Six men embark on nine-month canoe expedition from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean |

Six men embark on nine-month canoe expedition from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean

The Team

Winchell Delano - Minnesota native. Senior field instructor and logistics coordinator at Second Nature, a wilderness therapy program where five of the six work.

Adam Trigg - Minnesota native. Field instructor at Second Nature.

Jarrad Moore - Iowa native. Field instructor at Second Nature.

Daniel Flynn - Minnesota native. Field instructor at Second Nature.

John Keaveny - Minnesota native. Senior field staff at Second Nature.

Luke Kimmes - Iowa native. Outdoor education teacher at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus.

Follow their expedition: http://www.redisc...

— Encountering strong winds, snow and ice in the Midwest are only minor obstacles for six men taking part in a daring feat.

For nine months, Adam Trigg, Winchell Delano, Jarrad Moore, Daniel Flynn, John Keaveny and Luke Kimmes will canoe from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. Paddling upstream, they will connect the Mississippi River, the Red River, Lake Winnipeg, Lake Athabasca, Great Slave Lake and the Hood River to reach their destination.

The “Rediscover North America” canoe expedition started on Jan. 2. And as of Monday, the six outdoor enthusiasts are on day 52 in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

“People always ask us why, and I still can’t give you that answer,” said Kimmes during a telephone interview Sunday.

As one of the outdoor education instructors at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs, Kimmes approached Big Agnes about outfitting the six guys on their trip.

“When I first read Luke’s request, I immediately noticed which direction they were paddling — up,” Big Agnes marketing specialist Rob Peterson said. “That in itself caught my eye because it’s not something you really hear anyone doing in regards to any river. It’s a pretty big task but his had the makings of a team that could do it.”

Delano came up with the initial idea, which took a year of planning to become a reality.

“We wanted to do something that’s never been done before,” Moore said. “We are doing something that goes across two countries and we’ll be one of the first ones to link it up. The route has been done in separate sections but not as a whole.”

In 2014, Delano and three others ventured into the Alaskan Mountains for a canoe expedition that took them 2,600 miles across Canada’s northern territories to the shores of the Hudson Bay. The individuals involved in that trip were awarded $2,500 toward another expedition by Canoe & Kayak — the main sponsor for the latest trip.

After Alaska, Delano wanted to find a new route. He then recruited five other individuals who had the knowledge and availability to embark on a nine-month expedition.

“I wasn’t aware of anyone paddling up the Mississippi since the Joliette and Marquette Expedition of 1673,” said John Ruskey from the Lower Mississippi River Dispatch who met the group Jan. 28 when they were in Helena, Arkansas. “They are definitely the only group I’ve known to take this route up to the Arctic Ocean.”

“Ask a swimmer why they swim, or a writer why they write, it may not be the most financially rewarding thing but for me it’s a way to simplify life,” Delano said. “Canoeing allows you to see landscapes at an appropriate pace. If you walk, it may be too slow, if you drive, it’s too fast. This is an optimal way to see things.”

Averaging about 20 miles a day up the lower Mississippi River, the group will paddle for about two or three hours at a time as they build up their strength each day.

The pain, they said, was a stark reality after the first two weeks.

“A lot of people ask when is that moment you want to quit,” Moore said. “But that’s literally not an option. Mentally, I don’t ever think about that and can’t let it in. We have to keep pushing forward.”

Their worst fear isn’t the distance, the cold or even the pain. It’s the fear of tipping.

“It’s always in the back of our heads,” Kimmes said. “It’s life threatening and extremely dangerous. We’ve had three close calls, but no one actually tipped. You have to stay on alert.”

Paddling for hours on end allows Kimmes time for reflection and getting to know his comrades.

“You may think you know someone until you get into something like this,” he said. “This is definitely hard at times, and it will either bring the best or worst out of you. You may be covered in ice but you have to just laugh and know that it may not be fun at times but you have to keep going, no matter what.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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