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Eric Sevareid and Walter Port
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The Adventures of Monty
Hudson Bay Expedition 2005
Article for the Lantern's Light
By Scott Miller
My friend Todd Foster and I have worked together at Many Point on and
off since 1994. This past summer I was the Ten Chiefs Camp Director and
he ran the Health Lodge. The past three years I was the Camp Director
at North Wind Winter Adventures, a winter camping program at Stearns Scout
Camp. Todd was the Assistant Camp Director. We have a lot of experience
working together at camp, and in the past few years have taken many canoe
trips together, too. On May 1st of this year, Todd and I are embarking
on a very, very big canoe trip. We will be leaving from his backyard on
the Sauk River in St. Cloud to canoe over 2,000 miles to York Factory,
on Hudson Bay (about 1,000 air miles due north of the Twin Cities). Todd
got the idea for the trip from a book he found in the library while researching
winter explorers for North Wind. The book was 'Canoeing with the Cree'
by Eric Sevareid. Todd was amazed to read about a big-time canoeing adventure
that started right in the Twin Cities. 'Canoeing with the Cree' was written
in 1935 about a trip taken in 1930 by two Minneapolis boys-Eric Sevareid
and his friend Walter Port. Eric went on to a distinguished career as
a newsman on CBS from the 1940's through the early 80's. After reading
the book, Todd suggested to me that we re-trace their trip.
After thinking over Todd's proposal, I concluded that he definitely is
crazy. He proposes ideas that many people would find outlandish, and he
does it routinely. Even crazier- he is usually serious. He said 'we should
do this trip', and I knew that I had to actually consider it. I put my
mind to agonizing for 10 days and solicited the opinions of everyone I
could find. I weighed. I deliberated. I fretted. No one seemed overly
encouraging about the idea. Apparently no one has informed Todd that a
person is supposed to grow up, get a 'real' job and not have fun anymore
past the age of 25. Finally, I realized that if I said 'yes' it would
mean postponing getting a 'real' job even longer. I could go back to Many
Point and work at North Wind again! I decided to vote for wahoo, to vote
for craziness, to vote for not 'growing up', to vote for camping and canoeing
and being young and having fun. I said yes.
Even though Todd had the idea in October of 2003, we determined not to
go until the summer of 2005--the '75th anniversary'. That meant we had
a year and a half to plan-enough time to think through every possible
detail, for hours on end. We love this. We determined that true modern
day adventurers always have a website, so we recruited my roommate at
the time, Lloyd Cledwyn, to design a site for us. In return, I agreed
to work on the house he'd just bought that we were living in. The house,
at the time, made the house from the movie 'The Money Pit' seem like a
finely appointed mansion. To top it off, my handyman skills are inversely
proportionate to his web building skills. Lloyd is basically a professional
web designer; people cringe and run away when they see me trying to hammer
a nail. Fortunately, Lloyd was a very good sport about all this.
Next we set out to get ourselves in the paper. We got the outdoors writer
from the Grand Forks Herald to take an interest, and then we finagled
our way into the St. Paul Pioneer Press. From there we got into the St.
Cloud paper, the Mankato paper and the Wilmar paper. Now we are working
on the Star Tribune. Then we reasoned that with Mr. Sevareid having worked
from CBS, WCCO should cover us. And after many phone calls, they are going
to film us training on the Mississippi in a few days and then in a classroom,
for a feature story. We have discovered that if you want to be in the
news you have to have a good story and you have to sell yourself and be
persistent. I always thought that reporters just covered the best news
they could find, but nowadays it's just as important to market yourself
to the media. A strange world.
We've also gone after sponsors. We are still hoping to get a corporate
sponsor, but have already gotten some great paddling gear and food donated
to us. We were used to using the same old gear we had bought as young
Scouts, but love what we have now. For example, the waterproof gear we
have is really great. It's fun to be warm and dry while paddling in the
middle of a huge rain storm-something we did last spring on the Flambeau
River in Wisconsin. We brought along two fellow Many Point staffers, Eric
Henderson and Chris Mielke. They were still using their 'old' gear and
they were wet and cold. Todd and I could not stop talking about how amazing
our new gear was. For some reason, Chris and Eric started to give us really
menacing looks on the 2nd straight day of rain.
We saw a sign warning that the river had been contaminated with E. Coli.
Have you ever seen or heard the commercial for Riccola throat lozenges?
It involves a sprightly lass yodeling the word 'Riccola' as she prances
about the mountain tops. We changed it to reflect the circumstances of
our trip-yodeling 'Eeeecoli' as we made our way downstream. It was funny
every time. It was! Ok, maybe you had to be there.
We've also been having fun researching all the logistical details of
our trip. We practiced paddling upstream on the Minnesota River (we will
paddle its 330 miles for the 1st 'chapter' of our expedition). A Father
and son showed us a 50 pound catfish they had caught. We scouted out the
famously curvy and muddy Red River of the North (and were warned to look
out for farm dogs). And we learned that 300 mile long Lake Winnipeg, the
'3rd chapter' of our trip, is known for it's big waves, wind and rocks
that jut out from shore in jetties up to a half mile long (gulp!). In
preparation for the 500 miles of wilderness rivers northeast of Lake Winnipeg,
we took a whitewater canoe class. We did not swamp our borrowed, empty,
specially-made-for-whitewater canoe in a small rapid on the Snake River
here in Minnesota. It didn't happen. No. It didn't. Don't be ridiculous.
We've also given lots of presentations to schools, scout troops, classrooms,
business groups, etc. Not long ago we returned to the small town of Climax,
MN on the Red River. We gave a presentation in the K-12 school gymnasium
for the older half of the school. The principal of the school told us
she would bring the projector to the meeting of the Climax Community Club
(CCC) that night, if need be-an excellent example of small town people
sharing resources that you just don't see in bigger towns anymore. The
CCC had a short business meeting after our presentation. I've never seen
a business meeting that was so much fun. You could tell these people really
liked each other, and they all knew when they could or couldn't schedule
the next meeting ("no, the 16th won't work, we've got a JV basketball
etc.) One of them looked me in the eye and said 'I come
from a long line of Norwegian peasant farmers'. They said we would be
forced to accept baked goods as we paddled past their land. My kind of
Now, with two months to go, we are buying and packing food, planning
re-supply stops, ordering lots of maps, finalizing our gear list and trying
to raise money to buy a laptop computer and other technological stuff
so we can update our journals on our website as we go. For a minimum of
a $15 donation you can get an expedition T-shirt or a copy of 'Canoeing
with the Cree'. You can order off our website (see below).
We are also planning a launch party to be held at Fort Snelling State
Park on Saturday, May 7th. You are all invited! The morning of the launch
party, people will be able to paddle a section of the Mississippi with
us. We'll have more information about the launch party on our website
at www.hudsonbayexpedition.com Also on our website you'll find more information
about our route, a map, historical information, our mission and objectives,
our trip itinerary, our sponsors, journal entries, pictures, etc.
You can also sign up to receive our e-mail updates on the website. We
hope you will follow along! You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If going on the trip is half as fun as planning it has been, it's really
going to be great. Thanks to all of our camp friends who have been supportive
of us as we try and pull off this crazy adventure. Maybe we'll even see
some of you when we pass through Fargo/Moorhead on about the 7th of June.
Also, we hope to see everybody at the Spring Fling. The hardest part of
our trip is not being at camp this summer-
Keep the wick trimmed
and the flame burning hot,
Keep the lantern strung high-
we'll miss all of you--a lot.