work, from cleaning and cooking in our small café to renting and cleaning equipment.  Experience with operating an outboard a plus but not necessary.  This is a service oriented position dealing with customers on a daily basis, neat and clean are desired, a smile is mandatory.  For a job application contact Bud Darling at 388-2212 or 1-800-346-6625, email: wowcanoe@boreal.org

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Way of the Wilderness Canoe Outfitters

12582 Gunflint Trail
Grand Marais, MN 55604
(218)388-2212 or (800)346-6625
13 W. Superior St.
Duluth, MN 55802
(218)727-8606 or (800)346-6625

To Contact Us:

Phone: 1-800-346-6625
E-mail: wowcanoe@boreal.org