searching for the wild in the 21st century

The little bit I posted yesterday regarding the retracing of Eric Sevareid and Walter Port’s trip from Minnesota to Hudson’s Bay was simply not enough. It’s a fascinating story to me.

Here’s the basics: On May 1st, next year, two guys named Todd Foster and Scott Miller will paddle from their home in St. Cloud, on the Sauk River, to the Mississippi River, then down to Fort Snelling, where they will find the Minnesota River. They will then paddle upriver across Minnesota to the Red River of the North. That river will take them into Canada. From there, they will cross the giant Lake Winnipeg. After that, they will navigate 500 miles of wilderness rivers through the Canadian bush to Hudson’s Bay.

It’s a hell of a trip. I think my parents first gave me Canoeing with the Cree as a Christmas gift many years ago. It was written by Eric Sevareid and based on several pieces he wrote as he and his buddy were en route and published in the Minneapolis Star.

I have some wonderful memories of laying in the tent with Katie after night fell in the Boundary Waters. A lake all to ourselves. Reading out loud some of the thrilling sections of the book as they crossed Lake Winnipeg and then navigated the rivers of Canada. Their journey took place in 1930. Sometimes they would be paddling along on the edge of their maps, and there simply weren’t maps for the land to the left side. A really wild sojourn into the disappearing frontier.

And actually, what I think I love the best about their journey was that they were essentially amateurs. They were paddling a really beat-up old canoe. Not using any high-quality gear. Seriously very little paddling experience. But they were young and full of adventurousness and somehow they made it through all manner of obstacles.

Both of these guys who will retrace their steps next summer are also relatively inexperienced. At least they aren’t in the vein of the Will Stegers or Ann Bancrofts of the world. One of the guys has only been on two wilderness paddling trips. But they’re going to do this thing and I have a feeling they’re going to do it well.

I think maybe I’m thrilled by the idea of this adventure because it’s better than be green with envy. I can put myself in their shoes really easy and I’m amazed that they’re pursuing this thing so boldly. I can’t wait to follow their trip. I might even make a little trip to St. Cloud in May to see them off.

More info can be found on their website (see previous post) and in this story in Minnesota Canoe Association’s newsletter, Hut! (pdf)