Six men successfully complete canoe expedition across North America
Steamboat Springs — The miles are far behind them and those unrelenting strokes for up to 18 hours a day are a distant memory.
Now, eight months, 244 days, 12 states, four provinces, two territories, 11 rivers and roughly 5,230 miles later, the six men who embarked on the Rediscovering North America Canoe Expedition in January completed their excursion Sept. 2 in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Canada.
And even with the trip behind them, Adam Trigg, Winchell Delano, Jarrad Moore, Daniel Flynn, John Keaveny and Luke Kimmes said the aftereffects are unending.
“Every single day more things come up,” said Kimmes, an Iowa native and Steamboat Springs local of seven years known for teaching outdoor education at Colorado Mountain College. “There are different epiphanies or perspectives that come up. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it being completed and the more I talk about it, the more I realize that we actually did it and that it wasn’t just this weird daydream.”
Encountering wild weather with ice and snow, Canadian wildfires, portages of up to 12 miles and a seemingly endless horizon ahead of them, Kimmes said it’s hard to sum up their experience in just a sentence or two.
“Sometimes, I will have dreams about being back on the trip, but then I wake up and am like, ‘Oh thank god,’” said Moore, also an Iowa native and experienced outdoorsman. “The trip was such a big part of our lives and a huge commitment, we are all bound to it in a way.”
Delano hatched the idea for the trip after a 2014 expedition into the Alaskan Mountains that covered 2,600 miles across Canada’s northern territories to the shores of the Hudson Bay. He and others on the trip were awarded $2,500 for the “Expedition of the Year” award toward another expedition by Canoe & Kayak, the main sponsor for the Rediscovering North America trip. In August 2016, this expedition will be in the running for the latest “Expedition of the Year” award with voting opening up next summer.
One of the most astounding occurrences during their most recent excursion were the “River Angels” the group met along the way.
“Going into the trip, there were so many question marks,” said Keaveny, a Minnesota native who is also a teacher and experienced outdoorsman. “After the year of planning, logistically it was what we expected but the amount of people we met was the biggest highlight and surprise. There were so many fun folks that helped out who the whole crew would call friends now.”
Bringing them coffee on river banks and offering food and a warm place to stay, these strangers gave the weary travelers a sense of motivation and many stories to tell.
“We weren’t expecting people to say, ‘what you guys are doing is amazing,’” Kimmes said. “So many people were surprised and inspired by the trip that they just wanted to be a part of it.”
“I think everyone makes up their own idea of the trip whether that it’s just crazy or awesome,” Moore said. “So many times people asked us ‘who do you think is going to quit or what happens if you don’t make it?’ And I hope this motivates people to do bigger and crazier things, there are still larger expeditions and adventures out there.”
Getting back to reality, however, has been an adjustment for each of the six members of the expedition. Once they reached their final destination in Canada, Kimmes said they had little desire to go outside but instead wanted some rest and relaxation indoors.
“Physically, it was nice to be able to relax and rest right away because our bodies were so used to getting up and paddling right away,” Keaveny said. “Not having to do that especially that first week was a surprise in a way.”
Countless hours in seclusion and the physical exhaustion they each encountered left lasting effects. Moore explained that within the past month driving has been an overwhelming undertaking and being around a lot of people feels like a system overload after being in the wilderness for so long.
Since being back, Kimmes has spent time teaching mountain orientation classes at CMC and easing back into reality. Keaveny has also spent time substitute teaching and farming back in Minnesota. Moore said he had thought about going back to his wilderness therapy job but needed a bit more time indoors and will begin a new position at an REI store opening in Des Moines.
The group plans on releasing a documentary in March about their trip. In the near future, Kimmes said he plans on giving a presentation about the trip at CMC in early November. To learn more about the group’s trip visit their website at http://www.rediscoverna.com.
Living with simplicity for the last eight months, the group of six were and continue to be inspired by the mere thought of “adventure for the sake of adventure” and wouldn’t have changed any aspect of the trip.
“This is going to be forever changing my life even years down the road, it will still continue to have an effect,” Kimmes said. “It was an opportunity of a lifetime.”
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Legendary “jamgrass” band Leftover Salmon returns to town this Saturday, Jan. 29, taking the stage at Strings Music Festival for a spirited evening.