Hi friends! I know it has been a while and I honestly was not sure if I was going to blog about the expedition I am currently on because unlike last time, it is not really about me. However, it is very similar to my last expedition because I am a part of a team who shares the same goals and passions.
It has been almost two years since I began my expedition down the Mississippi River with Warrior Expeditions. It took us exactly 4 months to make it the 2552 miles from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. Two years later I find myself back on the Mississippi River…sort of. I am a part of a support crew helping and documenting Mike Waterford’s solo speed record attempt of the Mississippi River. I have known Mike since I was at Indiana University and had the pleasure of working with him when it was my turn to paddle the Mississippi River. He had paddled the river the previous year and was enthusiastic about helping me with my trip. He set me up with the best gear, paddled with me, and gave me every piece of advice he could give me to prepare me for what I was about to do.
After missing out on a major grant opportunity to paddle The Ganges River with Mike this past year, we decided to stay semi-local and go for the solo-speed record on the Mississippi River. We are accompanied by our fixer, driver, cook, and all around badass, Traci Kroupa! She decided to volunteer her time this summer to help us achieve this goal. She is my partner in crime, and partner in everything silly, as we chase Mike down the Mississippi River. The current speed record is set at 42 days, and we plan on beating it! I will not be paddling with Mike but will get to document as much as possible as he attempts the speed record and enjoy the river from a different perspective.
We headed up the headwaters of the Mississippi River about a week ago and have been taking our time waiting for the right weather, practicing paddling through the headwaters, and making sure we had everything we needed to break the record! On June 19, my 25th Birthday, Mike set out at 5:00 AM to start his expedition down the Mississippi River, and Traci and I chased him! I think I have mentioned many times how no one could pay me to do that first day again. Well Mike did that first day, plus the next four days all in one.
We have set stopping points along the way that we set up to meet him at so he can hydrate, eat, and step out of his boat for a minute. A lot of our day is filled with hurry up and get to the next stop, then wait. Obviously our van moves much faster than Mike so we are able to get set up, run errands, take naps, blog, and edit photos.
At the end of Day 1 Mike fought to make it across Lake Irving right outside of Bemidji, Minnesota. While trying to find a public access point on Irving, we met Bob! Bob let us pull onto his personal launch site and check out the winds coming across the lake. They were rough but Mike wanted to continue on. He ended up portaging around the East side of the lake until the trees shaded the wind and he was able to make it to Bemidji side of the lake. We met up quickly to decide our next move. He pushed onto Lake Bemidji while Traci and I headed to Dairy Queen for an ice cream dinner. We were heading back to the van when we heard Mike over the radio letting us know he wasn’t going to continue. We looked up and could see him standing in the bushes right in front of us. We loaded up his boat and headed back to Bob’s place across Lake Irving for the night. Already on day one we are getting a little bit of river magic. Thank you Bob for your hospitality!!
We ended the night with grilled cheese, a beer, and our first river sunset! It was an interesting 25th birthday to say the least. Mike and Traci worked hard to make sure my birthday was like no other!
Also, we are not the only record breakers on the river this year! Keep your eye out for these four guys as they attempt to set the tandem speed record on the Mississippi River! They left at 5:00 June 20th! You can follow their journey at 2017mississippiriverchallenge.com!
Dale, Clint, Tim, Colin and Michael at Itasca State Park!