After paddling up the Mississippi, Steamboat’s Luke Kimmes heads off on another canoe adventure across America
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — First it was canoeing 5,230 miles up – yes, up – the Mississippi River to the Arctic Ocean. Now, Steamboat Springs’ Luke Kimmes is embarking on another callous-causing canoe expedition.
This spring, Kimmes — and Canadian, French-speaking comrades Martin Trahan, Yan Kaczynski and Keven Martel — plan to take eight months to canoe across America from the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon, to the Atlantic Ocean in the Florida Keys.
“I missed it [being on an expedition], the simplicity of it,” said Kimmes, an outdoor education teacher at Colorado Mountain College. “You can only move so fast in a canoe, so it’s a slower pace and gives you a different perspective.”
While this one may be a little less remote than his first eight-month-long 2015 expedition, it’s still formidable. They estimate the trip – dubbed “Coursing Through America” – will take 220 days to complete. It will include paddling 4,750 miles up the Columbia and Snake rivers, bike portaging through the Rockies and then continuing on through the Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers to Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico and ending in the Keys.
“It will be the opposite of what we encountered on our other trip,” Kimmes said. “In the beginning, we will be more remote, but once we get down south, we’ll be on public beaches and essentially in people’s backyards.”
The idea for the trip originally came from Trahan, who canoed the “Blue Gold Paths” expedition, 4400 miles across Canada by canoe. That adventure was also one of the finalists for Canoe and Kayak magazine’s 2016 Expedition of the Year, which the Rediscovering North America expedition won.
“I first wanted to paddle the Missouri-Mississippi from its source to the sea,” Trahan said. “When I looked closer, I found it was possible to cross America by canoe from the Pacific to the Atlantic. I like the idea of discovering a country and its people by its waterways. The route’s also filled with history. Part of America was developed because of canoe expeditions heading west.”
With support from such sponsors as Exped, Astral, Osprey, NRS, GoPro, Jetboil, Good To-Go, Powerfilm Solar, Bending Branches, Mad River Canoes, Pelican, Ropes and Wood, Buff, Rheos Gear and more, Kimmes and Trahan are now planning their route and lining up resupply points.
Recently, they found out their Coursing Through America expedition also won Canoe & Kayak magazine’s 2017 Dream Adventure, which awarded them a $5,000 cash prize along with $5,000 worth of NRS expedition gear.
“It appeals to me in its scope — pan-continent — and is a throwback to a classic canoe voyage, reversing part of the Lewis & Clark route, connecting waterways in creative ways and in a way that will engage people and river communities across the country,” said Dave Shively, editor at Canoe and Kayak who is also on the Dream Adventure committee.
“Extended time on the water, unconnected from day-to-day stress, sleeping on the beach where you pulled in after a day of paddling, that sense of river time has a way of changing us for the better and these guys have come up with a way to extend that across our entire country and found a way to live an extended dream,” Shively said.
Dealing with wind and waves, polluted water, miles of rugged portages and inclement weather are a few of the challenges the Coursing Through America team will encounter.
“We don’t really know what we’re getting into,” Kimmes said. “You have to take it day by day, hour by hour. I do this for the sake of adventure, to be a positive influence and show people they can do these things even if it seems out of their element.”
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