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The Adventures of Monty
Minnesota pair to travel through Walsh County on historic canoe trip
By Mike Alan Steinfeldt
In May of 1930, two adventuresome teenagers, Eric Severaid, 17 and Walter
Port 19, of Minneapolis, Minn., set out for the adventure of a lifetime.
The pair, without the aid of modern gear, paddled their wood-and-canvas
canoe named the "Sans Souci" (with out care) from St. Paul,
Minn., up the Minnesota River to Lake Traverse, down the Red River of
North to Lake Winnipeg, and over 500 miles through lakes and rapids-strewn
rivers to Hudson Bay. The trip, made 75 years ago still stands as one
of the greatest canoeing adventures of the 20th century
In 1935 Sevareid recorded his journey in the book, "Canoeing with
After the 2,250 mile journey by paddle, Sevareid, who was born in Velva,
ND, became a news correspondent covering World War II and eventually came
into millions of households in the U.S. and around the world during his
38-year career as a CBS newsman before retiring in 1977.
In less than six weeks, a pair of modern day Minnesota explorers, Scott
Miller and Todd Foster of St. Cloud, Minn. will embark on the same journey
on the 75th anniversary of the trip made by Port and Sevareid. The trip
by Foster and Miller will bring them right through the eastern edge of
Walsh and Pembina counties.
The historic journey:
In mid-summer of 1930, Port and Sevareid spent many days on the Red River
and wrote of their experiences. They spent 11 days in Fargo under the
care of Doctor Frederick Gronvold after Port developed an infection in
his thumb and became ill.
While in Crookston, the teenagers stayed with relatives of Sevareid and
there received a long distance call from Sevareid's father who told his
son it was ok if he didn't follow through with the trip. The two didn't
listen and the rest is history.
Describing the Red River north of Grand Forks, Sevareid wrote:
"The district into which we now made our way was inhabited almost
entirely by Polish farmers. They lived in scanty peasant fashion. All
had deep wells from which they drew their water by hand in pails attached
to the end of ropes." Sevaried also wrote. "Near Drayton, North
Dakota we passed through a pontoon bridge, the only one we came across
all summer. A dozen large scows with boarded tops were linked together,
leaving an aperture between each sloping end, through one of which we
slipped, heads lowered."
Port received news while in Drayton from a high school teacher of a scholarship
awaiting him at the University of Chicago. Because of their determination
to finish the trip Port was unable to accept that scholarship. Upon completion
of their journey, Port was delighted when he received another scholarship
offer from another university.
Foster and Miller will leave St. Cloud May 1, and hope to travel though
Walsh County sometime in June. Unlike Sevareid and Port, Foster and Miller
will be the beneficiaries of modern technology and as a result will literally
be sharing their story with the world. The entire journey will be chronicled
on their website, www.hudsonbayexpedition.com. "The most interesting
gear we'll be bringing is the technology for us to share our story with
other people," Foster said. "I've done lots of canoe trips in
the Boundary Waters and the Quetico, but I've never shared that story
while I was doing it. That's an interesting take on a trip like this."
Foster said at any point in the trip, people with the aid of the world-wide-web,
will be able to experience different aspects of the trip with them. "We're
planning on writing a book when we're done," Miller said. "It
will be nice to keep our journals up to date and keep notes on the trip.
It's almost like there will be someone else on the trip with us. It's
fun for me to think about everyday when I'm writing my journal how to
express what happened today so that other people can experience the trip.
That changes the trip for me. Thinking about more people than just Todd
and I -that's fun."
Miller said another intrigue, besides the history, is the fact that the
"road" to the exotic wilderness to the North that Sevareid wrote
about is just outside our back door.
"For any North Dakota or Minnesota kid - I don't know of any other
adventure story that is quite so audacious or begins in this area and
is conducted through this area and ends up where there are Polar Bears.
It's just a cool story. A lot of people don't realize that you can get
to an exotic location from Minnesota and North Dakota." He said.
The pair is anxious for the ice to disappear for area rivers and lakes.
"We've been planning so long," Foster said. "We're counting
the days until our launch date on May 1." Foster is married and has
two daughters who are seven and three years-old. Miller is single. The
pair met over ten years ago while working at a boy scout camp near Detroit
Lakes. They don't have a final itinerary and will plan to camp most of
the way. Foster said many people have offered them a place to stay along
Miller and Foster plan to re-supply themselves with food and other provisions
either by mail or by the aid of their expedition manager and plan to carry
between two and four weeks supply of food with them at all times. The
trip will be broken up in several distinct chapters. Foster and Miller
will add more than 60 miles to the trip by launching into the Sauk River
in Foster's backyard. The pair will follow the Sauk downstream until it
joins the Mississippi North of the Twin Cities. The duo plans to follow
the fledgling Mississippi until it's confluence with the Minnesota River.
The pair will then paddle upstream along the Minnesota River south to
Mankato and then Northwest, eventually along the Red River of the North.
They then will travel the muddy, serpentine course of the Red to Lake
Winnipeg which holds it's own, very unique set of challenges. The Shallow
lake, one of the largest in North America, is strewn with dangerous reefs
which will necessitate the adventurers to venture from shore and will
open them up to the treacherous waves created from the almost constant
and unpredictable winds.
Foster says the part of the trip that gives him most concern is the 500
or so mile traverse of Lake Winnipeg. "It's such big water,"
he said. "You're kind of at the mercy of the lake and the wind."
Once at the Northwest corner of the Lake the pair will enter Cree Indian
territory and follow several watersheds as they course their way to Hudson
Bay and the Historic trading Post at York Factory. Foster also said the
stretch from the Hayes River system to the God's River system between
Lake Winnipeg and Hudson Bay will also prove to be difficult. "We've
done some research on how to get from the Hayes to the Gods. Of our last
chapter of the trip that will be the most difficult," he said.
Foster and Miller, who had little whitewater experience before planning
the expedition, have taken the time to take a class on whitewater canoeing
from the Minnesota Canoeing Association. Foster, an EMT, will be in charge
of taking care of any medical emergencies. "Needless to say, I'm
very pleased to know that Todd is an EMT," Miller joked. "Hopefully,
in the event he gets hurt he's conscious enough to tell me what to do."
Foster and Miller will be leaving a full month earlier than Port and Sevareid
and have built time into their schedule in the event of an emergency.
"Not completing the trip has never crossed my mind," Miller
said. "We like to plan things very well and we like to be successful.
I expect to complete this trip and I expect to complete this trip whether
or not anyone is paying attention or not. It's important to me personally."
Foster reiterated the fact that the duo is excited to share their trip
with the public.
"It was only after that initial commitment of doing the trip, that
we did more research," he said. "We planned on how big we could
make the trip and how many people we can share our story with."